A Writer’s Life: The Second Principle

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr)

This week I rewrote part of the plot of my book.  I had a great idea that would make the book deeper, improve character, explore the world!  Best of all it didn’t require me re-plotting major elements or the ending, while it made the ending more powerful.

It’s just I didn’t want to do it.

I had this gut-level resistance to re-plotting.  In retrospect it was a dumb attitude to take, and I think it was just that I don’t like to change plans.  I always fear things will never get done.

Then I recalled the Second Agile Principle, which states:

Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.

I’m using Agile to manage my life and my writing, and if you’re not familiar with Agile, it’s worth studying up on. Agile is a philosophy of good organization that has inspired and taken guidance from many business processes.  Adsorbing and leveraging change is a big part of Agile (which is kinda the reason for the name).

When I thought of that principle, it struck me how stupid my resistance to change was.  Change was inevitable, so you should find a way to use it.  As I thought it over I realized how beneficial change was:

  • Feedback inspires change.  So being willing to change lets you incorporate feedback.
  • Changes lets you fix problems, perhaps even before they start, making something better (or making something you don’t need to improve later)
  • Change lets you learn.  A changed requirement, the need to edit a story, a new plot idea teaches you something.  Change lets you learn.
  • Change means review, so as you adapt to changes it requires you to review and stay intimate with what you’re writing.
  • Change keeps your mind limber so you adapt.

Notice that most of these relate to the quality of the work.  The ultimate goal of change is to make sure what you’re creating gets better.  If you don’t change, if you aren’t open to change, then are you really sure your work is going to be the best it can be?

What’s interesting is, after I admitted I had to replot part of the story, the new outline is not only better, I had all sorts of insights on improving the story further (most of them far less invasive).  I was also much more aware of the story and it felt more alive because I’d let it change.

I may still have to fight the urge to “write not replot,” but I think this experience has helped me embrace change better as a writer.  Perhaps I’ll have more insight on this in the future.

I probably will, as change is inevitable . . .

– Steve

The Dark Side Of “Do What You Love” – The Change

butterfly transformation waiting

(We’re winding down our dark look at why “Do What You Love” doesn’t tell you much about the career world, and in some cases deceives you. Steve continues to look at how “doing what you love” might just cover up painful truths. OK probably does.)

Facing various odds you have lived the dream. You overcame all the challenges and are now doing your dream job. You are “Doing What You Love”

I actually want to pause in the sarcastic tone of this series to seriously congratulate you. It’s commendable. In fact, I feel we don’t compliment people enough on the fact that they manage to live good dreams and make them real. Come to think of it I don’t.

So congratulations. Please, seriously, share your secrets with people.

OK, now with that said, it’s time to flip on the side of me that thinks “Blackadder” plays too nice. Let’s talk about how your “Dream Job” and the “Do What You Love” attitude ignores something else- jobs change because you change and have to change.

You’ll Grow Out Of It

Chances are no matter how much you love your Dream Job, no matter how good you are, no matter how much you think you’ll do it forever, you won’t. At some point you will go “this is not for me.”

I experienced this once, years ago, so vividly I remember it. I was in a hotel, trying to enjoy a convention, troubleshooting an IT problem for a friend. It didn’t even involve work. I was then relaxing by reading an article on IT careers, and truly asked “is this all there is?”

I realized then, I wasn’t going to say an Engineer forever.

You’ll have this too. Someday you’ll have to pick a new Dream Job as the current one isn’t for you. In a few cases you’ll just want the hell out . . .

You Will Get Sick Of It

Or maybe you like what you do but have grown to hate the Dream Job.

Not everything is what it seems. After awhile you’ll realize the pig you see every day can only handle so much lipstick. After awhile, the job may be the same, but you can’t put up with the flaws.

Or maybe after awhile it’s just gotten boring. Maybe you love what you do, maybe you don’t want to change, but you need a different job.

You have your Dream Job but the Dream isn’t that interesting.

You Don’t Have A Growth Strategy

Focusing on getting and doing your dream job can distract you from deciding how you want your career to progress. Like it or not you’ve got to change with the times, if not actually get better.

People get a might suspicious if someone does the same things for a decade and seems to be the same person with no promotions, no skill gains, nothing.

In fact, to be worse you may hate your job or need a change only because you’re stagnant. The Dream Job may be fine, but you’re the problem.

You Don’t Have A Strategy for the Future

So how does this all end?

You got the Dream Job but howa re you going to move on to another position? How are you going to retire? What are you going to do next?

Where do you go if things go south (which will happen at some point)?

