Category Archives: Creativity

Awe and Fear of the Minds Fire

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

I am absolutely in awe of human creativity because people use their imagination to believe so much bullshit. A quick scroll through Twitter or glance at the news shows many people believing the most inane conspiracy theories. Humans can create lies as well crafted as any work of literature and believe them utterly.

At the same time, I am genuinely in awe of the good human imagination can do. The many books I’ve written sometimes feel like a legion of Minervas springing from my head, amazing things born magically. I see people solve problems and make the world better with creative efforts, and it’s beautifully humbling.

As of late, I’ve come to think people don’t truly appreciate their imaginations in every sense. We don’t always appreciate what our creativity can do, settling for squelched ideas and tightly bound lives. We also don’t appreciate how it can be misused or even realize that we’re using it to do and believe terrible things.

Author Patrick Harpur referred to the imagination as a powerful force, a kind of alchemical fire tying together and enchanting the world. One may not take such a mystical view, but I do see virtue in seeing our creativity as a power.

First, seeing our imaginations as power reminds us to use and cultivate it in ourselves and others. Our ability to dream things up is not ephemeral but a force that has made and changed the world.

To see creativity as power reminds us we all have it, and we can tap into it. It democratizes it and opens it up – and reminds us it is there to use.

To see creativity as power reminds us to use it responsibly, for it can be misused to harm others and delude ourselves. It is a safety warning.

To see creativity as a near-mystical power, ironically, lets us see how omnipresent and common it is. We become aware of how it’s a constant in our lives – and how we may be misusing it without thinking about it.

We need to appreciate our imaginations more. Certainly, as I look at the world, I’d rather have more elaborate fanfics and wild art than conspiracy theories and delusions. Perhaps if we appreciate the power we have, we’ll realize when we’re misusing it – or even just using it and not aware of it.

Steven Savage

Angel Up Front, Devil In The Back

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

As I write many books on worldbuilding, one might assume that my motivations are wise and benevolent. You can put away any image of me as some saintly writer, as anger and frustration infuse plenty of my work.

I’m fine with this. More than fine, I’m happy.

I’m not saying I don’t want to help authors and creators – I do. There’s something magical about being able to give worldbuilding advice that leads to a new work. Every book I sell feels like both a triumph and a reason to be humble because every one might be the seed of work surpassing anything I could do. I care about what happens to my fellow creatives.

Behind this angelic feeling is a blazing furnace of frustration.

My worldbuilding books started from sheer frustration about terrible worldbuilding. From role-playing games to “continuity optional” television, bad world design poked at my soul. There’s something about seeing good stitched together into some half-alive monstrosity. I wanted to see less of this, because creators and their audience deserved better.

The subjects I choose for worldbuilding books often come from frustration over “why is no one focusing on this.” Seeing conspiracy theories recycled into fiction, I did a book on that. Tired of the same old superhero stories, I did a book on that. I’m in the middle of a three-part book on disasters and worldbuilding, and you can pretty much guess why.

I’m good with this. The devil of frustration needles me about bad ideas and writer’s books that don’t help writers. My benevolent (dare I say angelic?) side drives me to do something and help people out. It’s a partnership of heaven and hell that keeps my writing going, and keeps me helping people.

If you’re worried “oh my writing comes from some dark places,” then trust me, you’re fine. It’s what you do with it. The Devil helps the Angel know where they’re needed.

Steven Savage

Responsible Imagination

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

A creator’s world is about ideas. There are things we want to do, half-formed potentials, and wild dreams we lock down until they burst forth. Creativity is all about ideas.

At the same time, ideas torment us. We may have too many ideas to act on, while someone else has nothing that comes to them. Regret over undone projects bedevils us, while dissatisfaction over a poorly-handled creation sits darkly in our stomachs.

You may deal with these issues, and if you don’t, I’m sure you know some other creator who has.

One of the differences between an effective and ineffective creator is taking responsibility for their ideas. They build systems to stimulate creativity, channel it, and select what becomes what. By doing so, they’re able to get to the act of creating.

I don’t think this is discussed enough in creative circles, where imagination is often treated as a given or a fickle force. Perhaps we’re used to hearing the same complaints over and over again, and we miss there is a solution. The solution is developing a personal way to be responsible for ideas to deal with these general problems.

Maybe we need to focus on helping our fellow creatives take more responsibility for their imagination. There are plenty of books to start with – I know I wrote one – but people still need that personal touch. We can help other writers and artists to find their way.

Steven Savage