Why We Sabotage Fun

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

I’ve been on a tear writing about the importance of fun and how fun gets screwed up. Last time I discussed how people deliberately sabotage fun for others, and now want to discuss how we sabotage fun for ourselves.

Ever meet someone dismally unhappy, and you saw how quickly they put themselves there? You get the idea. You may even be the idea and just haven’t noticed it yet.

So let’s look at how we take the things we love and screw them up for ourselves how we wreck our own fun.

We Do It For Ego

There’s a peculiar habit among people to “enjoy something to death” – we get invested in a book or a game series or a movie and get really into it. We buy the merch. We purchase the posters. We discuss it endlessly. It becomes part of our identity.

Then our ego kicks in. We can’t stand critique. We can’t listen to other opinions. We can’t imagine someone enjoying someone else. Soon our fun is all about our identity as a fan or an enthusiast, and we forget what we enjoyed in the first place.

Plus, because we become so annoying, we drive away other people and only associate with fellow pedants. You enter a Being Annoying Spiral where you associate with fellow annoying people and get your annoyingness reinforced.

You’re probably nodding at this. Trouble is you’re probably saying “oh, I know other people like that.”

We Project On Our Fun

It often seems that when our ego gets tangled up in the things we enjoy, other elements of our lives get projected into it. We see a video game as reflecting our politics. A book series we love validates our views of historical events. An anime series represents an aspiration we have (but won’t admit). Our larger identity can bond with the things we enjoy – and then we’re trapped.

Suddenly a critique of our favorite book feels to be an assault on our very identity. A person who doesn’t want to play a given game due to its content is seen as an attack. We identify so strongly with something fun that we turn it into some Ten Commandments, some unquestionable Holy Grail, only with giant robots and romance subplots.

And, hell, how many times have you seen angry people not only do this but get the core premise of a story or RPG wrong? If you’ve ever seen someone insist “this book means X” despite the book, the analysis, the statements by the author, etc. you know what I mean.

We Try To Make Fun More Than It Is

“Fun” can become a substitute for other things. Yes, it’s a balm, yes it may be part of other things in life – friends, family, career, etc. But it some cases it can become something we pour too much of ourselves into – it becomes a substitute, an escape (of the unhealthy kind), a replacement. You’ve probably met someone who takes certain recreations seriously in the wrong way (as opposed to the right way, a healthy outlet).

What’s strange is this kind of fun eventually becomes a job We dedicate time to a given hobby or outlet so much that it requires serious effort. With time so dedicated, the rest of our life suffers – just like it would from overwork. We’ve made fun into more than it is, and lost everything.

Let fun be fun. I’ve seen people get playfully obsessed with subjects, but never losing their sense of humor.

We Want To Fit In

It’s amazing how often we’re pressured by external forces, or our own thoughts, to give up something we like. We want to fit in. We want to be normal. So we amputate part of who we are and grit our teeth against the pain.

We become a kind of double-bitter from this experience, losing both a thing we love and doing things we hate. We somehow lose twice.

This isn’t to say that you may find certain choices of fun are unhealthy or harmful. It’s possible people pressuring you might have a point – it’s just this phenomena is common enough it’s essential to keep skepticism.

Even if the skepticism is of your own motivations.

By the way, note how this gets manipulated by people trying to sell us entertainment. They pitch the thing everyone is doing, the latest sensation, and so on. That “hot show” may be pitched to cause dissatisfaction.

We’re Told Fun Is Wrong For Who We Are

One of the most insidious things I’ve seen in the areas of “fun” is the idea that everything is segregated by age and gender and so on. Video games are for kids, dolls aren’t for boys (unless they’re action figures), and so on. You have to enjoy the “right” things for you – and the “right” thing may change depending on age, etc.

So once again we’re told to stop having fun and do it the “right” way for the “right person.”

This does get used in marketing, of course, but it’s often used to cause social stigma as well. You can be mocked for “being immature” or “being too serious” or “being girly” or “being a tomboy.” Funny how norms of fun are turned into ways to reinforce strict social roles and traits . . .

Have the kind of fun that really fits you. As I write this, I’m 50, and I’m going to play my damned video games.

We’re Afraid To Waste Time

How many times are we told something fun is a waste of our precious time? That our efforts could be better spent elsewhere? I assume it’s a lot, and in many cases, the critique comes from inside our own heads.

