Category Archives: Psychology

Old Writer Meet New Writer

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

“Put it down for a while” is advice often given to writers. Tired of your story, then take a break. Done editing, then take a break. The virtuous idea is that if you’re frustrated, tired, or just did a lot of writing, a break lets you return with fresh energy and fresh eyes.

I am a believer, if a hypocritical one, in taking a break as a writer. But as food for thought, let me suggest a break does not just give you fresh eyes – it gives you new ones.

When you finish a project or a writing setting, your mind is awhirl. Letting yourself take a break lets the lessons sink into your mind. Your break is a time of change.

When you finish a project or a writing session and take a break, your mind does other things besides writing. In that time, you take new stimuli, new ideas, new inspirations. Your break is a time of taking in other things.

When you finish a project or a writing session, a break is a chance to see a project differently. Stray ideas and unstructured contemplation let you gain new viewpoints. Your break is a time to gain new insights.

The work does not change when you take a break – but you do.  The person who returns to work after an hour or a day or a week off is literally someone else.

This viewpoint provides more than a way to discuss the nature of impermanence. It’s a reminder that sometimes you need to stop writing and rest to become the person that can continue your work. If you are tired, uninspired, etc., you may not just be in a bad state – you may be the wrong person for the job. A rest from writing is a chance to become the you that can go on.

So next time you’re tired of writing, frustrated, or just exhausted, just rest. The person you are has done their job; the person you will be can take over next. Give them space to arrive.

Steven Savage

The Treasures of Models and Metaphors

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

As Serdar and I often discuss in our blogs, people find inspiration in areas unrelated to their projects and goals. He finds ideas from the aesthetics of music that inform his writing. I took self-help book ideas and created a worldbuilding series. Whatever your interests, sometimes the best inspiration comes from somewhere else.

I think one of the advantages of these diverse inspirations is giving you new models and metaphors.

Recently, I noted a videogame named Slipways gave me a model for stable social circles. The game involves creating a series of linked colonies that support each other. It helped me see that it was a great pattern for building social ties in these troubled times.

This insight helped me see other times I’d had inspiration from one source help me in seemingly unrelated areas of creativity as models or metaphors. My worldbuilding books take the self-help model and apply it to fictional settings. I used fractals as a metaphor for certain patterns in fiction writing. As everyone is aware, I use Agile methods for ideas and models throughout my work and feed my findings back to Agile.

Models and metaphors are ways we can move insights around from one inspiration to another. A model gives us a framework to re-envision the relationships of ideas, even if we may have to hammer a round idea through a square concept. A metaphor inspires us with a new way to see and connect information. Having a variety to use gives us more and better ways to create.

Realizing just how “unrelated inspiration” can become very related, I’m curious how I might see the world differently now. I know I’ve done this seeking of models and metaphors semi-consciously. I’m quite interested as to how I’ll see the world being more conscious of it . . .

Steven Savage

The Net (work) With No Center

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

As the pandemic grinds on (and grinds back) my hope for any kind of “normal” fades. We’ll find a new normal, new ways to carry on. Some of the old normal was so fragile it would break anyway. But things will – must – change.

That includes our social relations. I’ve been trying to understand what social ties that I can build in this time. The answer is the ties can’t focus on me, and that answer came from a video game named Slipways.

Slipways is a streamlined strategy game of interstellar colonization. One colonizes worlds and builds trade routes (the FTL slipways) between them. Worlds have needs and goods, and you set up slipways that benefit multiple planets. Complex relations among these planets develop, a vast, complex network of support that hopefully helps all.

(If you don’t keep the benefits in mind, the people throw you out of office. Center on one area of the galaxy and it all falls apart.)

One night, trying to sleep, I realized Slipways is an excellent metaphor for the social structures we should build. We should seek social ties where people benefit each other and use our unique needs and inclinations. Equally as important, the web of social relations we try to forge in these troubled times can’t be centered on one person. Put too much weight on one part of the web, and it snaps.

This realization came as a great relief. I had been trying to juggle social ties and commitments, help others but had missed the whole. I might center on my social needs or the needs of a lonely friend, but that was wrong. I wanted to build a network.

The funny thing is, I build networks anyway – “Social Butterfly Effect,” as one friend put it. I just missed that in my desire to fix things and keep them running as we meander through the second year of the Dumb Apocalypse. I knew more and did more than I expected – once I stopped worrying about myself, what I did, etc.

Amazing what can inspire us. Equally impressive is how we miss the obvious.

So if you want to network, ping me . . .

Steven Savage