Why Create?

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

My fellow author Serdar was discussing the importance of art and entertainment over at his blog. This struck me as very important:

“I think any act of creativity can be used by others as escapism, a way to — how did someone else put it? — ignore everyone else’s reality and substitute their own. Most of us do this to some extent or other anyway, so I see little point in wringing hands about it. The smarter thing to do, maybe the only thing that can be done, is create things that are good enough, constructive enough, universally enriching enough, that people will want to make them real — not just for themselves, but for others — in whatever way they can.”

Serdar speaks to the importance that artists can help people realize better worlds, because first they need to be imagined. Once imagined, you can work on making those glorious visions real, and even if you never succeed, you may get far enough to help us all get closer to the dream. Life is, after all, a relay race not a sprint.

Just think of how many of us were inspired by Star Trek to build a better world. However, art is not always about positive experiences, but they always have the chance for being transformative.  As Sam Sykes put it:

Being a fantasy author in this dark era is like being the party bard. You want to make a difference, but the best you can do is inspire someone else to fix it and hope that keeps you from getting eaten.

The role of the artist in the world is the role of the Bard in many fantasy games – the person who enhances and buffs, enriches, and supports. A Bard does that which helps others do things better.

The bard metaphor speaks to me because my works are often supportive works (such as my guides), but also because inspiration takes many forms. A horror story may not create a vision for a better world, but it does give one experiences that can be enriching or thought-provoking. The artist creates not just visions, but explorations, tools, and inspirations – not all of which are or need to be pleasant. But, like the Bards of fantasy games, the artist changes you and enhances you.

Right now you doubtlessly have a book, game, comic, or other thing to make. You may, like many of us, pause to ask if it’s worth it. I would turn it around and ask two things: do you enjoy doing it and will someone get something out of it?

If you enjoy it, go for it. Your enjoyment WILL make the work interesting to people, and if nothing else someone takes pleasure from it and gets a break.

If people can get something out of it, go for it. It will help and enhance others.

You may say “but wait, there’s no reason not to create!”

Yes. Exactly. You got it.

Steven Savage

True Creative Motivation

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

Motivation is critical to an artist.  Motivation is what drives you.  Motivation is about what you want to do and why you want to do it.  When all goes dark, motivation is the spark that can light your way – or light a fire to burn down obstacles.

Thus motivation and understanding your motivation is critical to any creative effort.  Being “in touch” with your motivation can drive you and guide you – and help you set and reach goals.

Of course we’ve also felt lacks of motivation.  Of having our drives vanish.  Of not knowing “why.”  Loosing motivation is equally dangerous, but there’s something worse.

There’s finding your motivation isn’t your own.

Many times friends and I who are writers, artists, and other creatives discuss why we do things.  The funny thing is, we often have very different goals and reasons.  This takes us all in different directions, but also helps us know where we have common ground or learn from contrasts.  However, now and then we find our motivations to feel wrong, or encounter fellow creatives whose motivations seem shallow and unhelpful.

Something that came up in a recent conversation was this – some creatives are motivated by other people’s motivations.  They’re doing thier work, driven by what drives others, having assumed “I do X so I should be motivated by Y.”

A few examples:

  • Writers who think they must make a living at it.  However, there’s many ways to make money, so why use writing?
  • Artists who want to work in a specific industry because “that’s where everyone goes” – missing the many other options.
  • Cosplayers who assume they have to follow in the footsteps of the Big Names.
  • People who assume that liking games means they should be in the games industry.

Now and again me and my friends find people motivated by what they think their motivation should be.  It rarely goes well for such people – they’re not driven, they’re not embracing their creative lifestyle, they’re not engaged.  Hell, in many cases they just stop caring.

As a creative, find what really motivates you.  It may shock you.  It may disturb you.  It may not even be there, requiring you to do some hard thinking or go on a kind of vision quest.  But having real motivation means you’re really engaged in your work.

Don’t operate off of stolen motivation.  Creativity is unique, personal and intimate – so your own motivation will unique, it will be part of who you are, and it will tie deep into your life and experiences and goals.

 

Steven Savage

Steve’s Update 11/11/2018

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

Here’s the latest update!  So where are we?

