Hard Because We’re Inside

Writers, artists of all kinds, can be incredibly hard on themselves. If you’ve dealt with such creatives, you know it. If you are such a creative, well, you’re nodding along. I myself can be harsh towards my skills, abilities, and works.

I’ve wondered why we do this. I mean sure, not every artist or writer self-flagellates, but it’s common enough that I feel there’s something to it. We creatives can turn on ourselves.

A book could be written on this – indeed I’ve written about it before. But one of the reasons that comes to mind is simply that we’re inside something no one else can experience.

Each creative person is living inside their own unique experience and creations. No one can see the flaws of our work because only we have them inside our head. No one can see the flaws in our process like we do as we are the process. No one lives with them as much as us – only we know what that’s like.

We experience our creations and creativity so intimately its easy to see the flaws. It’s also hard to express or connect as no one can really get what’s going on as they’re not us. It’s lonely, in our face, and intense.

Solving it is also hard because our self-loathing is so intense and personal. For us creatives wanting to mitigate this – and help others, I think there’s a few lessons.

First, any creative has to be aware of their own mental health and use our awareness of how personal our experience is. Being aware that yes, we have unique experiences, yes its hard to share, we can approach our own well-being better.

Secondly, I think we can network and connect with fellow creatives so we can support each other better. Being aware we’ve got some isolation, we can mitigate it as best we can socially, in writer’s groups, etc. It may be hard, but we can try – and our fellows can tell us when we’re being too cruel to ourselves.

Third, we have to remember creative support groups – writer’s groups, art jams – have to be about more than what we make. We have to talk challenges and problems in being creative and what we face. You can’t just talk word count and editing them go away. Creative people need people because hey, we’re people.

We might be in our heads because we do a lot of work there. But we can have guests and we can visit. With a little less sense of disconnection, with more people to understand, we can get more done and maybe get over those times we’re hard on ourselves.

Steven Savage

Diversity: It Is Good

Let’s talk diversity – I’m all for it. Yes, I’m an older white guy, which ironically means people may listen to me more about diversity. Yes, I accept the irony.

In fact, since I’m being blunt, let’s get to it – arguments against diversity are almost always rooted in sexism, racism, and territoriality. They have nothing to do with making things better and everything to do with people’s bigotries and wanting things to be “for them” which is often a pretty narrow definition of “them.”

So let’s talk diversity in groups, businesses, boards, teams, etc. and why it’s great.

Diversity brings a wider range of experiences and knowledge. Having people be different means they have an understanding that others may not. When you’re trying to deal with complex situations like life, you kind of need broad knowledge.

Diversity also ensures less groupthink. When you have a diverse team or group then people think differently. Yes they may conflict and that’s good. Less homogeneity decreases the chance for everyone to decide the same stupid thing at once. If people make a bad decision, at least it may be a more informed bad decision.

Diversity also means that people may express ideas clearer and learn more. When people are different, then you can express your own differences. You’re also going to pick up a lot more from a diverse crowd than people just like you. You might even learn what you don’t know.

Diversity also brings a range of skills to a situation. You never know quite what you’ll need to solve a problem, and may not even know you need to know. Even when people have the same skillsets, diversity means it’s still different from person to person. Writers, artists, coders, leaders are not the same – and that’s good. Mix them up to get better chances to solve you rproblems.

It all sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? So why do we often hear arguments against it?

As noted, I think it’s bigotry and territoriality.

We know diversity brings broader skills but we hear the tired old bigoted argument of “we should hire by ability” which really means “those people are getting special treatment.” Well when everyone in a team or group or organization is all alike people are getting special treatment – by being like everyone else. I’ll trust diversity to solve a problem over an organization of people who want everyone to be the same and call it “talent.”

That also leads to territoriality – people against diversity as, though they oft wont admit it, they want to be surrounded by people just like them. It’s a peculiar kind of mental inbreeding, and just about as healthy for people as the actual inbreeding of royal families throughout history. Yes, it may be comforting, but if you’re trying to lead a company or solve a problem then comfort may not solve your problems.

Of course as we’ve seen many an organization that was undiverse fail, and people escape without consequences – and that’s part of the problem. People get away with all sorts of crap by being “part of the in crowd.” Diversity challenges that layer of protection – when everyone is not 100% “the same” there’s more chance you might get held responsible.

So I’m all for diversity. I’d like to actually work with people, not a hall of mirrors. The world would be a better place with more of it.

Steven Savage

Gaming Drought, Gaming Rush, Gaming Reasons

I love video games, but lately I had a kind of “drought.” Nothing interested me or inspired me. Sure I might load up Team Fortress 2 for the usual (setting the opposing team on fire or blasting them with automated sentries), but I wasn’t, well, inspired. Occasionally there’d be a patch to Approaching Infinity to play, but that was it.

I even wondered if this hobby of decades was over for me. Maybe it just didn’t do it for me anymore, something went unfulfilled.

Then two games came out and I suddenly found myself playing them for hours.

The first was Cobalt Core. This was a Roguelike Deckbuilder – a game where your characters are represented by a deck of cards, and you play it repeatedly, unlocking more. It presented an interesting plot, plenty of card synergies and tricks to figure out, and lots to discover. There was something “moreish” and stimulating about it.

The second was the full release of Backpack Hero (well, after a few fast patches). This game crossed inventory management and dungeon-crawling, building a plot around a fantasy kingdom and a magical backpack. Tweaking what equipment was stored where, while rebuilding a pastoral town, was also compelling and fun. Someone made a game that was sort of work and geometry very engaging (and the actual plot didn’t hurt).

I played these for hours at a time – and as of this writing still am! I felt happier, satisfied, and engaged. So of course I analyzed why.

In gaming I seek both challenge and stimulation. I want to use my mind and reflexes, think and calculate – in short, be involved. I also want something that interests and stimulates me, with stories and new ideas, wild vistas and fascinating mechanics. I leave a game having been engaged – and coming out maybe more skilled and with some new ideas.

I think good games – indeed any media – have that level of, well, connection. There’s something that brings you in and makes you leave simulated, and sort of better. Even if it’s a good belly laugh and wondering “why that movie was so bad.”

Now that I knew what to look for, I’m curious to see where my gaming journey takes me. Plus maybe I understand why I enjoy blasting the enemy team in Team Fortress 2 a little better.

Steven Savage