Category Archives: Writing

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

Only You Goes Both Ways

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

“Only you can write your story,” is something I and others often tell troubled authors. No matter how unoriginal you feel your work is, your take is unique because you are unique. The world is filled with similar stories, we remiind our fellow creators, but those are at best a framework animated by a unique author’s spirit.

However it seems we get suddenly judgmental when we decide how to spend our time. Is this book truly worth reading? Should we see this movie? We’re ready to encourage others to create, but suddenly far less interested in taking in various creations. This is not saying you have to read and watch everything, but that maybe you can be a little more open to experiences because your reading and viewing is also unique.

You are the only one that can write your story, and in turn you are the only one that reads a book or sees a movie your way.

(Besides, as Serdar notes in a column that semi-inspired this one, you can just stop if something is truly awful.)

Your reading or viewing experience is just as unique as anything you create. You will have insights no one else has, and find inspiration unique to your own creativity. You will find flaws no one else saw, and take away lessons no one else will learn. However you consume an artistic experience, that experience is yours and what you take from it is yours.

As an example, let me tell you about when I read a compendium of Lupin stories, tales of the titular gentleman thief by Maurice Leblanc. I wanted to see what the fuss was about, and I had two takeaways. The first was that I didn’t get the popularity, and figured it was a cultural difference. The second was that the concise writing, even in translation, provided a good example of doing a lot with few words – Leblanc could do in a paragraph what might take another author a page. I didn’t fall in love with Lupin, but the style helped me reduce my own gratuitous wordiness.

That was my experience. Yours might be different, and perhaps if we talked we’d learn twice as much.

Guard your time, definitely. But don’t guard it so much you find you’re in a self-made prison.

Steven Savage

Tool as Discipline

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

I use several tools to help my writing, from simple spellcheck to ht power of Grammarly. I don’t consider them tools just for finding problems – I think of them as tools for learning. This might be an approach that works for you as well.

English is an odd language, and it’s easy to make mistakes when we’re spelling knife with “k,” and people argue about commas (Oxford always). There are also different ways to write about separate subjects, and lessons in one don’t always carry over to others. Even a writer with good editors is facing several challenges unless you write all the time.

Books can help and should be used, but writing is something best learned by doing. So that’s where tools come in – they’re my obstacle course.

Tools like Grammarly and spellcheck show what I’m doing wrong immediately. As I’m writing, mistakes come up, and I catch myself. Each revealed mistake is a pinprick reminder of my errors, and I get into the habit of looking for them.

I become aware conscious of my problems. Then I start seeking them before I make them. This effort develops new, better habits.

I also run checks on documents – I don’t write everything in Grammarly or with every single checker turned on for the sake of sanity. When the same error keeps appearing, I stop and start looking for it on my own. If I keep making recognizable mistakes, then I can learn to see them earlier.

A pattern makes itself apparent. I repair it on my own before counting on the tool. By fixing the same problem multiple times, I learn more about my flaws and address them.

By using tools as learning experiences, I’ve improved my writing over the last two years. It requires a conscious decision, but it may help you as well.

(Yes, I’m serious enough about my writing I pay for Grammarly. I recommend it if you’re serious about your writing.)

Steven Savage