Category Archives: Culture

Run Deep Not Shallow

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

My friend Serdar tweeted thusly:

“speculation: nostalgia for 8/16-bit gaming / computing is nostalgia for an era of dedicated devices and focused time, an era when you could sit down to write or play sth and not have 200 tabs assault you sidelong”

As I retrogame, I had to think this statement over. I came away with the conclusion Serdar wasn’t right in the whole, because there are many reasons. But he was right in the small as, on review, I saw this in myself and others.

Echoing memories of a simpler time.

This reminded me of an exercise I had done to evaluate my life and career. Often replaying my choices, I took a walk for an hour and worked backward through my life, looking at my major life choices. I had many deep insights during my stroll, but at times I remembered life before internet-driven complications.

How much of my time today was really mine?

I finally found a way to express this when I discussed social media with a communication professional. They noted the research required to go into a good strategy these days and how easy it was to be distracted. I summed up their conversation as “what are the deep patterns?” that mattered to what they had to say.

We are distracted by so much that professionals have to keep developing counter-distraction approaches.

Thus we come full circle to what stuck in my head due to Serdar’s Tweet. So much of today’s mega media always-online culture of constant chatter was a distraction from “deep patterns” of life. Like powerful currents running beneath a body of water, those are important, not the sparkly ever-changing reflections on the surface.

The deep patterns, the powerful currents we need to navigate, steer, and control, are easy to miss in an age of 200 tabs and constant scandal-chat. It often feels like there’s more of everything, but what matters is a shrinking percentage of the whole vying for our attention.

How many times have you wanted to scream but does any of this matter?  Admit it, it’s a non-zero number.

For me, I’m glad I have experience and interest in meditation, philosophy, and psychology. Some Taoist abdominal breathing or pithy Buddhist quotes help bring me enough awareness of the distractions I face. But sometimes, it’d be nice to just not have 200 tabs, ten text messages, and email piling up.

It’d be nice to just focus on a good game.

Steven Savage

A Writer’s Problems Aren’t Unique

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

I often mentor other authors as I’ve been self-publishing for over a decade and writing professionally and non for much longer. Often it seems they have the same problems over and over again. We all know the drill – writer’s block, fear of failure, formatting, etc. When you mentor, it seems you’re stuck in a time warp, and you’re too tired to make Rocky Horror jokes.

Sometimes I find this frustrating, and I know other authors experience this as well. We’d love to see a unique problem, thank you. We’re done with issues of capitalizing titles and line spacing – can we get something new?

This frustration misses an important point.  We see the same problem repeatedly, but for that individual author, the experience is unique. It is their writer’s block, their insecurity, and so on. What has become abstract to us is painfully personal to them.

Realizing this can help us get over “writer problem boredom.” We can understand the personal experiences of writers having the same crisis we’ve seen before. We can understand the visceral issues someone is having, even if we watched fifty other people have the same problem. Our advice can be customized (and sometimes is more about the person getting other life problems solved).

This also means we can tell the people we mentor that they’re not alone. They’re going through what others have gone through before. There are resources to help them because these problems are so common. Help is not only on its way, it’s arrived and set up shop online and in your library.

Finally, when we tell writers their problems are common, it’s a sign to keep going. Their issues have bedeviled others, others who have solved the problems. The key is to keep going.

Maybe, once they’re over their blocks, they can guide other people as well. With our insights, maybe they’ll be less frustrated.

Steven Savage

The Difficulty of Difficult Media

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

(Thanks to Serdar, who inspired me with this column.)

I often hear the word “Difficult” used to describe media with praise. The “difficult” film that supposedly makes you a film buff if you understand it. “Difficult” is apparently a good thing, and I see no reason to believe this.

If a book or movie is “difficult” to understand, is that a testimony to its depth? There’s no reason to assume that it’s any good – maybe it’s incoherent or bad. Perhaps the creator didn’t know how to communicate. A difficult movie isn’t necessarily a mental obstacle course that strengthens you, but just a pointless labyrinth.

Yes, some media is “difficult,” and yes, it takes intellectual fortitude to understand it. I evaluate such media on a case-by-case basis because “difficult” even when properly used doesn’t communicate depth. A clever mystery isn’t the same as a symbolism-packed journey.

I think people love to praise “difficult” media because it says I am smart enough to understand this and you’re not. Claiming something is “difficult” for too many is a way to praise themselves. It’s a way to use a single word to claim one’s intellectual superiority that you “got” it.

I’m always wary of simplistic descriptions such as “difficult.” They quickly become shorthand whose meaning is lost or ignore important distinctions. One word can get in the way of the real experience of a piece of media or a person.

Steven Savage