This is a result of a go-go world always focusing on time usage, doing more, buying more, earning more, etc. We’re supposed to be in a constant state of work and effort, and relaxing is for wimps and losers.

Without relaxation, we’ll go crazy. We need fun. We need a break. Fun refreshes us, unleashes us, keeps us from becoming machines.

As an additional note, I think the people driving us as taskmasters ignore that they have their own entertainments, or that they may find their jobs fun. Of course, some of them are just joyless a-holes happy to inflict suffering on others as well.

Stop Sabotaging Your Joy

So, armed with this, and your own insights, don’t destroy your sense of fun. Don’t give up on joy. Don’t sabotage yourself.

Sure, sometimes the things you do for fun may be overdone. You could be a bit too obsessed. Maybe some things you like aren’t good for you, at least in quantity (say, like pizza). My guess is that, with some thought, you’ll make the right decisions (and if not, hopefully, have reliable friends to give you a nudge).

We’ve got enough in life trying to make us unhappy. Don’t be one of the factors making your own life miserable.

Steven Savage

Steve’s Update 1/19/2019

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Hello everyone! Well the holiday may be over, but I’m plugging away as always!

So what have I done the last week(s)?

  • A Bridge To The Quiet Planet: Is selling in ebook format and I have what I HOPE is the final print copy. We’ll know more after looking it over this weekend. At this rate I’m thinking any remaining typos be damned.
  • A Reader’s Guide To Avenoth: I haven’t started promoting it yet, but if you like A Bridge To The Quiet Planet, check out this free world guide! I’ll promote it more when the print copy drops.
  • Way With Worlds: The book on Cities is marching along. Not much to post on that except, well, it’s happening.
  • Expanding My Publishing: I’ve got my books going out to more distributors, starting with the worldbuilding books. They’re at Kobo, Nook, and I’m also over at Itch.io.
  • Other: I think I covered everything above!

What’s next?

  • A Bridge To The Quiet Planet: Hopefully signing off on the print copy.
  • Way With Worlds: Writing away. Maybe I need to reduce these updates, as I’m gonna say that a lot.
  • Expanding My Publishing: I’ll have a few more books out, so keep looking at Kobo, Nook, and more!
  • Other: I didn’t get to my new coding experiments, so I hope to this week.

Steven Savage



An Exercise: Facing Past Choices

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

A while ago I caught myself reflecting on my life choices, and my wish to have done things differently. Sure we all do that, but I found myself going over what could be, and it was distracting. There’s a point where done is done, and going over things yields no useful lessons and wastes time.

I also wanted to get this non-productive overthinking out of my system, both to stop doing it but also to see what I could learn. I quickly came up with an exercise that I want to recommend to people – because I’m sure many of you go into “what if” phases as I did.

Set aside at least an hour of your time and go to some place where you can have a nice non-distracted walk or sit (a park, a large mall, etc.). Take your phone, but during your time there don’t use it – it can be a distraction.

Now while you walk (or sit) do the following:

  • Take your most recent “life choice you may have done differently” and ask what would have happened if you had really made another choice. Keep it to two or three possibilities like “if I’d done X then probably Y and Z,” and make sure the answer “feels” right to you.
  • Once you finish with that item, move to the next, earliest “choice point” in your history and do the same, working through your life backward.
  • It’s OK to say the answer to any of your questions is “I don’t know.” That’s fine and healthy.
  • Go back as far as you need to, though I found for we older folks 18 is more than enough.
  • Don’t rush this, just don’t dwell on anything so deeply that you go down a mental rabbit hole.
  • When done take a break.

I found this an incredibly cleansing exercise. It got me over some things I kept obsessing over. It gave me an excellent retrospective. It definitely shortened this phase of “what if I had done things differently.”

I guess it got a lot out of my system.

I also had a few insights I want to share that may help you make sense of your own choices if you do this exercise:

  • Saying “if I did X then I don’t know” was liberating – as was the effort to see if I really could guess at what changes my choices would bring.
  • I found some interesting divergence points in my life where I could have become radically different in ways I could visualize. I didn’t always like those mes.
  • I was able to recognize people and groups and occurrences that helped keep me grounded in my life, and that may explain some of my behavior and what things keep my attention.
  • Significant trends in my career became apparent – as in there are three locations I kept thinking of moving career-wise to since my teens to 30’s. I live in one of those locations now.
  • A lot of my childhood interests are still part of my life. I wanted to work in tech, in science, and be a writer. I’m more or less doing those things, just in different ways.
  • I had a much better sense of what I wanted mattered to me.

