08 May 2015 by Published in: Uncategorized 24 comments

I’ll confess to more than a little arrogance. But I’ll also excuse it somewhat by stating that writers need a healthy sense of their own worth, because otherwise they’d never write a word. It goes with the territory – to have the temerity to believe your words are worth reading, much less paying for, you have to believe that you can make magic happen with prose, or at the very least, tell a story well.

I happen to believe that being a writer is a noble calling, in the same way that being any artist of any sort is. Whether or not the world rewards you with riches can be the luck of the draw – consider what an acknowledged master like Van Gogh made from his art, which is basically nothing. No question his work is brilliant, and also no question that nobody really gave two shits while he was alive. The world can be unfair, and we only get one spin of the wheel. If you want fair, look elsewhere than the arts.

But I can remember as a child, reading the work of Poe and Lovecraft and Ludlum and Forsyth and Christie and LeCarre, and thinking that there could be few things as fundamentally important as being able to transport a reader to a different place, into a different world. As I aged and discovered the work of Orwell and Vonnegut and David Foster Wallace and Steinbeck and Hemingway, I further realized that one could tackle serious subjects with a certain grace, and even whimsy, and transform the way people view their reality.

Then the business of being an adult claimed my time, and I turned to mundane adult things, the making of money and chasing of women and building of empires, all the time thinking that to be a successful writer must be wonderful, because then you can have your financial cake and pursue a grand passion simultaneously. I mean, I’ve enjoyed some of the things I’ve done for a living, such as architecture, which still gives me tremendous pleasure for its artistic challenges, but mostly I did things because they made the most possible money with the least expenditure of effort, not because they were particularly redeeming or self-actualizing.

But all along, I managed to find ways to write. Be it ad copy, or manuals, or brochures, or how-to books, I wrote, honing my skills, putting them to use in the interest of communicating ideas or affecting behavior.

When I retired and settled permanently in Mexico, my idle meandering didn’t last long, and I wound up starting a design and build firm that had startling success – but after five or six years and over a dozen “important” builds and at least fifty design projects, I was restless. That too had become a grind, and I remembered why I had retired in the first place. It wasn’t about the money – once you have sufficient to live however you like, more doesn’t involve living any better if you’ve truly chosen a life you find fulfilling to start with. Rather, I’d been bored after a few years of navel gazing on the beach, and it’s not my nature to sit still too long.

A friend of mine had read some of my scribblings and badgered me with article after article about the new wave of self-publishers conquering the world, back around 2010. After a year of that he shamed me into trying my hand at it. I approached the business of writing and publishing the way I do everything – full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes. For seven months and about 10 novels, I sold barely enough to buy beer and a couple of decent dinners, but I never let off the gas, and continued to pour all my time, money, and soul into the work. I caught a tail wind in early 2012 as Select was making waves, and hit the market with a decent backlist and the right product at the right time – and the rest is history.

But back to why I think writing is an honorable calling (if honorable can be used to describe inventing lies and selling them for a living), if not also a kind of alchemy. To write well you have to be literate, and it helps if you’re informed and have opinions, because otherwise you likely aren’t particularly interesting to anyone but yourself. To be able to create worlds on the page imbues the author with the power of a god, and if executed correctly, offers escape from reality to the reader, immersing them in a universe of your making. That’s an amazing thing to be able to do.

How many other gigs enable you to do that? Few, besides lying politician, I’d say. But while being a politician is largely anything but noble, to embark on an effort for which there will likely be slim, or no, reward, other than perhaps touching others in a profound way, is a sort of quest – a calling, if you will. It can be transcendental, and I believe can put one in touch with a deeper part of ourselves only reached through artistic meditation – what some might call the creative process, that joy of discovery wherein you read your prose a few months after writing it and think, crap, did I really write that?

That fugue state where you’re something larger than yourself is an amazing thing, to be cherished. To have the ability to share it, to effectively connect one-on-one with readers and enable them to enter your thoughts for a few hours, is incredible. And to be able to entertain to the point where someone’s willing to pay you is validating beyond description.

