30 December 2014 by Published in: Uncategorized 23 comments

My last blog of 2014 will be mercifully short.

I want to thank all my readers for the support and encouragement through a sometimes turbulent year. Thanks to you, I get to write for my dinner rather than knocking over liquor stores or running for public office.

I’d also like to thank all the authors who share my thoughts via social media, many of whom have become friends.

The arts have always been a tough gig to make it in, especially for any sustained period, and being a working author is no different. Sure, we’d all like to be superstars, but the truth is most of us will be lucky to earn a living from our craft – just as most musicians riffing away in their bedrooms won’t get record deals or sell enough to buy more than cigarettes, most little girls at the barre won’t become prima ballerinas, and most singers will have to content themselves with a smattering of applause on karaoke night rather than winning America’s Got Talent.

That’s always been the case. The arts are a labor of love, man’s search for meaning as we mark time, and it’s rare that one of us gets to do it for a living. If you’re fortunate enough to be one of those, revel in it. If not, don’t bitch or whine – you knew the odds going in. Keep at it, and force the world to recognize your worth.

Success is a funny thing. It’s not the most talented who generally break biggest or have the most noteworthy careers. Music is a perfect example. Madonna is certainly not the greatest singer or dancer of our time, and yet her career was that of a force of nature. U2 doesn’t have the best singer or guitar player or songs ever produced, and yet the band’s going on its fourth decade of commercial success. I could go on and on. The point is that talent only takes you so far, and being awesome isn’t usually nearly enough, or even completely necessary. The universe can be fickle. Deal with it.

In the end, hackneyed as the sentiment may be, it’s not the destination, but the journey. And while we’d all like to make mad fat stacks from writing, the truth is that the work has to be its own reward, because this is an uncertain business at the best of times, and a brutal one at worst. As one approaches the winter of one’s days, the size of one’s bank balance doesn’t have the same weight as it might have had when one was young, when nothing seemed more important than making it, achieving, proving your worth in the world, and when ideas like fulfillment and happiness were dismissed as silliness compared to material wealth and success. I know that was the case in my misspent youth of crass consumerism. It’s only once we begin noticing a hesitation to our step or the effects of gravity on our being that most question the importance of defining ourselves by getting into the hamster wheel every day and running balls out after the treat du jour, only to wind up exactly in the same place as we started.

Our existence can be like that. But it doesn’t have to be.

A life is about what you did each day – you are the sum of those actions. Did you help a stray dog? Were you kind? Did you behave honorably even when nobody was watching? Do you have regrets over your time spent, wish you’d known then what you knew now? If an author, did you write the words that, if you could do it all over, you would again? Each day we make choices, seemingly simple. At some point, and none of us knows when, we run out of days, and what we are left with is that string of decisions and the consequences thereof as our legacy, our imprint on the planet and each other after meager time all too briefly spent.

As I wax philosophical, I’d say the most important thing we can do as artists is to live as though we only have one year to create whatever we want to create, and to mean it with the intensity of a dying man’s last gasps. As a friend of mine is fond of saying, “the old bear doesn’t know how many more summers he has to come out of the cave.” Sometimes that gets lost in all the furor over which fad is selling best, or which promotional approach is in favor or out, or who’s killing it and who’s bombing, or how to attract eyes and get visibility.

In my blog I tend to focus more on the nuts and bolts of operating a content creation and retail distribution business – writing and publishing. I don’t go into a lot of craft tips, because the world’s filled with authors airing their preferences with the shrill intensity of jilted brides. I often mention focusing on craft and trying to improve each day, as that’s an essential part of content creation, and the odds of your retail distribution business are related to the quality of the content you produce. But behind all that is the belief that if you’re going to create content, you should do it with passion and relevance, no matter how trite or silly it may appear to anyone else. You have to do it with intensity, because it’s that intensity that infuses it with meaning.

The world has millions and millions of books. More than anyone could read in a hundred lifetimes. If we’re going to try to earn our keep adding to that pile, we should try to ensure that what we produce is as good as it can be. That’s our job, and our promise to our readers. It’s a great job. There are none better. Okay, maybe a few. But most of those will get you arrested.

It’s with profound gratitude that I finish the year, and I hope everyone has a prosperous New Year and knocks the cover off the ball, no matter what the goal is. Another year is under the belt, and the canvas is again blank. That’s both exciting and scary. Live with the old bear’s wisdom in your heart, and make this your year.

And of course, buy my crap.

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Comments

  1. Tue 30th Dec 2014 at 12:18 pm

    Words of wisdom. Happy New Year, amigo.

    Reply
  2. Tue 30th Dec 2014 at 12:27 pm

    Aww. A warm and fuzzy post. Happy New Year!

    I’ve bought all your crap. Even given some crap as gifts!

    Reply
  3. Tue 30th Dec 2014 at 12:29 pm

    Thanks for that, Russell. And may I wish you a happy and fulfilling new year.

