Advice for Writers from Michael Blake!


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.

Thank You


Outtakes 69

 Thank You

By Cait Collins

It’s that time when we begin looking back over the events of the year, assessing the good and the bad, the successes and the disappointments. No matter how tough the year may have been, it’s important to realize that writers have much for which to be thankful. It’s been a good year for me. I have completed HOW DO YOU LIKE ME NOW and am working on the final edits. I have started a contemporary western short story. I’m working on a short work entitled Borrowed Uncles. There have been disappointments, but the good far outweighs the bad. I sat down and made a list of some things for which I am truly grateful.

  1. I’m thankful for parents who taught me to love books and stories. Even before my sisters and I were old enough to read on our own, Mom and Dad took turns reading to us. They made sure there were books in the house. No matter where we were stationed, they found the public library and took us to get library cards. They encouraged my story writing.
  2. I have five sisters who are a major part of my support group. They want me to succeed. They have encouraged me to investigate publishing my novels as E-Books. (It’s on the agenda.) The great thing is they don’t gloss over my mistakes. When something is not right, they tell me.
  3. I have a great critique group and a reader. Natalie, Dee, Craig, Sharon, and Joe give good advice. They temper the problems with positive comments. Cynthia takes the completed work and gives it a final read. Their support and friendship means more than they will ever know.
  4. I’ve been blessed with good mentors. Successful writers tend to give back. They’ve been through the early struggles, have been given support by their peers, and now they reach out to newer writers who are finding their footing. Michael Cunningham told me to write my story. Author/actor Bruce Campbell showed me how to treat fans, Michael Blake spoke of keeping on in the face of rejection. Nicholas Sparks honestly told a group of writers at a book signing that being successful doesn’t make the job easier. It means you have to do it better next time. Jodi Thomas, Phyliss Miranda, Linda Broday, Kim Campbell, Jenny Archer, Gail Dayton, Terry Burns, Candace Havens, and the late Rhonda Thompson guided my early efforts and told me never to give up. I could fill this page with other writer friends and mentors. There are so many who have been part of my growth.
  5. I’m grateful there are a limitless number of stories to tell. Okay, were told there are only about seven stories. That may be true, but there are so many ways to tell them. The challenge is to create a unique version of the theme.

This is just a sample of a writer’s list of blessings. Each of us can add more and more to the list. Recognizing the endless blessings and expressing our gratitude helps us through the dark times when we stare at the screen and nothing comes. It makes the rejections easier and the critics less upsetting. Thank you to all of you who read and follow this site. I appreciate every one of you.