Feeling reflective to the level it’s like being in a hall of mirrors? Try this exercise and see what you find.

Steven Savage

Steve’s Update 1/12/2018

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Hello everyone! Well the holiday may be over, but I’m plugging away as always!

So what have I done the last week(s)?

  • A Bridge To The Quiet Planet: Is selling in ebook format while I go through the physical copy.
  • Way With Worlds: I’ve started writing the next book – on Cities! That’ll probably be out in March! Also I’ve started expanding the book distributions, so expect more updates later.
  • Seventh Sanctum: Not much here, the week got busy.
  • Other: I started formatting the worldbook for “A Bridge To The Quiet Planet” to get ready for free distribution in a few weeks! I think you’ll love it!

What’s next?

  • A Bridge To The Quiet Planet: I plan to finish the final print review this week, and a likely update to the ebook files. Then it’s one more print copy and hopefully we’re good!
  • Way With Worlds: Still writing and expanding the book distribution. Once that’s done I’ll post an update (though it’s probably two or thee weeks away as some distribution methods take time)
  • Seventh Sanctum: Mostly trying to start my new code plans. I may not have many updates on that part for awhile, but then again its part of a larger effort to try some new stuff. I don’t expect the new codebase to be out for a year.

Steven Savage

Why People Fight Fun

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

After my last post on fun and how we turn it into work, I had a (fun) brainstorm about many ways turning work into fun affects us and other, related cultural pathologies. Looks like this is going to be a series on fun and the elimination of fun.

I’ll try to enjoy it to avoid an overload of irony.

In fact, let me turn from discussing fun to the more sinister side of “fun control.” When we look at joylessless, and fun becoming work, it leads us to ask “who wants to live in a world like this?” Why is there so much joylessness and sadness? Why do people work to stamp out enjoyment?

There are reasons.

Controlling Fun Makes People Joyless

Fun is about joy. Pure, unadulterated being alive. In many ways, fun is a deep expression of who we are, and having it helps us feel alive.

Fun spills out, gushes out, and it’s not exactly clear or rational. It’s connective and it’s internal. A happy person, a joyful person, is themselves.

If you want to control people, you can’t have that. Joyful people don’t need you and your religion or your self-help book or to elect you. Joyful people are irritatingly independent.

So, crushing fun, getting rid of things people like makes people joyless. Some people may enjoy crushing fun as it gives them a sense of power, but also it makes people more controllable . . .

Controlling Fun Limits Imagination

Imagination is terrifying to people who are control freaks or want to sell us something we don’t need. Fun fuels imagination, it’s about connectivity and uninhibited experience. Fun is independent, and often relies on our minds and feelings rampaging into new areas or powerful and passionate experiences. Imagination of course, makes people unpredictable and gives them the power to create.

So if you’re there trying to contorl people, you want less imagination (or to co-opt it). One way to control it is to control fun things, those things that might inspire, that might cause people to think and feel differently. If you reduce fun, that enthusiasm and joyfulness and connect-the-dots experiences fade and people are less imaginative.

Ever notice how various dictators attack art and creativity? The less imagination people have the more control you have.

Controlling Fun Makes People Manipulable

To lack fun is to lack expression, and when we don’t have it, we seek it. A life without joy is a not a life, and we seek something to enjoy, to feel good about. We seek in, short, to be.

Disipirited people, joyless people, are easy yo lead and manipulate. They have little to live for, but you can give them smething to live for. This gives you power.

Of course some people just enjoy causing misery as well. Again, that sense of power.

Controlling Fun Gives You Power

So if you have a lot of joyless people then you’re in charge. You can control them by providing fun.

You can sell them a war so they feel powerful. You can sell them a fitness regimen so they think they’re attractive. you can sell them a religion and they think you’re the word of a god.

People who are joyless don’t even need real fun or freedom, just something close. Just give them some rush, some good feeling, and they’re yours. Joyless people will line up for something to live for -and if you make them miserable you can then give them something to enjoy.