It would be wonderful if all books received warm welcomes from readers, just as it would be great if all puppies found loving homes. But the world has never been just, and many don’t. I think the trick to persevering in this business is to truly love the act of creation, and if you can earn a living at it, to remind yourself daily that you are the luckiest person alive. That’s what I do. And I believe I truly am. Okay, maybe not as lucky as a Kardashian or members of the lucky sperm club, but still. Lucky enough.

Which is my longwinded way of saying I’m grateful for the support of my readership, and as I close in on four years of publishing (June 11 is the big day, and yes, cocktails will be consumed, no question), I’m humbled at the opportunity the universe has provided me to do what I enjoy, and to be rewarded more than equitably.

They say that a lucky man is one who feels lucky.

I feel lucky.



  1. Fri 08th May 2015 at 7:01 pm

    Thanks for the great books, Russell! It’s hard to pick a favorite because they’re all so different.

    Stay lucky and keep ’em coming.

    • Russell Blake  –  Fri 08th May 2015 at 9:09 pm

      As the saying goes, I’d rather be lucky than smart.

  2. Fri 08th May 2015 at 7:30 pm

    “Hear, Hear.”
    The trouble these days is that anyone can fling up a few pages and say “I just wrote a book, or two, or twenty.” Duh.
    Those of us who labor over our outpourings know what it means to be embraced by readers. And that this “calling” is worth giving up the monetary rewards of an unrewarding job.
    Thanks, Russell, for your always poignant, albeit sometimes jarring, observations.

    • Russell Blake  –  Fri 08th May 2015 at 9:09 pm

      Damn. That’s my entire business strategy. Thanks for giving it away.

  3. Fri 08th May 2015 at 9:27 pm

    My nine books, written and pubbed over the last 14 months, have just allowed me to retire to Mexico. On the ocean, right outside my front door, the wildest of any wild dreams I’d ever had. Thanks to something I had done all my life, which was to write without hope of reward. Then along came KDP and it all fell into place. I’ve won the lottery too. I’m a lucky guy.

    • Russell Blake  –  Fri 08th May 2015 at 10:55 pm

      Awesome, John. What part of Mexico?

      • John Ellsworth  –  Fri 08th May 2015 at 10:57 pm

        Rosarito. Too cool.

        • Russell Blake  –  Fri 08th May 2015 at 11:12 pm

          You should try further south. There are some pretty sweet areas. Loreto isn’t terrible, nor is Los Cabos. I’d skip La Paz since it’s now a killing field. But the drive is breathtaking. Something like 8 or 9 different microclimes as you work your way down the peninsula. Well worth doing.

  4. Scott Matthews
    Fri 08th May 2015 at 10:09 pm

    Keep inspiring us, Russell. Write on.

    Scott Matthews

  5. Fri 08th May 2015 at 10:45 pm

    Yep, my friend, you said it bang on. I have to say, meeting you along the ride has added to it all. 🙂


    • Russell Blake  –  Fri 08th May 2015 at 10:56 pm

      If only you were twenty-two and had different chromosomes. Or were just less…French.

  6. Sat 09th May 2015 at 4:24 pm

    You are lucky, sweetie. There’s more to it, but yeah, you are lucky.

    • Russell Blake  –  Sat 09th May 2015 at 4:40 pm

      You have no idea just how, Julia.

  7. Sat 09th May 2015 at 5:37 pm

    Wonderful read, man. Sounds very much like the kind of stuff I’m reading in “Turning Pro” by Steven Pressfield. He suggests that pros exhibit the same attitude as you’ve described here (eg., love the work, first, pursue what you love, etc.). You speak of a fugue state, and he talks about trusting the Muse, and how the stuff he’s written and loves best he can’t remember writing it (I think he was speaking of specific passages of books).


    • Russell Blake  –  Sat 09th May 2015 at 5:51 pm

      Thanks, John. Yeah, I don’t remember writing much of what I have, and it’s not just the tequila. When you’re really in the zone, it just flows effortlessly. When you’re not, it’s like dragging an angry mule through tar. Fortunately, on Emerald Buddha so far, it’s flowing like Niagara. Whether it’s any good I won’t know till second draft, but it’s a good sign.

