Writer, Writer, or Writer

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, Steve’s Tumblr, and Pillowfort.  Find out more at my newsletter, and all my social media at my linktr.ee)

Serdar and I often discuss what people really want when they write. Many times we encounter people who want to be writers in the I-make-a-living at it, and/or the It’s-my-life-sense. This “writer lifestyle” is a very abstract, boiling down to “some author is famous for some series and makes a living at it.”

Such a vision doesn’t really say much. Writers have to ask what they really want and honestly, and in my experience it’s often not what they think.

A few examples – perhaps ones that will help you.

Want to make writing doing fiction? Well, you might be able to get a hit series you enjoy writing. Or you’re going to have to write your backside off, doing whatever works, targeting your marketing, and still possibly doing it wrong. If you want to write fiction, get ready to rely on luck or demographics – and probably both.

Want to just write for a living? That’s very possible. I know people who do it, but you have to think broadly. Tech writing, training manuals, marketing content, all of that is writing. You’ll need to find what works for you, and then probably still play broad. Also be ready to write some stuff that’s not world-changing or impressive, because someone has to make that powerpoint.

(Seriously, the world needs people that can just communicate, trust me, I’m not joking about the Powerpoints).

Maybe you want to make money. No offense, writing may not be the way to do it, or maybe it’s just part of your work. That’s my case, where writing is a hobby and an edge as a Project Manager, but not exactly the core thing I do. But I make more than a tech writer, and I get to talk very seriously about timelines, but maybe that’s just me who finds that cool.

Maybe you really like the connection of writing, perhaps you like having fans and readers or a writing community. Then write whatever you want as a hobby, do zines, run a writer’s group, do a newsletter on whatever, and so on. If you want community, then focus on community first – yeah a newsletter for historic preservation may not sound cool, but may be satisfying.

Maybe you like helping writers. Your future might be teacher, editor, publisher, etc. Maybe other people’s writing is what really matters, and your own is a hobby or a side thing. Sometimes it’s fun to help things happen for others. It can even pay better.

There’s no real one kind of writer to be, there are many. But you have to ask why writing matters to you and what you want out of it – and all the things associated with it.

Even me, I am asking what my next writing goals are. I enjoy writing, I’m not exactly looking to make it as a career, but I’ve also had multiple indie author stages. It’s good to ask questions about what you want.

And like me, even when you get it, keep asking.

Steven Savage

Punching A Hole Through My Head Into Myself

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, Steve’s Tumblr, and Pillowfort.  Find out more at my newsletter, and all my social media at my linktr.ee)

Punching A Hole Through My Head Into Myself

A few of my regular readers know I have side projects under various pen names. We creative types all know the need to be ourselves by being someone else for various financial, marketing, or personal reasons. Sometimes those other selves teach us lessons.

It may surprise some of my readers that I’ve started doing art under one of my pen names. Not book cover art which everyone knows, or my abortive attempts at learning to draw by hand. I’ve gotten into digital art and fusion, with legacies such as midcentury modern (naturally), branding, punk, surrealism, and more. Some of it might find it’s way here, of course, but now it thrives in a more private space.

As I started doing art, I noticed my themes were deep, often disturbing, often profound, and always weird. Very honestly, had you shown this stuff to me a few years ago I wouldn’t have guessed it came from me. Now it came out with the gesture of a mouse and the click of a button, thoughts on religion and humanity that had an edge you rarely see in my writing.

This art also felt right, felt proper, felt real.I was expressing something within me. Yet when I grasped for the words to say what I was expressing, it was difficult. I didn’t know how to easily describe what was coming out in my digital art experiments.

Then I realized that visual art gave me a way to express ideas and parts of myself that my writing did not. I had an entire different language to express a side of me previously left to feelings, to vague allusions, and over-or-under descriptions. What once took careful and oft failed engineering of words came out in black and white, in filters and shapes.

I had taken up experimenting with art and given part of me a new language to reach peope. I also was far more aware of sides of myself, of feelings, of opinions, now that I had a new way to express them. I knew myself better.

This is why I think it is critical for people to learn an art of any kind – writing, music, drawing, something. Learn to express, learn to create, learn to let yourself out. There are things we need to give voice to in order to both reach people and reach ourselves.

It is also important that we creatives, no matter our chosen method, keep experimenting and broadening. A writer should try art, an artist should try music, a musician writing, and so on. We are always finding out more about ourselves, and each artistic method is a new way for the real us to come out. You don’t have to be professional or even be good, but you should explore, have fun, and see what happens.

Where’s my art going to go? I have no idea and that’s not the point. I’m going to see what happens – and I’m going to get to know who is watching this happen much better. In time, we might get to know them better together.

Steven Savage

Experience And Exploration

As often is the case, Serdar and I were discussing media and creativity, centered around exploring media properties. I was discussing how I enjoyed “Lower Decks” and how it explored elements of the Star Trek universe that needed it. He noted missed opportunities. This got me thinking (which obviously, as usual, turns into something like blog posts).

I began thinking about “universe” projects, projects that involved a deep exploration of the setting and often via multiple books, movies, etc. When you have a big setting to play in, there’s a lot one can do. What one choses to do on the other hand can vary.

First, the universe one creates can be explored. You can understand the repercussions of the world(s), track cause and effect, dive into possibilities and results, and so on. A setting can be a huge playground that lets you do all sorts of things – often to your own surprise. It’s a place to ask “what if” and see where you go.

Secondly, a universe can deliver experiences. Settings with a given flavor allow you to have certain feelings, scenes, and so on that are desirable to you and the audience. Settings have certain emotional, cultural, and psychological resonances that some will want to experience. They can deliver the “hits” people want.

In any media franchise, big-universe project, single-setting series, creators can deliver both. Now I am biased towards exploration but the experience is important because sometimes that “feel” is what helps you get the exploration.

However I think we see that big, corporate-owned franchises tend towards the experience part of the equation. The big universes create certain feelings and people want that. Companies want to make money, so they deliver said experiences If you explore too much, you risk changing things and not delivering the experiences people want.

We’ve probably all seen cases of series, series endings, books, etc. that explored a bit too much for people’s expectations because they were used to things hitting certain emotional resonances. I could point to recent examples, but it would A) date this column, and B) probably make some people I know mad at me.

But you set some expectations, don’t allow too much change, and that happens.

On the other hand, we’ve also assuredly seen cases of big, moribund media franchises getting a chance to explore and going hog wild. I’ve sung the praises of Star Trek: Lower Decks because it “went there” on so many occasions I really felt things – and it somehow delivered the Trek experiences I’d come to expect. I feel the positivity towards The Mandalorian was well deserved – especially as it’s thematics of a slow-moving character drama seemed at odds with much of Star Wars media.

I mean I didn’t care about Star Trek and still don’t care about Star Wars anymore and I’m praising these works.

The Exploration and Experience labels give me a better way to understand media and creation. I consider Exploration to be valuable – it’s what I’m inclined to do and if part of the value of fiction. I consider a focus on Experience I can be a trap – but also that you need a certain “feel” to communicate the Exploration part I love. I’m not saying they’re equal or opposites, but useful tools.

Now I wonder how I’ll see various media differently.

Steven Savage