Must-watch TV and must-play video games seem kind of different, don’t they?

Controlling Fun Lets You Attack Others

People want to feel joy and happiness. They will do what they have to in order to feel alive. That also means its easy to sic them on enemies.

Blame others for their lack of joy and they’ll attack. Claim your enemies are theirs and they’ll lash out. Pick some popular targets and they’ll attack them because they get a rush of power that makes them feel happy for a bit.

Joyless people are easily manipulated into attacking others. Is someone happy going to want to go get shot because of your ego, or rant angrily online defending your bad product? No, happy people are harder to rally against whoever you want to target.

Next time you see someone getting a mob together, ask how they’re playing to disatisfaction – or creating it.

Controlling Fun Serves Existing Power

An important thing to remember is that eliminating fun usually serves existing power structures. Controlling joy and good feelings is a way to stay in power or pass power on. So if you already have a population without happiness, then you can easily stay in charge or hand it off to someone.

Existing power structures will attack joyful things, fun, entertainment, imagination. Those things are always threats – and as they keep popping up, constant threats.

Always look to the current power structure to see wht they attack and who they attack. Be kind of nice if power structures focused on evolving and improving people’s lives instead . . .

Controlling Fun Allows People To Attack Criticism

Finally, and paradoxically, eliminating a sense of fun is also a way for existing power structures to avoid criticism.

Existing power structures want to sell you their fun, their entertainment, their form of satisfaction because that gives them power. Selling people fun provides money and power and control. However, powerful interests that sell you fun often sell you fun that reinforces the existing system.

So when someone critiques what they’re selling, from a religion to a TVshow, that critique is seen as a personal attack by the consumers of that source of fun. They get pleasure from it, and thus they attack and lash back, missing the validity of the critique.

If you’ve ever seen people get viciously angry over a comic book, or seen someone push a thing as a guilty (forbidden) pleasure, you see what I mean. Look how past marketing has acted as if the product is something transgressive and unique (and thus invites critique, which only interests people more)

Conclusion

There are reasons people try to control fun – and those reasons are often power. People without happiness, without fun, are easily controlled and easily sold something.

That of course doesn’t mean anyone selling you something is bad. Not everything someone wants you to buy is to control you (beyond getting your money).

But when you see unhappy people, when you feel joyless, it might help to ask if anyone benefits . . .

Steven Savage

Marketing For Self-Published Authors and Artists (January 2019)

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

If you’re a self-published, freelance, or part-time author, artist, etc. you need to market yourself. I market my own books, and to do that I document my efforts and my findings. It struck me recently that I should share my notes.

I probably should have thought of this earlier – and I probably should do this every now and then – but here you go. It’s how I market. Which seems to sell some books at least.

So here we go!

Have A Website

Have a website, period. A website is a place you can send people to that acts as a “hub” for your marketing efforts. It doesn’t have to be complex (I’ve got some tips below), it has to be a place that acts as a hub for finding out more about you. The goal of a website is to have a one-stop-show for people to come to for information, and leave from to go to your various portfolios, books, social media, etc.

Follow these steps:

  1. Get a domain name (networksolutions.com, tierra.net are reccomended). Make sure the name is unique, fits you, and can be re-purposed if your plans change (FrankDoesArt.com is a bit specific, but FrankGetsCreative.com is more general).
  2. Set up a website. Most people I know use www.dreamhost.com or www.wix.com. Just start with one page to make it easy – I’ve seen successful authors whose page is a blurb and a list of books.
  3. A fast way to do it is buy a domain and redirect it to one of your social media accounts or a portfolio setup (like Twitter or LinkedIn).
  4. Link to all your books, art, portfolio, and social media from here.
  5. This website should be mentioned in your books, social media, etc. Link everything back to it as well.

Other things to add:

  • A schedule of speaking engagement.
  • Reviews of your books.
  • Testimonials.
  • Helpful downloads – like character sheets, guides, etc.

Have Appropriate Social Media

Social media is a troublesome subject. Yes, it can let you market – or be annoying. Yes it can let you meet people – or it can waste time. However, done right it’s a great way to connect with people.

Your social media should always link back to your website and in many cases, your other social media. This helps create a “web” of connections so people are able to go to one social media source, find your others, and of course buy your stuff.

