You Don’t Have To Write

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I settled down to read The Society of the Spectacle, the classic work on how modern society’s economy becomes all spectacle with little substance.  I’m sure I’ll have more to discuss, but I’d like to tell you about a reaction.

The book is broken into short chapters and numbered bits of analysis never more than a few paragraphs long.  While reading the analysis of how we commodify the world or turn economy to spectacle, I had ideas.  I had ideas for a book or two I could start writing . . .

Then, I stopped.  Why did I have to write now?  In fact, why the hell did I have to write these books without further analysis?  Also, did I have to read a book on commodities and want to make one?

I found other writers have this situation.  You have the realization a book can exist, and then you think you have to do it.  The cause varies, but the problem is the same.

If you find yourself in this situation, ask why you’re trying to write.

My motivation?  I want to know my works will benefit people and was evaluating my various projects.  My inspirations rode that desire right into “I must do this now,” and I only realized it a while later and stopped.

Part of being a writer is knowing what not to write.  Give yourself a chance to develop that skill, even if you have to ask some hard questions.

Steven Savage

Duty Calls, Should Have Gone To Voicemail

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

Note, I will return to my writing lessons from video games soon.  I’ve just had a lot of other inspirations lately.

At the start of the Christmas holiday, I had games to play, writing to do, a chance to pre-read Serdar’s next novel (spoiler, excellent), and much more.  I also had no desire to do any of these awesome things.

So I waited a week, then pushed myself.  I pushed myself through returning to work.  I pushed myself on my time off.  I even pushed myself to game, figuring something would be enjoyable.

Instead, everything I did felt like work most of the time, even things I enjoyed.  I didn’t seem to be depressed or down, just put upon.  No one was ordering me to do all this except me.

There’s a point where we turn wanting to do something into having to do something.  We truly care about something, but we build so much schedule and ritual around it that our core urge is lost.  Must replaces want.

For me, it was a feeling I had to do everything.  I had to stay on my schedule.  I had to get things done for friends and writing groups, etc.  No one told me I had to but me.  So it was time to change that.

I gave myself permission to drop anything or everything over the MLK weekend, and thought over what I wanted during a long walk.  In a day, my desires to read and create came back, I’d found the reasons I was doing these things by not doing them.  Now I find myself happier and more productive, and I’m even altering my plans for 2022.

(Interesting note, my urge to play video games came back last.  I suspect it’s changed and may write more on that).

You’ve probably had moments like this yourself.  Please, take a break and take time to reconnect with why you do things.  There’s no reason to loose yourself trying to do things, and you won’t get them done anyway.

Steven Savage

My Journey, Your Journey

(This column is posted at 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