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

  • A Bridge To The Quiet Planet: Done with the editing – and the eBook cover!
  • Way With Worlds: I got the next book finished.
  • Other: Nothing overly big.

What am I going to do this next week?

  • A Bridge To The Quiet Planet: I’ll start the final pass on the book to get it ready for publication.  It’s mostly done except for some formatting issues and a few quick checks.  Right now I’d say it’ll be out very end of November or start of December.
  • Way With Worlds: I’m going to outline the next book probably so I can work on that while publishing the other.  Which might not be my smartest choice.
  • Other: I’m going to see how it goes.  I know I got all sorts of stuff I want to do, but . . . then again Thanksgiving week slows down, so who knows!

Steven Savage

Insensitivity Readers

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

There’s a great concept I hope most authors have heard of – the sensitivity reader.  Someone who can help bring to light places you’re insensitive to people, suggest ways to better portray people not like yourself, and so on.  My own experiences have taught me how important that was (co-writing a book about Sailor Moon and being the only man involved was educational).

But I’d also like to suggest you may need Insensitivity Readers – people who will call you on your own bullshit and who don’t think like you do.

I found this out while working on “A Bridge To The Quiet Planet,” where some of the best feedback were people calling me on certain takes, stylistic choices, etc.  The contribution was invaluable.

I think there are times that we accept certain stylistic choices, writing patterns, and so on because other people do them.  I’ve noticed that if you have a kind of Pratchett/Adams take, people will sort of accept it’s good.  I’ve also noticed people will accept certain overembellished styles if they’re a bit winking at themselves – kind of retro-Victorian bodice ripper styles.  You get the idea.

There are also concepts people just accept, tropes and archetypes.  We just accept them.

So someone has to tell you – your choices may suck.  Some people need to be your Insensitivity Readers.

This is a difficult thing to deal with, as I found.  Sometimes your beloved ideas kinda may not work.  Sometimes you didn’t so much fail, but didn’t reach.

So someone calls you on it.

In my case, the person who called me on some stylistic choices, who was unimpressed with the way I did certain things, made my novel a hell of a lot better.

Sometimes you need sensitivity.

Sometimes you don’t.

Steven Savage

The Editing Haul

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

OK folks, I’m in the end run of editing A Bridge To The Quiet Planet.  This is a long haul, and there’s a lot to do, so I might not be posting here as much for November . . . or I’m going to be making all sorts of bizarre and incoherent assessments.

It’s weird to finish up a novel.  It’s been awhile since I’ve done fiction, and I forgot just how much it differs from nonfiction.  Fortunately with my great pre-readers and my fantastic editor, it looks pretty good.

However, I’m also a perfectionist, so I’m taking an extra run to get this right.

Stay tuned . . .

Steven Savage

Steve’s Update 11/4/2018

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

Sorry I missed my last update, things got a bit busy.  So let’s go

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

  • A Bridge To The Quiet Planet:  I didn’t quite complete the readthrough, but I’m close.
  • Way With Worlds: I didn’t finish up the writing I wanted, sadly.
  • Other: Nothing much to report here.

What am I going to do this next week?

  • A Bridge To The Quiet Planet: Finish the readthrough, then take a break.
  • Way With Worlds: Finish writing this.
  • Other: It’s a busy week so let’s see how it goes.

Steven Savage

Vegan Ground Beef

Back to posting my cooking!  This is a simple Ground Beef substitute.  You could probably tweak it any number of ways, and do it with other substances than TVP, if you adjusted things like the vegetable broth.

 

1 cup Textured Vegetable Protein

1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth

3 Tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp liquid smoke

1 ½ tsp cumin

¼ tsp ground black pepper

 

  • Mix all ingredients together. Allow them to sit for 15 minutes.
  • Fluff mixture.
  • For added flavor, dry-sauté it for a few minutes to boil off liquid – essentially put it in a pot, turn it on high, and stir with a spatula until it starts to stick.

What If It Ended?

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

This tweet struck me hard.  It made me think about my talks of Media Gray Goo.  I realized that age plays a role in my concern that our media is becoming dull and repetitious, that there are things we do over and over and over until they loose all meaning.