My takes on social media in rough order are:

Twitter: Twitter, for it’s many flaws, has a lot of use, its simple, and with lists and filtering (and learning when to ignore it) you can meet authors, promote yourself, and be found. I’d determine what approach you want to use (from marketing to just goofing off) and do it.

LinkedIn: You should have a LinkedIn profile anyway, but how much of your “creative” life you want to share or link to depends on your goals and personal image. I also will say if you use LinkedIn don’t forget all the great posting and stuff you can do there, and the communities.

Instagram and other photo-sharing sites: Some people use this to promote their work, others use it as a sort of photoblog. I’m mixed on it myself.

Facebook: Facebook keeps having issues, but it helps to have a presence. I’d keep an author page on it at the very least and see how you engage.

By the way, a good way to manage social media in one go is www.Hootsuite.com.

Have A Blog

Blogs are ways to post thoughts, essays, and more, turning your web presence into a kind of personal magazine/announcement/discussion board. Most authors use them, though at various rates of usage, from constant posts to “occasional speaking updates”

A blog is usually part of your author website, and thus is another reason to come there – and to go and check out your work and your other media. Most blog setups can act as your author page as well (which is what I do).

I use blogs to:

  • Give weekly updates on myself.
  • Post various essays and thoughts.
  • Review or promote interesting things.
  • In a few cases, blog posts then became other books, or I round them up to publish free “compendiums.”

You can set up blogs at the following sites, with various advantages and limits. Some allow you to use your own domain name, some don’t.

A few techniques:

  • You can get a domain and just point it at your blog or a similar site (like your Tumblr) and save time.
  • Some authors and artists do blog tours where they post across each other’s blogs.
  • If you have related social media accounts (LinkedIn, Tumblr, etc.) consider posting your blog entries to all of them when appropriate. Just make sure they redirect to your site.
  • Set up an RSS feed (or find it’s address in a standard setup) and put a link on your blog. I also recommend www.feedburner.com despite it being sort of static by now.
  • Mailchimp.com and some other mail software programs let people subscribe to a blog feed so they get email updates. You can also load those with helpful extras and information.

An important caveat – if you’re a prolific writer, you have to find the blogging/writing balance. It’s not an easy call because a few long blog posts can take as much time to set up as a small fiction piece. In some cases small books may be like blog posts.

Have A Newsletter

A newsletter is the way to engage with readers and keep people informed, as well as give them cool reviews, interesting updates, and more. In some ways it’s like a mailed blog, but I separate them as a newsletter is more focused and like an update, whereas blogs can be more freeform. If you don’t do a blog, do a newsletter, and if you only have time for one do the newsletter.

The ruler of newsletters is www.mailchimp.com, which has an amazing free service and reasonable paid services.

Make sure that your newsletter subscription form(s) are linked to from as much social media as possible and, of course, your website.

Some newsletter tips:

  • Don’t overdo it or underdo it – I do it twice a month or so.
  • Find a “feel” for your newsletter – a roundup, personal, chatty, serious, etc. Judge what works.
  • Include any vital updates about your work. Link to your blog, new books, cool things.
  • Give away “Lead Magnets” – basically free stuff like samples, an occasional free book copy, downloadable cool stuff, etc.
  • Use it to promote other cool things – help folks out.
  • Remember that most newsletter software gives you all sorts of statistics and data – you can use this to improve reaching people!

(AUTHORS) Giveaways And Promotionals

A great way to get people’s attention is to give out stuff like free books, extras, samples, and more. With these properly done (and linked back to other works), its a great way to get attention, meet people, and of course get sales.

There’s two services I reccomend:

Prolificworks.com – having both free and subscription modes, it lets you give away work and join (or create) promotionals. The paid version lets you tie giveaways into your mailing list as well. It does get a bit pricey beyond the Free level ($20 to $50 a month), so I recommend paid tiers for serious authors.

www.bookfunnel.com – Is a cheap ($20 a year to start) way to do book giveaways in a variety of formats, and higher tiers include features like Prolificworks.com. I’m fond of the starter tier as its a great way to make book giveaways easier (and if you don’t want to host your giveaways).

