Empty Content

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, Steve’s Tumblr, and Pillowfort.  Find out more at my newsletter, and all my social media at my linktr.ee)

I hear about “Content” constantly, and I’ve grown tired of it.  People need Content for their YouTube channel, to keep an audience, fill books, etc.  I finally realized why it gets up my nose – because the focus on Content doesn’t consider meaning.

Too often, when people talk about Content, it’s about needing to have it for some reason.  The channel has to have Content for the algorithm!  The blog needs Content to keep people’s attention.  The Podcast needs Content because you’re on a schedule and people expect it.  The existence of Content matters more than what the Content is.

When we speak of Content, we mean writing, discussions, videos, etc.  We’re talking about something that is meaningful or should be.  It may be a good chuckle or a life-changing revelation, but Content is about something supposedly that has value in itself.

The demand for Content makes our creations secondary to mathematical formulae and marketing calculations.  Content is just something we use to fill a space, the packing peanuts of the soul.  The meaning of that Content is secondary to just having something to pour into a container.

That’s what irritated me about the constant chats about Content – the value, the importance of the creative work wasn’t relevant.  You could boost the YouTube algorithm with a picture of you shirtless and silently reading Terry Pratchett or a detailed guide to creating resumes, and the result might be the same.  The idea of Content these days flattens the value and meaning of creation itself.

This situation makes it harder to become better at what you do.  When your critical goal is creating Content, then shoveling works out the door takes priority over making better works.  It’s all attention or meeting a wordcount, or whatever first, the work is secondary.

There’s a soullessness to it all and I can now put words to it.

For me, I think I’m going to think over what I make and why a little more.  I can see where I’ve fallen into the Content trap and where I’ve sought depth.  I also see where I may get distracted by “shiny Content” and not ask if it’s something I care about.

But for now, when I cringe at yet another discussion of Content I’ll know why.

Steven Savage

Steve’s Update 5/15/2022

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, Steve’s Tumblr, and Pillowfort.  Find out more at my newsletter, and all my social media at my linktr.ee)

The Way With Worlds series: “Misinformation, Disinformation, Propaganda, and Worldbuilding” is doing well and you can get it here.  Right now a break on books until Q3, and finishing up those new covers.

“Think Agile, Write Better”:  There’s a new title for the book thanks to the above book.  I’m going to get feedback on the outline done the next few days, re-outline, then start writing like crazy.

The Seventh Sanctum rewrite: The Anime Attack Generator is done, if still in debugging.  This means, SEVENTH SANCTUM IS REWRITTEN.  23 years of work, on version five or six!  So now it’s test launches and code debugging into June then a deploy.  I’m working on creating a “quick switch” deploy to just change a variable to activate the new site, but that requires plumbing some weird issues with python, user accounts, and so on.

Social Media Realignment: I’m getting acquainted with Counter.social and Mastodon while Twitter’s future fluctuates.  I also have a list of other things I want to do, like promoting other authors (hint, hint, like you)

The Compendium of Writing Advice: Not much happening here.  I am regretfully thinking I may have to drop it for now to work on all the above.  I could pick it up around the end of the year.

Steven Savage

It’s What You Know, You Know?

This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, Steve’s Tumblr, and Pillowfort.  Find out more at my newsletter, and all my social media at my linktr.ee)

“Write what you know,” is advice writers ogive each other.  This is followed by writers arguing about that statement, and the Great Circle of Advice and Debate continues.  I’d like to add my own nuance to the debate because it may help.

“Write what you know,” is an incomplete statement.

Serdar notes that many writers seem to create writing/artistic heroes – to the point that “writer/artist” is shorthand for protagonist to many.  This issue arises from writers writing what they know – themselves.  It’s a grand example of how “write what you know” backfires, and I’m sure we all have seen writers follow that advice a bit too much.

Yet many writers try to break out of what they know.  We know – and perhaps are – researchers and obsessive readers who will go to great lengths to find what they need for a story.  There’s the ever-repeating joke of how writers have questionable browsing history as they research so many things.  Isn’t writing about “knowing more” to write?

Even if we’re not researching things that might disturb someone, aren’t we growing as a writer anyway?  Aren’t we learning from our writing?  Aren’t we changing with life?  The “what we know” part of the advice is changing all the time.

This is where harder truths break into the unpleasant simplicity of “write what you know.”  Yes, an author should write what they know, but the act of writing also means the author should be learning and growing all the time.   That growth is part of writing as well, and perhaps needs more acknowledgment.

“Write what you know, but both you and your writing should grow together,” may be a better bit of advice.  If we writers can grow, so can our catchphrases.

Steven Savage