    I love your blogs. Always good reading, and this one was a cracker. I really wish writers would spend less time worrying about how they can Tweet “BUY MY BOOK” more often; and instead spend more time in enjoying writing and reading. Stories are wonderful things, and the better they’re told, the better the experience for the recipient.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Tue 30th Dec 2014 at 8:48 pm

      I think the part that gets lost in a lot of these discussions is the idea that if we require external validation in order to feel worthwhile, especially as artists, we’re ceding tremendous power to the validators – the power over our happiness. Money is a form of validation. So is acclaim. Gatekeepers rely on that need in order to wield power. But the happy man is the one who requires no validation but his own appreciation of a job well done, of a life richly lived, of time spent productively in a worthwhile pursuit.

      And of course, hookers and booze. But goes without saying.

      Reply
  4. Tue 30th Dec 2014 at 1:41 pm

    Well said, as usual.

    Reply
  5. Patricia Wilson
    Tue 30th Dec 2014 at 2:52 pm

    I too buy your crap and enjoy every. You have become a man of wisdom however many stumbles it took along the way. I believe the old bear advice, if taken, could change the futures for a lot of people.
    Wishing you a wonderfully productive and blessed 2015

    Reply
  6. Jay Perry
    Tue 30th Dec 2014 at 3:21 pm

    Well said, Mr. Blake. Keep leading the way for those of us pursuing the indie dream you’ve achieved and appreciate the time you devote to your blog.

    Reply
  7. dan
    Tue 30th Dec 2014 at 4:40 pm

    After seeing your title, and somehow skipping the first line of your post, I kept waiting for you to rage quit from blogging for whatever reason. Whew!

    Reply
  8. George
    Tue 30th Dec 2014 at 6:09 pm

    Thanks for this. Happy New Year.

    Reply
  9. Tue 30th Dec 2014 at 7:48 pm

    Gratitude is always a great way to end one year and begin another. Thanks for all the great posts this year and I’ve come to think of you as a friend, and delude myself its mutual.
    Prosperity, health, and no natural disasters in 2015!
    Aloha
    Toby Neal

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Tue 30th Dec 2014 at 8:45 pm

      Likewise, Toby. Have a safe and prosperous NY, and catch you soon!

      Reply
  10. Tue 30th Dec 2014 at 9:18 pm

    Yes, please, wax philosophical. It is all about the journey, baby. All else is gravy. Even if we don’t get the gravy.

    Reply
  11. Wed 31st Dec 2014 at 12:02 am

    “mercifully short”?

    Jeez, what would it have been like if it had been intentionally long?

    🙂

    Happy 2015! May it be even better than this year.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Wed 31st Dec 2014 at 12:27 am

      “Mercifully short.”

      I do write fiction, you know…

      Reply
  12. Wed 31st Dec 2014 at 2:06 am

    Lovely post. Great send off for a year ready to retire. I think I just might buy your crap. Thanks for the suggestion. Happy New Year.

    Reply
  13. Wed 31st Dec 2014 at 4:29 am

    “And while we’d all like to make mad fat stacks from writing, the truth is that the work has to be its own reward,…”

    Taking this with me. Thank you!

    Reply
  14. Wed 31st Dec 2014 at 10:07 am

    Amen. Particularly relevant words as I watch one of my favorite people in the world, my father-in-law, struggle to stay alive in an intensive care unit. Thanks and Happy New Year…

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Wed 31st Dec 2014 at 1:06 pm

      Sorry to hear that, Robert.

      Reply
  15. Wed 31st Dec 2014 at 2:09 pm

    Yes it goes without saying.

    The sum of what we do each day seem valid much like Kierkegaard’s Categorical Imperative. We can all do better. I feel each day I do NOT kick someone is a blessed day. All the best in 2015. Will you be wearing a large watch tonight?

    Reply
  16. Collette
    Wed 31st Dec 2014 at 4:30 pm

    I don’t write- I read and your crap is at the top of my list. Keep it coming in the new year. As always I’ll look forward to each new publication. Wishing you a joyous new year and hope you can remember the celebration- or not as suits you best.

    Reply
  17. cinisajoy
    Thu 01st Jan 2015 at 8:48 pm

    Happy New Year.
    My mom bought your hardback.
    Great blog as always.

    Reply
  18. Jason M
    Sat 03rd Jan 2015 at 1:10 pm

    Love your blog, but disagree on the music. Madonna and U2 have written timeless songs. The Edge in particular offered a guitar sound that nobody had ever heard before. Originality married with solid, familiar craftsmanship.

    Upping my production this year to 500,000 words. That’s about 8 to 10 titles. I’ve got a great granular niche–unexploited by any other author–and a modest readership so it’s time to floor it. An undeserved divorce set me back last year but now it’s full speed ahead.

    Reply
  19. Sun 04th Jan 2015 at 1:56 am

    Happy new year, Russel.

    One good thing about being an author: you get to go over your performance again and again until you do it as well as you possibly can… and then freeze it in that state for all time. If nothing else, this rewards persistence and hard work more than some other arts. No disastrous, career-ending concerts for us.

    Reply
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