To make these work you have to obviously be dedicated to it and work out strategies. I use them to:

  • Give away free stuff and samples to my newsletter subscribers.
  • Have promotional giveaways (often samples) that people can sign up to my newsletter to get.
  • I join groups on Prolificworks.com to do team giveaways.
  • I use both – Instafreebie lets me set up easy giveaways, and Prolificworks gives me all sorts of options.

If you use KDP, there’s a KDP Exclusive you can use for eBooks. In exchange for making your work exclusive with Amazon, you get some tools to set up sales.

(AUTHORS) Consider Series

If you’re doing fiction, you probably already have a series in mind. If your books are non-fiction, you may want to group them into series, because various bookselling sites will remind people that “X book is part of Y” series. It’s near-free advertisement.

Have A Portfolio

If you’re a visual artist of any kind, have a portfolio. Put it on your website, use a social media site like Deviantart.com, whatever. People want to see your work and maybe buy it, so make it easy to do. If you take comissions, it’s pretty much a way to market yourself.

Non-visual artists like authors may want a portfolio as well. This would contain:

  • Cover art.
  • Sample works.
  • Free giveaways.
  • Summaries of your work (with links to purchase it). For instance, I have a press website a lot like this.

More To Come

So these are just what I’m doing now (and what I wrote up, I’m sure I forgot a few things). I’m always trying different promotional efforts and other ways to help people find my books

Steven Savage

Steve’s Update 1/5/2019

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Hello everyone! Well the holiday may be over, but I’m plugging away as always!

So what have I done the last week(s)?

  • A Bridge To The Quiet Planet: Is selling in ebook format and has been repeatedly updated as I edit the print copy. I was disappointed with the typos I saw (I at least figured why), but the print copy is looking great!
  • Way With Worlds: I’ve got a lot of notes on the next book. More on that in a bit!
  • Seventh Sanctum: Nothing new quite yet, taking a break after the updates, but I do have a few plans in mind. I’ve also begun my plans to update the code base over the next year.
  • Other: Mostly a lot of chores and side things.

What’s next?

  • A Bridge To The Quiet Planet: A break for a few days as the print book’s next proof copy comes to me. If all goes well I’ll do a big haul and be done. I also hope to work on a special free book – a world guide!
  • Way With Worlds: I’ll take my notes and compile them into an outline, then probably start the book in February.
  • Seventh Sanctum: I’ve got two or three generator ideas, let’s see if anything comes of it!
  • Book Access: I’m trying a few things to improve book distribution, stay tuned!

Steven Savage



Fun Is Fine Because It’s Fun

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

The ever indomitable MagenCubed had a great comment on Twitter about how we often feel we’re not allowed to have fun. That writing, art, everything fun has to have Some Deeper Meaning, or Some Potential Profit. I have to agree with her, the idea that our fun must somehow Become A Big Thing seems very pathological and way, way too common.

Sure, I write on how people can use their hobbies on the job, but as I’ve often stated know the value of your hobbies and just fun is fine. I feel it’s best we’re honest and clear on our interests, and part of that is to say something like “shut up I’m playing Overwatch to goof off, go away.”

It seems everything has to be monetized. Or therapeutic. Or advance our careers. Or it has to have some meaning beyond what it is. I actually remember when it wasn’t this way! Really!

So I began asking why. What happened? I think there’s five factors affecting turning fun into work.

The longest trend is simply our culture, which idolizes work and productivity and earning money. The idea that somehow if we’re not making money or planning to make money or working real hard something is wrong. It’s sort of an unholy fusion of American Capitalism, Protestant Work Ethic, and a fetishization things having to be “useful.”

Secondly, in the last few years, we’ve also seen the increase of the gig economy, from contractors to Uber drivers. This kind of economy is one without permanent employment or reliable income, and thus one is always hustling and scrambling. It’s too easy to have that attitude leak into our hobbies, and in many cases the “permanent hustle” leads us to constantly worry about tradeoffs of profitable versus unprofitable time.

Third, even when employment is reliable, it doesn’t seem too reliable in the last few years. There’s always the temptation to add a second stream of income, or just see if one can monetize a hobby. How many of us are worried that one corporate acquisition is going to kill our jobs, and isn’t the temptation there to have some cover . . .