Where does it end? What happens when you just are tired of working.

People need a strategy for exit, progress, or at least maintenance so they know what they’re doing and can plan accordingly. We need a sense of progress or at least stability to direct our energies and stay sane. It also keeps the money flowing in.

The Dream Job Is great. But nothing is forever, everything changes, so what’s next?


So here, at the end of all things, how do we cope with the fact we have the Dream Job but face inevitable changes.

  • Growing Out Of It – Will happen. You can make it conscious and always seek to grow and evolve and stay aware.
  • Getting Tired Of The Job – Also happens. What you can do is keep your options open, stay aware, try to improve, and make connections. Also keep up with those recruiters that big you
  • Having No Growth Strategy – Get a growth strategy. Keep learning – and know what you’re learning. Get certifications. Get degrees. Fill that portfolio. If you can answer “How will I grow professionally in the next three years,” you’re good.
  • Having No Future Strategy – Do retirement planning or get a retirement planner depending on your inclinations. Plan out your career goals and be willing to adapt and evolve. Make a plan – yes it may fail, but at least you have a baseline.

Maybe dreams are best when they grow, like we do.
– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at http://www.musehack.com/, publishes books on career and culture at http://www.informotron.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at https://www.stevensavage.com/.

Brendan Eich And The Years To Come

As you may have read, Brendan Eich stepped down as CEO of Mozilla over controversy around his support of Proposition 8.  His support did not endear him to people, from employees to OK Cupid – which seems to have had a big influence.

Now, to be open up front I am a supporter of marriage equality.  I want a national law on it.  I see no reason not to have one.  I like to jokingly note that marriage equality could help us get all our marriage in order, because we’d have more people getting married and having a chance to get it right.

I confess to not being sympathetic to Eich.  I found Prop 8 to be an act of bigotry, and Eich’s blog post didn’t address the issue he needed to address, but instead he seemed to take the tact he was the victim.  He needed to address it head on – and did not.  Worst, he was in Silicon Valley in California, showing some tone-deafness.

His later post on inclusiveness at Mozilla was much better, but the damage was done.  Also, I think his initial post showed cowardice – inappropriate to the issue or to a leader, which bigotry aside, I think called his leadership into account.  Also he didn’t address the bigotry.

Watching reactions to his stepping down is interesting.  Triumph, claims of bigotry/reverse-bigotry,wonders about backlash, etc.  I suspect he won’t get much sympathy overall.

So a few things as I analyze this:

  • The idea that this was somehow wrong or fascism (the gay rights/issues blog Joe My God has some Tweet roudups) seems hypocritical as this was the result of protest and public pressure.  Having seen many calls for boycotts for shows with gay couples, having heard many vile lies told about gay people, it seems rather odd to see people who complain about gay rights complain about someone being treated poorly.
  • Seeing claims that he was punished for his belief leads me to answer “in part, yes.”  Yet as noted above, I find too often people are ready to protest other things they don’t like – and not liking it when it happens to them.  I prefer civil protests about such things.
  • On the subject of being punished for his beliefs, I would note his beliefs had an effect on his fellow citizens on an issue that did not harm him.  Two gay people getting married doesn’t harm him, and he put money towards stopping that.  Here I am not sympathetic.
  • Politics has always had a personal element – and vice versa.  In an age of social media and increased awareness, we’re just far, far more aware of it.  Frankly, we haven’t adjusted to it.
  • The involvement of OK Cupid came out of nowhere.  This makes me wonder how other companies and organizations can raise awareness that we’re not thinking about.  Also Silicon Valley could get involved in other pressing issues like, say, Climate Change.
  • People are getting more and more open to gay marriage.  Some of these people will have once been biased towards gay people but changed their minds.  I’m wondering what this means in the future – will people start pre-emptively apologizing for their homophobic activities of the past?  That’s something he could have done had his beliefs changed – and he may have set an admirable example.
  • Eventually there will be national recognition of marriage equality.  I could see a federal law proposed within the next five years (and I have some theories it could come much faster).  That will make such activities as having donated to Prop 8 look even more inappropriate – and backwards.  It’s like that Daily Show parody “It Gets Worse.”

I’ve been amazed how acceptance of marriage equality has skyrocketed.  I’m literally watching a formerly acceptable bigotry rot away at higher speeds than I expected.

But nothing is ever as simple as it seems, is it?  There’s always more questions. There’s a lot to consider.

If you have any thoughts please share them.  I feel I’ve got a lot to learn from all of this.  I want to learn.

– Steven Savage