Steve’s Update 6/26/2022

(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)

“Think Agile, Write Better”: Writing away despite interruptions, and it’s looking really good – though I need more uninterrupted time. There’s a tone and style shift to make it “usefulness dense, language light” so it’s an informative but breezy read.

The Seventh Sanctum rewrite: Interruptions set me back a week or so, so I’m going to try to launch the July 4th weekend or the one after. I think I have a way to be able to activate the old site if it fails, so I’m pretty confident.

The Way With Worlds series: As note on hold until Q3 or so. Misinfo, Disinfo, and Propaganda is still selling great, which suggests it was timely.

The Compendium of Writing Advice: This keeps getting kicked down the list because of everything. Its still in my plans, but let me clear out Sanctum, get further on the Agile book, and deal with less problems.

Plus there are giveaways!

Steven Savage

The Unsolid Self of Creative Works

(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)

Please note this column includes very limited, basic discussion of some spiritual beliefs. I do not go into fine details as it would distract from my core exploration and involve various interpretations over the centuries.  More may be coming.

Serdar and I often inspire blog posts for each other and today is no different. He posted on how projects don’t always end up where you expect, and it got me thinking.

Serdar notes we often view our works as having a kind of “Core,” a tangible thing that defines the work. We often discover it in the early lightning-strike of inspiration, and it guides our work. But in time, it can limit us because as we develop a story, it changes. That fear of getting away from the seed of our work, the core driving idea, often limits us.

That got me thinking about spiritual doctrines about the non-existence of the self. In Buddhism, we’ll hear of anatta, the (oft-misquoted) idea of “no-self.”  Buddha seemed disinterested in the concept of permanence or impermanence, focused more on the results of action and clinging. Taoists refer to the interaction of Vitality, Energy, and (many-faceted) Spirit from which we emerge and can refine, altering ourselves to become wise or even divine. “There’s no there there” is not an uncommon sentiment among those pondering the nature of life – and if there is anything permanent, a lot of what we identify with is impermanent.

This isn’t a sentiment everyone embraces. We want to think there’s a solid “me” there that goes on and endures. We also watch ourselves grow, age, and catapult towards inevitable death and realize that what we think of as me is mostly, if not entirely, impermanent.

I think the fear of “no solid self” is no different than the fear there’s no solidity in our creative work. We want to believe we’re real and solid – we also want to believe there’s some inviolable core to our creative work. That book we make, that comic we draw comes from us, we want it permanent – maybe permanent in a way we’re not.

But as we edit and revise, replot and reconsider, we find the book or comic or whatever is a process. It’s going to change and evolve, and we can’t fully forsee the future. That core idea is just a spark to light the fire; we don’t know what will be illuminated or how long it will burn.

Neither we nor our creative works have much of solid self. They’re processes and will never be “any one thing.”  To be creative is to face impermanence twice as much, in ourselves and in what we make.

I could probably go on to intolerable length on how to face this, and it would still end in some book recommendations you might not reach out of boredom. Something more may be coming, but let me say this in compassionate simplicity.

Impermanence can be a comfort, for we see how much we cling to and how that causes pain. If I’m not much of a tangible thing, then I neither begin nor end; I’m a process, more or less. Realizing this, I can just get over myself and get on with my creative work because that’s coming from whatever I am, permanent or not. I might as well get over myself, because it doesn’t seem very solid.

So whatever. Go on, create, do the thing you do. It’s all processes and change, so let’s see where it goes.

Steven Savage

Horrible Enough, Done Enough, Enough to Learn

(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)

We’ve all had a writing or other creative project we want to abandon. Now in some cases, it’s a good idea, but I wish to suggest you may want to finish that awful thing. There’s a value in finishing work because then you can learn from it.

When you finish something, as flawed as it may be, it is a complete product. That gives you enough information to evaluate what you did right, did wrong, and can do better. Yes, it may be terrible, but it’s a terrible that you can search for lessons.

So when you look at that crime against your art, ask how you can get it finished enough to learn from. Think of it as a Minimal Viable Product, just one where the word “Viable” is doing a lot of heavy lifting. Minimal Tolerable Product, perhaps.

Now you may find, once you complete this, it’s not as bad as you thought, then that’s great! Maybe it’s good enough to use, perhaps after a heavy edit. But what if it’s not? Well, then it’s filled with lessons to learn.

It’s hard to evaluate something unless you’ve gotten it to a complete-ish state. A completed work – flawed as it is – is at least consistent and coherent enough to tear apart. Within it, you see your mistakes, your choices, and perhaps your virtues in ways unfinished work won’t show. Sure it’s ghastly, but there’s got to be something to salvage.

In fact, by completing that creative atrocity, you might be able to break it down for parts. It can be redrawn, rewritten, or recoded. But once again, you might have to complete it to get it to that state.

So don’t throw out that crime against imagination quite yet. Ask if it’s worth completing, if only to be a warning to yourself. You might be surprised what you get out of it.

Steven Savage