Tag Archives: creativity

The Desire For Exchange

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

I’d like to propose something to my fellow writers, creatives, and philosophical types. What if we were to exchange such things as written folios, guides, and musings of our various interests? Imagine exchanging a few thousand words specifically among your fellows for deep contemplation and writing.

This idea struck me for two reasons:

First, in my readings on religion, writing, and so on, I’d often read of people exchanging detailed outlines and folios. These were not things meant for initial public consumption but for private exchange, “beta” readings, and contemplation. They might become more later, but they had an intimacy to them.

Secondly, in an age of blogs, discord chats, and social media, I feel something is missing – longer but private communications. The kind of thing that lacks worries about public appearance but also allows for contemplative thought. It also allows for timeshifting in a busy and chaotic age.

I visualize this as a small, tight group of people exchanging communications in longer form. Such exchanges would gradually form a dialogue about whatever subjects are at hand. People may also participate in multiple related or unrelated groups, further increasing insight. The works exchange may become books, or records, or just sit in email boxes – but it’ll be a deeper exchange of ideas.

I’m going to bounce this off a few people I know and see if they want to try it. Let me know if you give it a shot as well – or want to try it!

Steven Savage

Big Ideas and Big Egos

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

As of late, my friend Serdar has been on a tear, speculating on constructive loafing to quality and “difficult” work. I’ve come to realize a lot of creative speculation is self-justification and self-aggrandizement. That is hardly creative.

For instance, consider the idea of the “auteur” creator, the wild madman (always a man, isn’t it?) who doesn’t play by the rules. Supposedly their greatness is in their disdain for rules of all kinds.

 . . . but isn’t a great part of this a desire to just not have to play by rules? Many a wild auteur, deconstructed, is a gloss of transgressiveness over unoriginality. But if you can say you’re a troubled genius, you can get away with a lot.

Or consider how we treat creativity as some magical happenstance from outside. That there’s this bolt of lighting or genetic lottery that decides creative power.

. . . but isn’t this part of the desire to feel special? We want to feel chosen. Of course, if you pretend to be special, some people may see you clothed in the wardrobe of an artist, despite your naked lack of talent.

Creativity is a messy way of bringing about order – or an orderly way to make a glorious mess. It’s hard work because no matter what magical spark you have, it takes work to make it real. The reception of creativity is unpredictable, as many a talented person can tell you by pointing to their bank account.

It may soothe egos to believe one is a great auteur or give one license to take the frustration out on others. It may boost one to think they have some unique divine creative spark burning within them. But we only delude ourselves with such thoughts, and delusion rarely leads to creativity.

Worse, if we encourage these fantasies for ourselves, we allow them in others. I think we’ve learned again and again we need less egomaniacal auteurs and artists with delusions of eugenics or godhood. No matter how gifted, such people will eventually have their art be all about themselves, and then it ceases to be art.

I’d rather deal with creativity face to face, like a person, with the humility and unsurety that involves.

Steven Savage

Creative Lessons From He-Man (2021)

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

The original He-Man of the 80’s was meant to sell toys, with occasional social messages shoved in to mollify parents. The latest reboot in 2021, the CGI He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, has its own lesson – how to do a reboot and create a good show.

Episode one opens with underclass magic-user Teela stealing a sword for failed coup-potters, the witch Evelyn and the engineer Kronis. When the sword talks to her, Teela flees to a village of refugees allied with a race of talking tigers. When her employers decide to murder everyone to take the sword, Teela and Kronis’ apprentice Duncan turn on them. Fortunately, the sword turns an amnesiac young man named Adam into a powerful hero. With this new “He-Man” and Adam’s headbutt-inclined friend Krass, they take on the attackers.

That’s episode one. Within twenty-two packed minutes, it establishes two forms of magic, previous and current political problems, economic strife, and more. The rest of the series follows suit – while still having time for anime-style transformations and hijinks.

The show’s first lesson is one of precision. There’s not a wasted scene nor a wasted opportunity to tell a story or have a bit of characterization. The show isn’t mechanical but is more akin to a musical composition that uses each instrument or beat to its fullest.

This precise composition allows for density. When the show moves at a good clip and dialogue is well chosen, a lot happens. Revelations and worldbuilding details come thick and fast. Characters have ups and downs, grand quests mix with tiny moments. The world feels alive.

Finally, this precision and density give room. There’s time for glorious attack sequences and silly jokes. There’s space for creating moods with the graphics. These additions bring the characters and world to life.

The show is a masterful example of how to do good storytelling.

However, a show is nothing without a world and characters. How do you work with an old property that was largely a marketing effort? How do you acknowledge the real emotional attachment developed that took He-Man farther? Also how do you make it something new and alive?

Simple. Treat the original as raw material.

The show’s world is a complete rethinking of the original property, taking past creations and reorganizing, re-using, and re-creating. Characters may be re-envisioned, two concepts merged to form a third, and so on. The result is a deep world, but also one an old fan will recognize as sure as a rebuilt house reflects the old dwelling.

For example, let’s talk Prince Adam, aka “He-Man” (though he’s not thrilled with the given nickname). Gone is the Clark Kent take of a supposedly wimpy prince who becomes a hero. This Adam is an amnesiac in a tribe of refugees who has destiny dropped into his hands. He has to learn to use power, discover who he is, and find out why he becomes He-Man. The result is an exciting character journey that goes to not always pleasant places, but is also about good person trying to do good.

This is one character. Plenty of familiar characters appear (sometimes merged into one character) with their own stories and takes. Unbound by trying to keep it “the same,” the show can create something rich and alive.

Here lies the next lesson of the show: don’t be bound by the past, use it. Freed of trying to “do the 80’s thing but not” the show soars on its own, unbounded by expectations. All its inspirations are obvious, but they’re wings, not weights.

Finally, the show has the right voice talent – it’s clear everyone is into their role. The ever-reliable Yuri Lowenthall is a great He-Man/Adam. Grey Griffin’s Evelyn/Evil-Lynn is a joyfully villainous schemer. Last but in no way least, Benjamin Diskin’s Keldor – later Skeletor – has a wonderful arc, descending from coup-plotting brother to complete maniac and madman.  

The final lesson is get the right people to bring about your vision.

There’s a lot to learn from He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (the 2011 show). It’s actually worth the time for authors and writers to pay attention to.

And that’s before you get into the fact the show has lots of good things to say on friendship, power, and more . . . 

Steven Savage