Force And Form

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

So I’ve been thinking about what to do next in my writing. I’ve had quite a few “phases” of my writing – career writer, creative writer, worldbuilding writer, etc. I feel like I should have a what’s next.

I want to write because writing is what I do. I like to write, I have the urge to write. So I know I’m going to write – this column is an example of how I can’t really stop.

However to be really fulfilling – unless you’re just playing – it seems the urge needs a form. Something to put it into, channel it into. At least for me, I can play, but I really come to life creatively with a project.

(Again play can be a project, but I think that’s got a limited lifespan before I want to do).

So as an example, here’s where I am.

Right now, I look to the work I’ve done before, what I do now under assorted pen names, and I think what I want is connection. I want to interact more with people, have dialogues, and have my creativity connect me with people.

I also have been reading and listening to columns and podcasts (often from the same people) and really enjoying the idea of “one or two people give a deep dive” on an issue. They’re personal, and the creators often invite input and commentary. There’s something about a “unique voice” that is appealing, evne when you disagree with the voice.

So I’m thinking of expanding on my columns here. Maybe take it to two a month, make them longer, more in depth, and send them out as newsletters as well. Maybe just do what I do with more discipline and focus. This way I can go into deeper exposition on creativity, technology, and culture in ways that invite people to connect with me.

I might even put some together in a book (this time for real, yes I have about a book and half I could and should use).

Will this work? No idea! I’ve got to play around with it a bit. But I’ve got the drive, I’ve got an idea, so if nothing else I have something to try out. If it fails at least it’s a specific situation I can learn from.

And I can always go back to play to see what emerges and takes.

Steven Savage

Writer, Writer, or Writer

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

Serdar and I often discuss what people really want when they write. Many times we encounter people who want to be writers in the I-make-a-living at it, and/or the It’s-my-life-sense. This “writer lifestyle” is a very abstract, boiling down to “some author is famous for some series and makes a living at it.”

Such a vision doesn’t really say much. Writers have to ask what they really want and honestly, and in my experience it’s often not what they think.

A few examples – perhaps ones that will help you.

Want to make writing doing fiction? Well, you might be able to get a hit series you enjoy writing. Or you’re going to have to write your backside off, doing whatever works, targeting your marketing, and still possibly doing it wrong. If you want to write fiction, get ready to rely on luck or demographics – and probably both.

Want to just write for a living? That’s very possible. I know people who do it, but you have to think broadly. Tech writing, training manuals, marketing content, all of that is writing. You’ll need to find what works for you, and then probably still play broad. Also be ready to write some stuff that’s not world-changing or impressive, because someone has to make that powerpoint.

(Seriously, the world needs people that can just communicate, trust me, I’m not joking about the Powerpoints).

Maybe you want to make money. No offense, writing may not be the way to do it, or maybe it’s just part of your work. That’s my case, where writing is a hobby and an edge as a Project Manager, but not exactly the core thing I do. But I make more than a tech writer, and I get to talk very seriously about timelines, but maybe that’s just me who finds that cool.

Maybe you really like the connection of writing, perhaps you like having fans and readers or a writing community. Then write whatever you want as a hobby, do zines, run a writer’s group, do a newsletter on whatever, and so on. If you want community, then focus on community first – yeah a newsletter for historic preservation may not sound cool, but may be satisfying.

Maybe you like helping writers. Your future might be teacher, editor, publisher, etc. Maybe other people’s writing is what really matters, and your own is a hobby or a side thing. Sometimes it’s fun to help things happen for others. It can even pay better.

There’s no real one kind of writer to be, there are many. But you have to ask why writing matters to you and what you want out of it – and all the things associated with it.

Even me, I am asking what my next writing goals are. I enjoy writing, I’m not exactly looking to make it as a career, but I’ve also had multiple indie author stages. It’s good to ask questions about what you want.

And like me, even when you get it, keep asking.

Steven Savage

Experience And Exploration

As often is the case, Serdar and I were discussing media and creativity, centered around exploring media properties. I was discussing how I enjoyed “Lower Decks” and how it explored elements of the Star Trek universe that needed it. He noted missed opportunities. This got me thinking (which obviously, as usual, turns into something like blog posts).

I began thinking about “universe” projects, projects that involved a deep exploration of the setting and often via multiple books, movies, etc. When you have a big setting to play in, there’s a lot one can do. What one choses to do on the other hand can vary.

First, the universe one creates can be explored. You can understand the repercussions of the world(s), track cause and effect, dive into possibilities and results, and so on. A setting can be a huge playground that lets you do all sorts of things – often to your own surprise. It’s a place to ask “what if” and see where you go.

Secondly, a universe can deliver experiences. Settings with a given flavor allow you to have certain feelings, scenes, and so on that are desirable to you and the audience. Settings have certain emotional, cultural, and psychological resonances that some will want to experience. They can deliver the “hits” people want.

In any media franchise, big-universe project, single-setting series, creators can deliver both. Now I am biased towards exploration but the experience is important because sometimes that “feel” is what helps you get the exploration.

However I think we see that big, corporate-owned franchises tend towards the experience part of the equation. The big universes create certain feelings and people want that. Companies want to make money, so they deliver said experiences If you explore too much, you risk changing things and not delivering the experiences people want.

We’ve probably all seen cases of series, series endings, books, etc. that explored a bit too much for people’s expectations because they were used to things hitting certain emotional resonances. I could point to recent examples, but it would A) date this column, and B) probably make some people I know mad at me.

But you set some expectations, don’t allow too much change, and that happens.

On the other hand, we’ve also assuredly seen cases of big, moribund media franchises getting a chance to explore and going hog wild. I’ve sung the praises of Star Trek: Lower Decks because it “went there” on so many occasions I really felt things – and it somehow delivered the Trek experiences I’d come to expect. I feel the positivity towards The Mandalorian was well deserved – especially as it’s thematics of a slow-moving character drama seemed at odds with much of Star Wars media.

I mean I didn’t care about Star Trek and still don’t care about Star Wars anymore and I’m praising these works.

The Exploration and Experience labels give me a better way to understand media and creation. I consider Exploration to be valuable – it’s what I’m inclined to do and if part of the value of fiction. I consider a focus on Experience I can be a trap – but also that you need a certain “feel” to communicate the Exploration part I love. I’m not saying they’re equal or opposites, but useful tools.

Now I wonder how I’ll see various media differently.

Steven Savage