  8. Sat 09th May 2015 at 9:25 pm

    When I read your posts I often hear echoes of Jack London. If you know me, you will know that is a compliment indeed. There is a strength of style both of you possess, and such a strength can only come from thousands of hours spent alone with nothing but thoughts and something with which to record them. The most important skill learned from such long hours is not how to put words together so much as how to put thoughts together. Truly an impressive accomplishment, well earned.

    • Russell Blake  –  Sat 09th May 2015 at 11:05 pm

      Gracias, James. Higher praise I can’t imagine.

  9. Zarayna
    Sun 10th May 2015 at 5:23 am

    Thank you for posting this timely reminder re: writing being an honourable calling.

    Just licking my wounds as some of my friends, lying politicians who didn’t lie enough, or well enough, but focused on serving the people well, have lost their jobs in the British General Election.

    The cat pictures are a comfort.

    11th June is in the diary.

  10. Kirk Alex
    Sun 10th May 2015 at 1:50 pm

    Another awesome post by a truly awesome individual.
    Yours is one of the few blogs I visit on a regular basis. Why? Clarity, wisdom, brains, truth, facts, work ethic…not to mention your love of dogs.

    This last post really hit home for me: when all else failed (throughout my life), there was the writing. And then mentioning my favorite painter, that saintly Vinnie van Gogh!
    Gotta admit as well, never thought (or was aware) that folks who appeared to be primarily about making money & who went all-out chasing after it (as you did during your house-buiding phase) ever had a creative bone in their body, or could even remotely relate to those of us who lived for it at the expense of all else: career, marriage & family, etc., etc.

    This last post was a reminder just how wrong I’ve been to lump men & women like you in with the grubby Madoffs sick with greed. Yes, you pursued the greenback for obvious reasons: it takes money to live, but deep down, in your bone of bones, you were a creative type in love with books and writing & craved to create a few of your own.

    I also want to thank you for helping me kick the Kboards habit; I was on there practically every day, squandering hours upon hours responding to threads that resulted in nothing but wasted hours for me, precious hours that could have been better spent working on my own stuff. How did you help? By rarely posting on there. Why? Because you were busy working & are way too smart to get pulled into that time suck.

    Lastly, I’m one of those scribes/readers who don’t knock what is considered commercial fiction, so long as it’s well done & it does not insult my intelligence. I not only read in that genre (private eye, horror & others), but have written a few novels that easily fall into that category. Why? I’m a genre hopper. I can enjoy James Crumley’s The Last Good Kiss as much as reading a play by the great Eugene O’Neill; I can hop from a novel by Hemingway to a mystery novel by Sean Chercover or a crime novel by Mark SaFranko, etc. I don’t have a problem reading in these various categories, nor do I have a problem as a writer hopping from genre to genre.

    Just my long-winded way of saying that there is not a doubt in my mind that you are capable of creating literature to equal any of the giants––and I would not be surprised to see you pull it off one day. If this gets you thinking in that direction, at least, well…I have accomplished what I (primarily) set out to do with this (longest) of dispatches.

    Thanks, Russ.

    Author of Lustmord: Anatomy
    of a Serial Butcher

  11. Sun 10th May 2015 at 11:29 pm

    You are “lucky” only to a certain point. I also feel fortunate to make a decent living from my writing (even if it isn’t near as great of a living as yours).

    No doubt your success can be attributed to much more than “luck.” Here are some of my favortie quotations to put “luck” in proper perspective:

    “Destiny is a good thing to accept when it’s going your way. When it isn’t, don’t call it destiny; call it injustice, treachery, or simple bad luck.”
    — Joseph Heller

    “All successful men have agreed in one thing, — they were causationists. They believed that things went not by luck, but by law; that there was not a weak or a cracked link in the chain that joins the first and last of things.”
    — Ralph Waldo Emerson

    “The worst cynicism: a belief in luck.”
    — Joyce Carol Oates

    “People always call it luck when you’ve acted more sensibly than they have.”
    — Anne Tyler

    “Shallow men believe in luck … strong men believe in cause and effect.”
    — Ralph Waldo Emerson

    “We must believe in luck. For how else can we explain the success of those we don’t like?”
    — Jean Cocteau

    “Luck marches with those who give their very best.”
    — H. Jackson Brown Jr.

