Category Archives: Psychology

My Journey, Your Journey

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

Serdar wrote a must-read blog post on the question “When do you know what you’re doing”?  When are you doing your own thing, when are you not stuck in “tutorial hell,” and so forth.  These are great questions, and I’d like to explain when I know what I’m doing.

I don’t think of it that way.  Instead, I just keep going and learning.

For instance, when I wrote A Bridge to the Quiet Planet, I wanted to get back into writing fiction.  I decided to write three novels and simply get better at it by doing it.  As I write I learn, and of course I read, study, and consult with fellow writers.  The sequel, A School of Many Futures was certainly a leap over the first novel on all accounts.

My worldbuilding books are journeys as well.  Sure, I’ve got them down to a science, but each one is another learning experience, especially in terms of subject matter.  As of late, desiring to improve my nonfiction writing, I’m working on developing a more organized “system” for nonfiction.  Another leg of a journey that doesn’t end.

This is probably the influence of Agile on my mindset, but I’ve always been a “do it and keep going” type of person.  It also means I never expect to “arrive” anywhere, just reach a plateau before the next climb. I don’t think I know what I’m doing, I just keep learning more and doing it.

Sometimes I do decide to quit a project or turn it into something else.  That’s just the way life is.  It’s not a failure, it’s a learning experience, it’s spare parts, it’s re-prioritizing.  My journey takes a slightly different path.

This isn’t superior to the answers Serdar gets (which is best summed up by reading his post).  This is what works for me, that journey of milestones, new goals always coming, pace changing, but in motion.  In fact, this milestone-but-journey method isn’t even applied to all of my life.  Different goals for different things, and it’s a difference I own and that is my responsibility.

Creatives – or anyone with aspirations, really – ultimately have to ask themselves the question how do I approach competency?  It’s an important question, and one you’ll have to find the answer to.  I can’t tell you what the answer is, nor can Serdar, or anyone you know.  Anyone else trying to sell you a set of goals is delusional at best and wants something at worst.

So tell me how you measure success, how you stake out your creative goals.  You know me, I’m on an eternal journey, and I’d love to learn.

Steven Savage

Good News – You’re Not Worth It!

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

Many creatives spend time bashing themselves. They’re angry they’re not doing more work. They’re enraged their writing isn’t better. They worry they’re not making enough at their supposedly “fun” calling.

No one can be crueler to a creative than themselves. Creatives know their weaknesses and have the imagination to find new ways to harangue themselves.

I’d lay odds you do the same thing to yourself.

Normally I’d advise compassion for oneself, in the vein of Pema Chödrön and similar philosophers. Much to my surprise, such self-care doesn’t fly with everyone. Some people invested in hating themselves as a twisted version of responsibility.

To those trapped in self-loathing creativity, let me suggest another tact.  You’re not worth hating.

Are you blessed with a great destiny that you’ve failed to reach? If you were failing your great mandated fate, maybe you’d be worth some anger. But you’re just a person, so why waste time hating on yourself?

Are you a person of fantastic talent unmatched in history, a skill that will define the future of all humanity? It’d be nice, but in reality, you’re someone trying to do the best they can and trying to grow. So if you fail now and then, it’s just being human, so why burn cycles despising yourself?

Are your works epics that the world has to experience lest it is forever impoverished? Probably not; you’re just another person trying to do what they like and contribute. Epics are declared such in hindsight. So since you’re not supposed to make The Greatest Work Ever, are you worth your own contempt?

Guess what?  You’re not worth your own hatred! You’re just a person, just like me, your friends, and so on. You’re not worth the time you take to be angry at yourself.

So let’s all go forward, we legion of screw-ups, weirdoes, and flawed humans. Let’s stop wasting time hating ourselves. If anything, wasting time hating ourselves is another one of our mistakes.

Maybe then we can find some compassion for ourselves when we’re not busy being disappointed in who we are.

Steven Savage

Run Deep Not Shallow

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com 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