Friday, February 21, 2014

The Talented Mr. Blake

by Kelly

Last night at critique group I learned about a writer named Russel Blake (real name: Craig Osso) who has published 25 books in the last 30 months. According to the Wall Street Journal, “he wrote one of his best-selling books, the 229-page thriller JET, in just 16 days. He churns out 7,000 to 10,000 words a day and often works from eight in the morning until midnight. He spends many of those hours on a treadmill desk, clocking eight to 10 miles.”

Besides wondering if he has a different genetic code than the rest of us, I began to question my writing output. Should I try to emulate the unbelievable pace of Blake? He’s sold 435,000 copies of his book, so obviously the routine is working for him.

But here’s another side of the coin. Lately life’s been a wee bit stressful, mainly because of a move to a new home, new school and new community. For a while I had no time to write during the packing, cleaning, moving, unpacking, cleaning cycle, and then when I finally sat down at the computer, opened the screen ... nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Writer’s block has struck before, and like any dedicated writer I forced myself to start typing, hoping that the trickle would turn into a flow, as it usually does. But it didn’t. For about a week I forced it, but everything I wrote was garbage. Terrible, stilted, pointless garbage. Did I even remember how to communicate in the English language? 

My ability to communicate creatively was tapped out, so I decided to give myself permission to not write, at least for a few weeks. I engaged in activities that I knew refilled my creative tank, or at least had in the past, and hoped that my writing mojo would return.

And I think it has. As I worked on some new projects this week the words finally began to flow and stopped being forced. Even more importantly joy settled deep in my being as I returned to something I truly love.

This is how Kelly gets her groove back
I’m sure I’ll never approach the output of Blake unless I begin to mainline caffeine, but he provides a good example of how there are times writers need to push through, stay up late and get those last odd thousand words completed. However, I think we also need to recognize when it’s time to give our creative side a little TLC, whatever that looks like: spending a weekend in the mountains, going to a workshop (or better yet attending the NCW conference), reading a book we’ve always loved, or spending time with friends and family. 

Then the trick is maintaining that balance between productivity and creativity. And if anyone has tips as to how they do that, I’m all ears.

7 comments:

RichardK said...

It's certainly hard for some of us to maintain that type of writing schedule. To be honest, I think I could do it if I didn't have a family, real job, and other daily tasks to complete.

Greengabardine said...

It sounds like he has a pretty hefty team of editors keeping his work nice and clean.

Dean K Miller said...

Today I participated in morning poetry lab. The last poem I wrote was 4 months ago. But things flowed, the change of pace welcomed. If you write essays, write poetry. If you write non-fiction, write funny captions for random photos. Take a walk and create characters behind trees, along rivers, etc. Do something that is fun and your heart will sing again and you will hear its words.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I wonder who does Mr. Blake's cleaning, cooking, shopping, etc. Grumble, grumble....

Shirley Drew said...

So who takes care of everything else in his life when he writes like this? Most of us can't operate this way because we have lives outside of writing. Even if we wish we could work like this, most of us would not be happy doing only this one thing...

Sarah Sullivan said...

Well, that is impressive and unlike Richard, there is no way that I could do that even if I lived alone in a yurt on the top of a mountain with nothing but a stocked refrigerator, bed, desk, chair and laptop. Still, I read his author page which explains that "Blake lives in Mexico and enjoys his dogs, fishing, boating, tequila and writing, while battling world domination by clowns." So, I think it's safe to say that he does have a lot of free time. Good for you for having balance in your life and the self knowledge to know when and how to refill your creativity tank!

Sarah Reichert said...

I wonder, if in his consistent, hour after hour pace his work doesn't become stagnant. I'm of the mind that if you don't live life, you can't write life. The mind is wondrous and vast, but without time spent amongst the real world and real people, I could see it reflecting poorly on one's writing. But I shouldn't make judgments until I read his work. Must be nice to have so much interrupted time.

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