Empty Content

(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)

I hear about “Content” constantly, and I’ve grown tired of it.  People need Content for their YouTube channel, to keep an audience, fill books, etc.  I finally realized why it gets up my nose – because the focus on Content doesn’t consider meaning.

Too often, when people talk about Content, it’s about needing to have it for some reason.  The channel has to have Content for the algorithm!  The blog needs Content to keep people’s attention.  The Podcast needs Content because you’re on a schedule and people expect it.  The existence of Content matters more than what the Content is.

When we speak of Content, we mean writing, discussions, videos, etc.  We’re talking about something that is meaningful or should be.  It may be a good chuckle or a life-changing revelation, but Content is about something supposedly that has value in itself.

The demand for Content makes our creations secondary to mathematical formulae and marketing calculations.  Content is just something we use to fill a space, the packing peanuts of the soul.  The meaning of that Content is secondary to just having something to pour into a container.

That’s what irritated me about the constant chats about Content – the value, the importance of the creative work wasn’t relevant.  You could boost the YouTube algorithm with a picture of you shirtless and silently reading Terry Pratchett or a detailed guide to creating resumes, and the result might be the same.  The idea of Content these days flattens the value and meaning of creation itself.

This situation makes it harder to become better at what you do.  When your critical goal is creating Content, then shoveling works out the door takes priority over making better works.  It’s all attention or meeting a wordcount, or whatever first, the work is secondary.

There’s a soullessness to it all and I can now put words to it.

For me, I think I’m going to think over what I make and why a little more.  I can see where I’ve fallen into the Content trap and where I’ve sought depth.  I also see where I may get distracted by “shiny Content” and not ask if it’s something I care about.

But for now, when I cringe at yet another discussion of Content I’ll know why.

Steven Savage

It’s What You Know, You Know?

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)

“Write what you know,” is advice writers ogive each other.  This is followed by writers arguing about that statement, and the Great Circle of Advice and Debate continues.  I’d like to add my own nuance to the debate because it may help.

“Write what you know,” is an incomplete statement.

Serdar notes that many writers seem to create writing/artistic heroes – to the point that “writer/artist” is shorthand for protagonist to many.  This issue arises from writers writing what they know – themselves.  It’s a grand example of how “write what you know” backfires, and I’m sure we all have seen writers follow that advice a bit too much.

Yet many writers try to break out of what they know.  We know – and perhaps are – researchers and obsessive readers who will go to great lengths to find what they need for a story.  There’s the ever-repeating joke of how writers have questionable browsing history as they research so many things.  Isn’t writing about “knowing more” to write?

Even if we’re not researching things that might disturb someone, aren’t we growing as a writer anyway?  Aren’t we learning from our writing?  Aren’t we changing with life?  The “what we know” part of the advice is changing all the time.

This is where harder truths break into the unpleasant simplicity of “write what you know.”  Yes, an author should write what they know, but the act of writing also means the author should be learning and growing all the time.   That growth is part of writing as well, and perhaps needs more acknowledgment.

“Write what you know, but both you and your writing should grow together,” may be a better bit of advice.  If we writers can grow, so can our catchphrases.

Steven Savage

Steve’s Book Roundup 4/2/2022

I write a lot and have quite a few books.  So now and then I post a roundup of them for interested parties!

The Way With Worlds Series

This is what I do a lot of – writing on worldbuilding!.  You can find all of my books at www.WayWithWorlds.com

The core books of the series will help you get going:

  • Way With Worlds Book 1 – Discusses my philosophy of worldbuilding and world creation essentials.
  • Way With Worlds Book 2 – Looks at common subjects of worldbuilding like conflicts in your setting, skills for being a good worldbuilder, and more!

When you need to focus on specifics of worldbuilding, I have an ever-growing series of deep dive minibooks.  Each provides fifty questions with additional exercises and ideas to help you focus on one subject important to you!

The current subjects are:

Fiction

Take a typical fantasy world – and then let it evolve into the information age.  Welcome to the solar system of Avenoth, where gods use email, demons were banished to a distant planet, and science and sorcery fling people across worlds . . .

  • A Bridge To The Quiet Planet – Two future teachers of Techno-Magical safety find trying to earn their credentials hunting odd artifacts backfires when they’re hired to put some back . . . on a planet where gods go to die!
  • A School of Many Futures – The crew is back, and finding having secrets and keeping them isn’t the same thing! Unfortunately they also find “very normal” is a cover for “anything but” . . .

Creativity

I’m the kind of person that studies how creativity works, and I’ve distilled my findings and advice into some helpful books!

  • The Power Of Creative Paths – Explores my theories of the Five Types of Creativity, how you can find yours, and how to expand your creative skills to use more Types of Creativity.
  • Agile Creativity – I take the Agile Manifesto, a guide to adaptable project development, and show how it can help creatives improve their work – and stay organized without being overwhelmed.
  • The Art of The Brainstorm Book – A quick guide to using a simple notebook to improve brainstorming, reduce the stress around having new ideas, and prioritize your latest inspirations.
  • Chance’s Muse – I take everything I learned at Seventh Sanctum and my love of random tables and charts and detail how randomness can produce inspiration!

Careers

Being a “Professional Geek” is what I do – I turned my interests into a career and have been doing my best to turn that into advice.  The following books are my ways of helping out!

  • Fan To Pro – My “flagship” book on using hobbies and interests in your career – and not always in ways you’d think!
  • Skill Portability – A quick guide to how to move skills from one job to another, or even from hobbies into your job.  Try out my “DARE” system and asses your abilities!
  • Resume Plus – A guide to jazzing up a resume, sometimes to extreme measures.
  • Epic Resume Go! – Make a resume a creative act so it’s both better and more enjoyable to make!
  • Quest For Employment – Where I distill down my job search experiences and ways to take the search further.
  • Cosplay, Costuming, and Careers – An interview-driven book about ways to leverage cosplay interests to help your career!
  • Fanart, Fanartists, and Careers – My second interview-driven book about ways to leverage fanart to help your career!
  • Convention Career Connection – A system for coming up with good career panels for conventions!

Culture

  • Her Eternal Moonlight – My co-author Bonnie and I analyze the impact Sailor Moon had on women’s lives when it first came to North America.  Based on a series of interviews, there’s a lot to analyze here, and surprisingly consistent themes . . .

My Sites