Fourth, with all the other crap we have going on, it seems that we think that art or tv or whatever has to have some Great Healing Purpose or Deep Personal Exploration. It’s as if something can’t be good for us because we enjoy it. It has to be some deep thing that transforms us utterly or has some great deep meaning. Also, of course, this justifies us not making money at it – we’re pursuing something Great And IMportant.

Finally, we’ve also created so many tools and options, from Patreon to self-publishing, it’s easy to try and monetize any work. It’s not much effort to shave the serial numbers off of fanfic and hit up Kindle or Draft2Digital. Sure you like art, but it couldn’t hurt to try a Pateron, could it? It’s so easy to try and monetize we may try it before we ask if it’s a good idea.

Our culture, our economy, the push to have deep healing meaning, and the ease with which we can try to monetize hobbies is a powerful combination. I think it’s left us constantly worried we’re not working, and turning fun into work just in case – and because we can.

So no matter, have fun. Fun is it’s own purpose. Fun is fine. Fun is good. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t just have fun.

Even me. Now and then people like me need to be told “back off, I’m goofing off.”

Steven Savage

Transcending Your Influences?

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

In a recent discussion with Serdar, the idea of writer’s “transcending their influences” came up. You know the idea – to go beyond your influences into something your own, avoid their limits or being derivative, etc. For some reason, it made me uncomfortable.

My discomfort told me there was something to analyze here. Why did the idea of “transcending one’s influences” as a writer give me that unpleasant sense of discomfort? It didn’t take long for me to figure out why.

It’s because I’ve seen this phrase and phrases like this used in ways that were actually pathological.

A few examples came to mind:

Treating influences as the enemy. Many is the time I met an artist or writer who acted as if their influences were somehow bad, as if they were cages or foundations. I worried that they’d spend so much time not being something they’d never be who they were now, and who they could be. It felt like childish rebellion.

Treating influences as things you can discard. You can’t just toss influences away. They’re there, period, possibly even for good reasons. Acting as if you can just walk away from them (as opposed to incorporating them, finding others, adapting over time) seemed futile.

Leaving influences before you’re ready. Influences present a lot of opportunity to explore them – often in ways the influencer did not. I don’t like to see artists of whatever kind work so hard to get away they ignore new paths they could find in the work that inspired them.

Lack of self-awareness. Wanting to get away from an influence may mean you don’t take the time to understand why they’re an influence, what they did (and didn’t) do for you and so on. Escape may limit self-awareness – and if you’re trying to get away from a bad influence, you might just find a new one.

Arrogance. Sometimes when I hear people talk of transcending influences, it seems to be arrogant (possibly hiding insecurity). They are above these influences. They can be better than others still enslaved to influences, etc. They don’t need influences (like we can get away from them).

I am all for artists and writers and all creatives growing and developing. I expect them to keep evolving. This will mean, in time, they will grow into their own people, and the influences they have become more foundations or waypoints than what they do.

I think I’ve been concerned there’s too much pathology around the idea of transcending one’s influences. That people harm themselves or limit themselves while trying to overcome limits that often aren’t limits, just phases they’re in.

Well that was productive. I feel like I’ve learned something about myself – and perhaps transcended a limit . . .

Steven Savage



Steve’s Update 12/29/2018

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Hope you all had a good Christmas! Let’s catch up on my projects!

So what have I done the last week(s)?

  • A Bridge To The Quiet Planet: Is selling in ebook format and I have a print copy I’ve gone through to look for issues and formatting mistakes. Good news is that it looks good, but I did see a few more typos than I’d like to admit. Got a marked-up book and an improved cover file.
  • Way With Worlds: With the Organizations book out next is a short break, then plotting the next one.
  • Seventh Sanctum: I’ve updated the Nexus! A lot of it is self-publishing oriented, since that’s what I know.
  • Other: Christmas, of course!

What’s next?

  • A Bridge To The Quiet Planet: This week I incorporate my edits from going over the print version and get another POD request. I’ll also update the Kindle copy.
  • Way With Worlds: I hope to get to outlining.
  • Seventh Sanctum: Right now I have a few simple generator ideas – what it’s like going back to work may affect delivery.
  • Other Stuff: There’s a few other things I’m up to, like doing some coding and improving book distribution that I may or may not start soon. I’m not quite sure of the direct plan yet, but I’ll keep you updated – and it’ll yield some useful insights!
  • General Stuff: Enjoy the rest of the holidays!

Steven Savage