    “All of us have bad luck and good luck. The man who persists through the bad luck — who keeps right on going — is the man who is there when the good luck comes — and is ready to receive it.”
    — Robert Collier

    “Chance is the one thing you can’t buy. You have to pay for it and you have to pay for it with your life, spending a lot of time, you pay for it with time, not the wasting of time but the spending of time.”
    — Robert Doisneau

    “Depend on the rabbit’s foot if you will, but remember it didn’t work for the rabbit.”
    — R. E. Shay

    “I think luck is the sense to recognize an opportunity and the ability to take advantage of it. The man who can smile at his breaks and grab his chances gets on.”
    — Samuel Goldwyn

    “The best luck of all is the luck you make for yourself.”
    — Douglas Macarthur

    “Luck can often mean simple taking advantage of a situation at the right moment, It is possible to ”make” your luck by being always prepared.”
    — Michael Korda

    “Luck is being in the right place at the right time, but location and timing are to some extent under our control.”
    — Natasha Josefowitz

    “Luck, bad if not good, will always be with us. But it has a way of favoring the intelligent and showing its back to the stupid.”
    — John Dewey

    “The only good luck many great men ever had was being born with the ability and determination to overcome bad luck.”
    — Channing Pollock

    Ultimately, luck is recognizing what is opportunity and what is not opporunity and then taking the appropriate action, often a lot of action.

    Ernie J. Zelinski
    The Prosperity Guy
    “Helping Adventurous Souls Live Prosperous and Free”
    Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
    (Over 250,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
    and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working”
    (Over 280,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

    • Russell Blake  –  Mon 11th May 2015 at 12:23 am

      Ha! I’ve always liked that R.E. Shay line. Simple and eloquent.

      Perseverence and desperation will ultimately trump talent much of the time. One might say that’s my entire business plan.

  12. MarioSmario
    Wed 20th May 2015 at 9:15 am

    Meanwhile, back in the USA…. I don’t agree that writing or any art is a “calling.” That’s arrogant. Being good at one thing doesn’t make you better than anyone else, or give you license to tell everyone else how to live. A good published writer was born with a talent and worked hard to hone his craft and sell his wares. Everyone has a talent. One does not negate the other, or have more importance. Published writers are working people no less or more than secretaries, trash collectors, teachers, personal trainers, dog sitters, engineers, accountants…. Appreciate your talent, appreciate that you were able to make a good living–enough to move to Mexico and live like a local baron.

    • Russell Blake  –  Wed 20th May 2015 at 11:51 pm

      Well, Mario, I’m sorry you feel that my beliefs are arrogant because they differ from your well-informed views. We will have to disagree on that one.

      Thank you for your time.

  13. Lynda Filler
    Sat 23rd Jul 2016 at 2:17 pm

    I doubt you will ever read this as I’m going over your old posts to find the one of how you structure your plots. I do it on excel but have swayed from the path, hah! This piece made me cry, I know, that’s what all the girls say after an amazing night with you.
    “…to embark on an effort for which there will likely be slim, or no, reward, other than perhaps touching others in a profound way, is a sort of quest – a calling, if you will. It can be transcendental, and I believe can put one in touch with a deeper part of ourselves only reached through artistic meditation – what some might call the creative process, that joy of discovery wherein you read your prose a few months after writing it and think, crap, did I really write that?”
    And that my friend is what keeps me going. Even when reviewers say “Russell Blake take away her typewriter”. Okay that one made me LOL, what’s a typewriter?! Love you and your wisdom. Thanks for everything.


Add comment

Powered by WordPress

Join Russell Blake's Mailing List

  • Get Latest Releases
  • No Spam
  • Exclusive Offers

The best way to get the latest updates from Russell Blake