Advice for Writers from Michael Blake!
By Natalie Bright
In May 2015, Michael Blake, best known as the author of Dances with Wolves, died. I didn’t hear about it until much later, and now, over a year after his death, I finally found my notes from a talk he gave in Amarillo in 2009. While in the area, he talked to the Panhandle Professional Writers, did a presentation at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, and also attended an event at Palo Duro Canyon State Park.
Dances with Wolves sold over 3.5 million copies, and was translated into 15 languages. The 1990 film, which Kevin Costner directed and starred in, won seven Oscars including Best Picture and Best Screenplay. Mr. Blake also won the WGA Award and Golden Globes for his script.
Mr. Blake shared with Amarillo writers a heartfelt and grippingly honest reflection of his successes and rejections as he toiled within the L.A. movie crowd. After becoming engrossed in Indian history, his long-time friend Kevin Costner, encouraged him to write a novel rather than a screenplay. Mr. Blake told us that he struggled with the ending. The L.A. atmosphere did not lend itself to the inspiration he craved. He decided to move to Arizona where he lived in his car, worked as a dishwasher and completed his book.
Based on my notes from his talk to the PPW group in Amarillo, I thought you might like to know his advice for writers. Following, are some of Mr. Blake’s best quotes that resonated with me personally.
§ “Writers are driven to create something from our heart and soul. This is in direct conflict with the agent, producers, and editor’s side of the business,” and for this reason he encouraged us to not be afraid of rejection.
§ “No matter what, keep writing at a level that people will want to read, and keep reading.”
§ “American Indians knew things about the world that we had forgotten. Modern life has moved us away from life on earth. We need balance between earth and our existence.” This belief inspired him to write a story.
§ “Inspire with your writing.”
§ “It’s all about finishing. Power through and get it done.”
§ “Writing must convey feeling. Be different and devastating in terms of feeling.”
§ “Make every conceivable effort to put good words on paper.”
§ “Stay at it!” says Michael Blake. “If you remember only one thing from my talk, this is the thing I want you to take away—never give up.”
“Be devastating in terms of feeling”—I love that! If you haven’t had a chance to read the book, Dances with Wolves, I highly recommend this great story set in the American West. As a writer, I feel extremely blessed to have been present for such an inspiring talk from a true visionary and gifted man.
R.I.P. Michael Blake. Thank you for sharing your passion with the world.