You Don’t Have To Write

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I settled down to read The Society of the Spectacle, the classic work on how modern society’s economy becomes all spectacle with little substance.  I’m sure I’ll have more to discuss, but I’d like to tell you about a reaction.

The book is broken into short chapters and numbered bits of analysis never more than a few paragraphs long.  While reading the analysis of how we commodify the world or turn economy to spectacle, I had ideas.  I had ideas for a book or two I could start writing . . .

Then, I stopped.  Why did I have to write now?  In fact, why the hell did I have to write these books without further analysis?  Also, did I have to read a book on commodities and want to make one?

I found other writers have this situation.  You have the realization a book can exist, and then you think you have to do it.  The cause varies, but the problem is the same.

If you find yourself in this situation, ask why you’re trying to write.

My motivation?  I want to know my works will benefit people and was evaluating my various projects.  My inspirations rode that desire right into “I must do this now,” and I only realized it a while later and stopped.

Part of being a writer is knowing what not to write.  Give yourself a chance to develop that skill, even if you have to ask some hard questions.

Steven Savage

Old Writer Meet New Writer

(This column is posted at 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

Thou, the Creator

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

I recently heard a question that led me to understand one of the most significant drivers of creativity.

That question was, “What would your seventeen-year-old self think of you now?

My seventeen-year-old self would be reasonably happy as I had fulfilled many of my youthful dreams, at least partially. I had worked in video games, even if I found it wasn’t for me. I had and continue to be a published writer, even if it’s self-published. I am in a happy relationship, though I have one amicable divorce under my belt. I had done pretty decently.

But that made me realize that many of my dreams were creative dreams, and what had helped me reach them in part was that I had held on to some of my youthful desires to be a given kind of person. I was the writer, the game professional, involved in IT, and so on. I had held on to the dream of being a certain kind of person, even if the hope slept for years.

That’s when I realized a core driver of creativity is identity. When you identify as something, you become that thing – if not in whole in part, if not as a burning hot dream, then a warm reality. Some youthful identities had never left me, and thus I became them, and my further readings on productivity have confirmed that.

When I looked around at successful creatives I knew, it was almost always the same – each person dedicated to being a certain someone. A documentarian who could write with lightning speed scribed books faster than anyone. A creative idolizing people like Kubrik and punk rockers who could always find a new boundary to walk across into wild art. A cosplayer who constantly created as it was simply them.

And me, a person who wanted to be a writer as a kid who just kept writing, an IT geek that did it as he liked it who ended up in Silicon Valley. All that was just me being me.

Identity drives us. It is that which we are and must be, and nothing stops us because it is us. A failure may interrupt us, a crisis may mean a delay, but we surge ever forward because it’s what we do.

Identity keeps us from distraction. When you have a choice between things, your identity helps make the decisions, minimizing distractions. Even when there is chaos and crisis, that identity helps you go around the distractions when you can. Perhaps in crisis, you even find your identity drives you to a solution.

Identity channels our energies.  It is the lens that focuses the light of our adrenaline and power and fear and hope. It tells our energies where to go, and from that, great things can result.

A person who knows “I am this” is powerful as they are something, even if they are not the best form of it – or the best form of it yet.

For you out there, the creative, find your identity, hold to it, act on it. That’s your skeleton key to life, to unlock what you want to do. I am not saying it is easy or without pain – not at all. I am saying it is what will help you make art, and music, and books, and cosplay, and more.

Let me leave you with something that helped me. Write down everything you want to be/think you are – and keep it positive. Out of these, find seven or less – even if you have to drop some that seem little relevant, consolidate others, or even make hard admissions to yourself. Find what speaks to you.

Now ask, if these are who you are and will be . . . what do you do next?

Keep asking that question whenever you need to. Eventually, your seventeen-year-old self may be quite impressed – or you’ll find they already are.

Steven Savage