TIME IS ALL WE HAVE
by Deborah Elliott-Upton
“Use your time.” – Jack London
Recently I heard Michael Blake, author of Dances with Wolves, speak. He said, “Don’t stop writing through rejection or through distraction.” In truth, a writer’s life is often filled with distractions and rejections, even when he’s already been published. Blake said he wanted to write a screenplay, but his friend and up-and-coming actor, Kevin Costner, gestured to an overflowing stack of scripts he was considering and told Blake to forget the screenplay and write the book.
I thought this interesting since romance novelist, DeWanna Pace — who was once my writing instructor — had sent Costner one of her books along with a note mentioning her novel had a buffalo scene similar to the one in Dances with Wolves. Costner replied she should write it as a screenplay and then he’d be happy to take a look.
Dances with Wolves, the novel, was submitted to and rejected by publishers forty times. Interestingly, it was published as a romance novel with Fabio on the cover. Finally, New Lines Pictures bought the book “for millions so that they could get the screenplay.”
I enjoy hearing how other writers have “made it.” Most of us root for the underdogs, the ones who paid their dues before they could claim fame. Lottery winners are one thing, but a self-made millionaire is the better story in my opinion. Hearing how Blake slept on friends’ floors while eking out a living proves to me how bad he wanted to be a writer. Do I care as much about the huge success of a screenplay written by a director’s child? Not really. I guess I like the starving artist storyline.
Michael Blake spoke about his writing, but mostly about inspiration and staying in focus of what fulfills us most and do that. He has a lifelong fascination with wild horses and his energy is spent mostly these days with keeping them alive and well. He’s also writing about them with his newest book, Twelve the King.
“Reading is getting harder and harder because TV is quick entertainment,” Blake told us. “Affiliate with people who have the same feeling about work as you. You want to inspire the ones that follow you to keep it going.”
His words made me think of Criminal Brief and how we, lovers of short fiction, are trying to “keep it going.” Finding markets for short fiction isn’t as easy as it used to be. Finding people who will take the time to read short fiction isn’t as easy either. That seems strange since we supposedly have more leisure time than our grandparents did. The solution seems to me to keep plugging along, encouraging others to do the same. I want to put a bumper sticker on everyone’s car that says: Read something today just for fun! Not just something for work purposes or on Facebook or backs of cereal boxes during breakfast. Find a great short story and then pass it on. That’s what keeps it going.