You’re The Customer

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

Over at his blog, Serdar discusses how people figure out what to write.  Exploring what we want to write creates more satisfying works for the audience and the writer.  It’s not always a comfortable process, and I’d like to increase the discomfort.

Who decides the value of your writing career?  That’s important to know since you need to target your writing and efforts towards that person or people.  You can read books and take training on determining customer value (I could probably dig some up for you as that’s part of Agile).  Difficult question, right?

I’ll give you the answer – the person who decides the value of your writing career is you.  Your first customer is you.

That’s not a twee answer.  You’re the one putting your time, life, and money into writing and you should get what you want from the effort.  If you’re not getting it, you should change how and what you’re writing.

Too many people get into writing with a set of vague ideas, goals, and motivations.  This gets you going but isn’t always enough to complete a work, and not enough to keep going.  Too many writers I know have a vague sense of goals, but not enough to bring their writing career to life.

I can understand why people have these ephemeral senses of what they want because self-exploration is painful.  We discover flaws in our character, gaps in our skill, and unpleasant truths we’ve avoided up to now.  If you think asking “what do I want out of writing?” sounds like therapy, I can tell you sometimes it can be awful close.

Asking this question also opens the terrifying possibility that we shouldn’t be writing.  But it’s better to find out that’s the case than wasting time on something that you get nothing out of.  Take comfort though, I doubt you’d be reading this if you didn’t have some real reason to write.

My own motivations varied throughout my career until I realized I’m motivated by writing and sharing knowledge and experience.  I like to reach people – which I do via writing but also speaking and hanging with fellow writers.  I could have saved myself a lot of time if I’d realized that first.

So go talk to some fellow writers.  Talk to a therapist.  Talk to me. Spend some time driving and get to know yourself as a writer.  It’ll be worth it (and you’ll be better at writing).

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