Tag Archives: identity

Old Writer Meet New Writer

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com 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 www.StevenSavage.com 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

Stop Being The Writer You Are

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

Let me ask you a question – imagine someone is basing a character on you as a writer. How would they portray it, what “writer archetype” would you easily map to?

My guess is that answer came a bit too easily, or that once you examined it, you found the choice was not quite right.

Our culture provides us many ways to think about being a writer – roles and tropes and ideas of who we should be. Lately I’ve been aware of just how often writers (and indeed creatives) slot themselves into various cultural tropes. I think it’s actually holding us back.

How often have you met people describe themselves as “X kind of writer?” How many people have said “I’m trying to be like X?” Have you ever met someone who seemed to be playing a “role” as an author like Unappreciated Creator or Self-Depreciating Writer or Calculating Opportunist? Culture provides us many ways to think about ourselves.

How do you think about yourself? And is it healthy? I’ve come to wonder if the roles society gives us aren’t that healthy.

There’s so many negative ideas of authors and all creatives. There’s the inevitable Sad Failed Author, or the Unappreciated Auteur. There’s the Has-Been, and the Never Will be. If we’re not thinking of ourselves in bad ways, we worry others may fit us into the tropes.

There’s also so many limited ideas of author. How many people “Just Write X?” How many people “Want To Be Like Y” – the way so many movies are “like A plus B.” How many roles, even positive, are constraining?

So here’s my challenge to you. I want you to rethink yourself as a writer. Come up with a way to describe yourself that’s your own. Define yourself.

Perhaps you do it like a Fantasy Class. Are you a Fantasybender? Are you a Priestess of Promotional Advice?

Maybe you do this in a simple evocative way. You’re the Hard-Bitten Humorist. You’re The Worldbuilding Guru.

Another way to do this is put it as a role. Supporter of Cosplayers. Crafter of Sarcasm.

Try any of those, but I challenge you now to come up with a way to describe you, as a writer, that’s yours.

Steven Savage