Fun Is Fine Because It’s Fun

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

The ever indomitable MagenCubed had a great comment on Twitter about how we often feel we’re not allowed to have fun. That writing, art, everything fun has to have Some Deeper Meaning, or Some Potential Profit. I have to agree with her, the idea that our fun must somehow Become A Big Thing seems very pathological and way, way too common.

Sure, I write on how people can use their hobbies on the job, but as I’ve often stated know the value of your hobbies and just fun is fine. I feel it’s best we’re honest and clear on our interests, and part of that is to say something like “shut up I’m playing Overwatch to goof off, go away.”

It seems everything has to be monetized. Or therapeutic. Or advance our careers. Or it has to have some meaning beyond what it is. I actually remember when it wasn’t this way! Really!

So I began asking why. What happened? I think there’s five factors affecting turning fun into work.

The longest trend is simply our culture, which idolizes work and productivity and earning money. The idea that somehow if we’re not making money or planning to make money or working real hard something is wrong. It’s sort of an unholy fusion of American Capitalism, Protestant Work Ethic, and a fetishization things having to be “useful.”

Secondly, in the last few years, we’ve also seen the increase of the gig economy, from contractors to Uber drivers. This kind of economy is one without permanent employment or reliable income, and thus one is always hustling and scrambling. It’s too easy to have that attitude leak into our hobbies, and in many cases the “permanent hustle” leads us to constantly worry about tradeoffs of profitable versus unprofitable time.

Third, even when employment is reliable, it doesn’t seem too reliable in the last few years. There’s always the temptation to add a second stream of income, or just see if one can monetize a hobby. How many of us are worried that one corporate acquisition is going to kill our jobs, and isn’t the temptation there to have some cover . . .

Fourth, with all the other crap we have going on, it seems that we think that art or tv or whatever has to have some Great Healing Purpose or Deep Personal Exploration. It’s as if something can’t be good for us because we enjoy it. It has to be some deep thing that transforms us utterly or has some great deep meaning. Also, of course, this justifies us not making money at it – we’re pursuing something Great And IMportant.

Finally, we’ve also created so many tools and options, from Patreon to self-publishing, it’s easy to try and monetize any work. It’s not much effort to shave the serial numbers off of fanfic and hit up Kindle or Draft2Digital. Sure you like art, but it couldn’t hurt to try a Pateron, could it? It’s so easy to try and monetize we may try it before we ask if it’s a good idea.

Our culture, our economy, the push to have deep healing meaning, and the ease with which we can try to monetize hobbies is a powerful combination. I think it’s left us constantly worried we’re not working, and turning fun into work just in case – and because we can.

So no matter, have fun. Fun is it’s own purpose. Fun is fine. Fun is good. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t just have fun.

Even me. Now and then people like me need to be told “back off, I’m goofing off.”

Steven Savage

True Creative Motivation

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

Motivation is critical to an artist.  Motivation is what drives you.  Motivation is about what you want to do and why you want to do it.  When all goes dark, motivation is the spark that can light your way – or light a fire to burn down obstacles.

Thus motivation and understanding your motivation is critical to any creative effort.  Being “in touch” with your motivation can drive you and guide you – and help you set and reach goals.

Of course we’ve also felt lacks of motivation.  Of having our drives vanish.  Of not knowing “why.”  Loosing motivation is equally dangerous, but there’s something worse.

There’s finding your motivation isn’t your own.

Many times friends and I who are writers, artists, and other creatives discuss why we do things.  The funny thing is, we often have very different goals and reasons.  This takes us all in different directions, but also helps us know where we have common ground or learn from contrasts.  However, now and then we find our motivations to feel wrong, or encounter fellow creatives whose motivations seem shallow and unhelpful.

Something that came up in a recent conversation was this – some creatives are motivated by other people’s motivations.  They’re doing thier work, driven by what drives others, having assumed “I do X so I should be motivated by Y.”

A few examples:

  • Writers who think they must make a living at it.  However, there’s many ways to make money, so why use writing?
  • Artists who want to work in a specific industry because “that’s where everyone goes” – missing the many other options.
  • Cosplayers who assume they have to follow in the footsteps of the Big Names.
  • People who assume that liking games means they should be in the games industry.

Now and again me and my friends find people motivated by what they think their motivation should be.  It rarely goes well for such people – they’re not driven, they’re not embracing their creative lifestyle, they’re not engaged.  Hell, in many cases they just stop caring.

As a creative, find what really motivates you.  It may shock you.  It may disturb you.  It may not even be there, requiring you to do some hard thinking or go on a kind of vision quest.  But having real motivation means you’re really engaged in your work.

Don’t operate off of stolen motivation.  Creativity is unique, personal and intimate – so your own motivation will unique, it will be part of who you are, and it will tie deep into your life and experiences and goals.


Steven Savage