Here we see an example of that in discussing Batman, the ever re-invented character who bears both the burden of the past and the burden of endless re-interpretation, all fused into a kind of incoherent and re-invented continuity.  We’re always re-making Batman while acting like he’s the same, which in time seems to whittle the character down, despite some spectacularly well-done takes.

Batman is endlessly stuck at 35, even when authors temporarily play with him until someone presses the reset button.  How many fan arguments are based on what Batman “should be,” even though he’s both out of date and remade?  How much of him has become Gray Goo?

Above, the author gives the example of Deku of My Hero Academia.  He has a story, he ages, he grows, and in theory his tale may end, though as we’ve seen from One Piece, some manga and anime do go on.  There’s no plans to reboot him, remake him – indeed, the entire My Hero Academia universe presents so many options why would you want to remake it – there’s so many other stories to tell and explore anyway.  And if it ends, then it ends – there’s plenty of other cool stuff.

In fact, if a story has a good tale and a good arc, why not enjoy a good end?  Maybe follow up with the rest of the setting, other characters, and so on.  Let things grow – and if you miss the old tale, then re-read it or re-view it.  You can discuss something in context, while also acknowledging all its flaws and places in time.

So I want you to imagine a different world, where superheroes had their stories and they ended.  Where we dig up reprints of old Batman comics, with their starts and endings, and if Batman is remade then it’s a remake of a tale with a start and a finish.  Imagine being able to enjoy Batman in context and history, not as ever-remade battles of marketing and reboots and a return to zero?

Maybe we need to let things end or pass on.  That’s what’s life about after all.

Steven Savage

Steve’s Update 10/27/2018

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

Sorry I missed my last update, things got a bit busy.  So let’s go

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

  • A Bridge To The Quiet Planet:  Editor comments addressed, Grammarly check run, and two chapters through the next-to-last readthrough!  Plus the cover layout is done, I just have to work on turning it to a final draft!
  • Way With Worlds: So close to being done here.  Still not sure if it’ll be out in November or December; that depends on editing.
  • Other: I had a lot going on, with a wedding and more, and a lot of work to boot.  Still, back on top of that!

What am I going to do this next week?

  • A Bridge To The Quiet Planet: I want to try to complete my first readthrough.
  • Way With Worlds: Finish writing this, perhaps think over my next plans.
  • Other: We’ll see how the week goes!  I do have some other projects beside the above I’d like to get back to.

Steven Savage

Fandom At A Different Level

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

After my post on the dangers of “Gray Goo” Media, serdar had his own detailed response. His response is worth reading – he also has some alternate ideas to my wishes worth considering – and he then notes it’s important to explore why and how we like things over specifics. He then proposes a most interesting exercise.

Sometimes I imagine we can cultivate this by way of exercises. Get together a slew of people who have divergent and vibrant interests, sit in a circle, start with one person, and have that person talk about some specific aspect of a specific thing that gets their attention. (“The reason I like Emma: A Victorian Romance is the attention to detail.”) Then the next person picks up from that thread. (“Something I like that has attention to detail… but here’s what else I like about it, the fact that it is a deeply humane story.”) And on to the next person. (“The thing I like that has a humane element…”)

This idea intrigues me enough that I’m thinking of using it under various circumstances, and suggesting it to other groups like a local book club, cons, etc. I also find it illustrates an important point about sharing media.

A lot of what we like about media can get very specific. I relate to this character, I like this specific story element. The become, intentional or not, exclusionary. If someone does not take to a given element or character, people have trouble connecting to you – indeed, a passionately stated enthusiasm can seem to be exclusionary. We don’t want to offend someone saying “not for me.”

Instead this method is about the commonality of how we relate, not what we relate to specifically. We discover our shared interests not in media specifically, but what we are interested in and how we share that. A group of people can each be passionate about good worldbuilding, and discuss how they love it, while completely not being interested in everyone else’s choices.

This may not save the world, but it gives us a lot to think about. Maybe it’s a method that can lead we passionate people to help others bridge gaps and find common grounds, which we could certainly use more of.

Steven Savage