A Writer’s Life: Cover Me III – Electric Fantasy

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr)

Remember how I was practicing making book covers? How I was posting them on tumblr and elsewhere?

I got my first “professional” assignment.

Now this isn’t professional in the paid way, but in the “on an actual book someone publishes” way. I’m helping out an ambitious co-worker with a love of pulp SF to put out his e-book. I of course volunteered to do the cover. He gets it for free, I get practice, and it probably won’t suck.

This turns out to have been a bit stressful. You never quite appreciate your talents, or question them, until you’re doing something for someone else.  Kinda in the “questioning” stage right now.

At the same time, this is also fantastic for learning.

I realized first and foremost that the book covers I was making were suffering a bit because I knew they were basically practice. I didn’t polish them, I didn’t tweak them, I didn’t revise them as much because it was “just practice.” There’s all sorts of things you don’t do in practice that you do when it’s real.

It’s real because I’m not gonna give this guy some crap. He’s my co-worker, he’s a fellow writer, he’s a good guy – I’m not going to let him down.

This means that now I’m pushing myself even farther. Exploring techniques. Considering layout precision. Learning all the things I wouldn’t learn when I just do a one-off bit of practice.

There’s a few takeaways from this that are good for you artists and writers.

  1. First, practice is good. Don’t get me wrong, it got me here. In fact practice is needed to get good enough.
  2. “Projects” work for learning skills. My practice projects gave me a hell of a lot of experience.
  3. Doing something “for real” exposes you to all sorts of things you may not get in practice – details, feedback, market issues, etc.
  4. Doing something for someone is a great motivator.

Let’s see how this book cover goes. I’ve got one mockup and a vision in my head that, hopefully, I can bring into reality. I’m sure I have plenty more to learn – but everything I learn here can help me and others later . . .

– Steve

My Agile Life: The Project Doesn’t Matter

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, Steve’s LinkedIn, and Steve’s Tumblr)

More on my use of “Agile” and Scrum in my life!

So this is going to sound weird, but one thing I realized in Agile practice, and my own use of the Agile technique of Scrum (with a touch of Kanban), is that the Project isn’t the most important thing.

Yes, I know, heresy. Projects are books, right? Projects are art, true? Projects are games, correct? I talk Projects all the time.

No. A book, a piece of art, a game is a product. Products deliver value to the customer and that’s what matters.

Projects are ways to get things done, to produce products, a useful conceptual tool, but that’s it.  The idea of a Project helps you complete a Product that has value.

Yeah, let that sink in. All your planning, all your schemes, everything are secondary to the result. Think it’s hard for you? I’m a guy with a ton of certifications on the subject of Project Management. In short, I actually have certifications on the second most important thing.

Except this is liberating. I don’t have to take Projects seriously or any other organizational tool.  All that matters is if this concept, this idea, this tool, this idea helps deliver value.  That’s it.

This is where Agile as a mindset shines. It’s outright saying that your goal is a result.  That’s it.  Everything else is just a tool on the way to the result.  You only have to care so much.

This is where Agile techniques shine, they’re tools to help you find blockages and get to the results – but like any tool you don’t have to be attached to them. Scrum this year becomes Kanban. This level of Project Breakdown is replaced by another.

I still use the term Project.  It’s useful.  I just don’t have to get invested in it.  It’s all about results.

By the way if you’re focused on Projects and not results – why?  Are the results even worth seeking?

(By the way I do plenty of books for coaching people to improve in various areas, which may also help you out!)

– Steve

A New MuseHack Project!

So we’re trying an experiment at MuseHack.

A lot of times I meet people looking for some geeky jobs. Or maybe they just want an opportunity to hone skills, like blogging or doing art.

I also have worked with a number conventions and everyone talks about a need for talent. Several times I’ve hooked people up who needed art or writing.

So what I’m doing is this – I want to try and connect people via MuseHack.

The idea is this. Every week or so I’ll collect posts from:
A) People who need talent (paid or not)
B) People who want to use their talents and get opportunities.

I’ll post them. Repeat as necessary.

If you’re back in the market doing freelance art, need some people for your con, want a place to blog, I’m going to see about setting up a clearinghouse for people. All I ask is if you get posted, you tell people about it!

Let me know if you’re interested – and contact me if you want in!

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at http://www.musehack.com/, nerd and geek culture at http://www.nerdcaliber.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at https://www.stevensavage.com/.