The Cybertruck Tells Us What We Want

(This column is posted at, Steve’s Tumblr, and Pillowfort.  Find out more at my newsletter, and all my social media at my

Yes, I’m going to blog on Elon Musk’s Cybertruck and how it teaches us what people want. Buckle up, but avoid a crash because the doors will probably stick.

Now if you expect me to praise Elon Musk or the Cybertruck, then you’re new here. The Cybertruck is an ugly mess, a renegade PS1 asset turned into an overdesigned and overhyped dysfunctional chunk of metal. Even if Elon Musk hadn’t worked hard the last few years to ruin his reputation, the Cybertruck would be a joke (and indeed it didn’t help his image). There’s a reason it’s so hated – and ironically the reason the Cybertruck is so hated is a lesson in what people actually want.

See, the Cybertruck, for all its flaws, is the realization of a vision.

It is a bad vision. It’s got an ugly retro-futuristic design with no appeal. Its control system sounds horribly inconvenient. The design makes visibility questionable, to the point I’m nervous to drive near one.. Even the unintentional flaws like the rusting or the dangerous hood, are things that seemed to be ignored in pursuit of the vision. That vision, apparently, is being a prop from a 1980s direct-to-video film.

But it is clearly a vision made by a person, there is an idea here.

Even if people had not, soured on Musk, the Cybertruck would still be the fulfillment of a vision. This truck is designed by someone with a plan, it is an expression of a human voice and human intent. Therefore because we know there is a person behind it, the dislike becomes personal, passionate. We get why it is the way it is and we don’t like it.

To hate something truly, is to have a personal connection to that hate. There’s someone and some decision to understand and dislike.

The hatred for the Cybertruck also tells us why we like things. A vision that speaks to us, that tells us about the intent and the creator and what it means, is one we can love. Through a book, a movie, or a vehicle, we can feel the intent, the human agency behind it. The love of something is also personal, because we know there is a person there and we get it.

Why we hate the Cybertruck is why we can love things – the human factor.

This is also why we really hate everything soulless, personality-less, from AI to corporate bureaucracy. There’s no one there, no one home, no moral actor. Even in hating something, knowing there’s someone there to hate is enlivening, dare I say, human. The Cybertruck may be awful, but it’s awful in a human way.

So before you entirely write off the Cybertruck, take it as a lesson. Not in hubris or questionable design decisions (since we’ve already had that lesson), but in why we hate and love things. It is a personal statement, and humans gravitate to those.

Even if just to complain.

Steven Savage

Punching A Hole Through My Head Into Myself

(This column is posted at, Steve’s Tumblr, and Pillowfort.  Find out more at my newsletter, and all my social media at my

Punching A Hole Through My Head Into Myself

A few of my regular readers know I have side projects under various pen names. We creative types all know the need to be ourselves by being someone else for various financial, marketing, or personal reasons. Sometimes those other selves teach us lessons.

It may surprise some of my readers that I’ve started doing art under one of my pen names. Not book cover art which everyone knows, or my abortive attempts at learning to draw by hand. I’ve gotten into digital art and fusion, with legacies such as midcentury modern (naturally), branding, punk, surrealism, and more. Some of it might find it’s way here, of course, but now it thrives in a more private space.

As I started doing art, I noticed my themes were deep, often disturbing, often profound, and always weird. Very honestly, had you shown this stuff to me a few years ago I wouldn’t have guessed it came from me. Now it came out with the gesture of a mouse and the click of a button, thoughts on religion and humanity that had an edge you rarely see in my writing.

This art also felt right, felt proper, felt real.I was expressing something within me. Yet when I grasped for the words to say what I was expressing, it was difficult. I didn’t know how to easily describe what was coming out in my digital art experiments.

Then I realized that visual art gave me a way to express ideas and parts of myself that my writing did not. I had an entire different language to express a side of me previously left to feelings, to vague allusions, and over-or-under descriptions. What once took careful and oft failed engineering of words came out in black and white, in filters and shapes.

I had taken up experimenting with art and given part of me a new language to reach peope. I also was far more aware of sides of myself, of feelings, of opinions, now that I had a new way to express them. I knew myself better.

This is why I think it is critical for people to learn an art of any kind – writing, music, drawing, something. Learn to express, learn to create, learn to let yourself out. There are things we need to give voice to in order to both reach people and reach ourselves.

It is also important that we creatives, no matter our chosen method, keep experimenting and broadening. A writer should try art, an artist should try music, a musician writing, and so on. We are always finding out more about ourselves, and each artistic method is a new way for the real us to come out. You don’t have to be professional or even be good, but you should explore, have fun, and see what happens.

Where’s my art going to go? I have no idea and that’s not the point. I’m going to see what happens – and I’m going to get to know who is watching this happen much better. In time, we might get to know them better together.

Steven Savage

Pushing Isn’t Pushing

We’re all familiar with pushing ourselves. Upping caffeine, lowering sleep, focusing intently, and sometimes actually getting something done before we burn out and pretend it was worth it. Creatives also push themselves, but I think we’re facing double trouble when we do – because there’s pushing yourself and pushing yourself creatively.

Pushing ourselves alone is a gamble – as I sarcastically noted above. You can try to go above and beyond in effort and hours, but also risk burning yourself out for nothing. Many a creative has a sketch or rough draft that makes them wonder “what the hell was I thinking” during their last caffeine-and-dubstep binge.

(I just assume dubstep keeps you going. Look, I’m in a retro jazz/exotica phase right now.)

But pushing oneself creatively and just pushing oneself in general is not the same thing and I think many a creative confuses the two. To push oneself creatively is to try new things, imagine different, try a new style. It’s to go to the edge of what we can do and dare to step over into unknown territory. It’s not the same as just plain long-haul overtime.

In fact, I’d say treating pushing yourself creatively as some punishing march produces too little payoff for the damage and gets it wrong.

Pushing oneself creatively is a case of openness, of wandering, of experimentation. You have to do things more, different, and in other directions. Yes you may have to push yourself effort-wise, but it’s to push past boundaries and blockages and habits, not just sheer head-against-wall effort. Treating it as some kind of struggle like a marathon studying session puts you in the wrong mindset and focusing in the wrong thing.

Pushing yourself creatively always has an element of unsurety, of play, of going in circles for the sake of seeing what happens after a few rotations. Turning it into a grind, of “I have to ram through this,” or “I have to try these six different things no matter what” really just means you stop focusing on creativity and focus on metrics or just plain making sure you suffer appropriately. It’s not going to make you more creative, it’s going to make you more miserable.

There’s a time in place for a creative to push themselves in sheer effort. Sometimes it can help creativity, with some boundaries, like seeing how fast you can write, or trying a scene differently, or, hell, ALL of NaNoWriMo. But you need to have the space to push your creativity by being creative and that doesn’t always lend itself to the grindset mindset.

In closing, let me recall a friend who went through some tough times. They focused on their creative projects, which did take effort, but they kept that state of play. They not only improved on their own projects, it also got them through said tough times. It was a push, but a push that was fun and actually sustained them.

Next time you’re on the creative grind, ask just what you’re trying to do. You might do more with less pushing. In fact, you might find it’s time to get more done by playing.

Steven Savage