Physical Space, New Perspective

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

As of this blog posting, I’ve been working from home nearly five months. This has required many adjustments, from a different schedule to trying not to eat everything that has any form of chocolate in it. But as I’m likely here for quite awhile longer, with my girlfriend, and that there will likely be more changes, I worked a way to rearrange the house.

This was really instructive. I hadn’t thought about the space I live until I had to work there. Then I realized I could set up this space better not just for the work, but for my projects like writing and programming.

Honestly, it’s something we should think about more. I mean how many of us move into a place, mostly unpack, shove the remaining boxes under the desk, and don’t think about it? I imagine a lot of us – you know that painting you haven’t hung or that chair you really should replace.

But now I’m seeing the many reasons to improve my working and creating space. So I wanted to share a few.

We need space that gives us room. A classic piece of advice is if at all possible, don’t work in your bedroom as it can mess with your sleep. You may also live with someone and need space away from them to work. Set up your work areas to give you the mental and physical distance you need.

We need the right space to work. That may mean you have one space for your job and one for writing, or one for art and one for writing, etc. We also need the right equipment and setting or we’re just wasting our efforts.

We may need to make that space adaptable. If we can’t have, say, an art room and a programming room, we need a way to alter that space efficiently. We may also get a new computer, buy new reference books or other things we need available – and we need our workspace to reflect that.

We need to make that space something we can reconfigure efficiently. Your needs are going to change, you’re going to get a new roommate, etc. Getting furniture you an break down and move or a desk you can raise and lower will save time and stress.

We need to back up important work supplies. This is something I realized recently during the Pandemic – we should have important work supplies available so we don’t need to dash out for them. This could be an extra computer power cable, or a backup pen, extra printer paper, etc.

We need to engage those that live with us – or visit. Don’t assume your roommate, SO, or guests (when we finally have them) appreciates your needs or your layout. Ask them, get advice, think things over. You don’t want to get a lot of great furniture then find it doesn’t work for others.

So those are my thoughts about physical space and working. Maybe I’ll let you know how my plans go, because I’ve got a few things to purchase, even more to move, and a lot to do . . .

Steven Savage

Steve’s Work From Home Findings: Look, It’s Possible

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

I’ve been interested in Work From Home for some time – about twenty years. I’ve done it now and then for over fifteen years, and as of late all the time (involuntarily, admittedly). So can people work from home, well my answer is obviously yes.

Let’s look over what we have:

  • We’ve had email for decades, and we’ve used that for business for the same.
  • We’ve got multiple possible chat programs.
  • We’ve got multiple possible conference programs.
  • We’ve got tons of collaboration software, from things like Google Docs to Jira to Rally.
  • We’ve had the phone for how long? We can just use that sometime, even if to most people “phone” means “handheld PC” by now.

Honestly, there’s no reason not to at least try to have every office, admin, coding, executive, etc. job from home. There’s no reason to drag ourselves into an office or even have one. We can do it, and reap all the benefits.

The barrier is that some are reuluctant to switch over to work from home as you have to do things differently. Schedules change. Methods change. Record keeping changes. Moving to work from home requires people to rethink how their work is done.

I think there’s some reluctance to admit WFH is possible as so many people pushed back against it for bad reason. Many people who’d faced illness, family challenges, or disability have asked for it – and gotten rejected. If we head for more WFH, it will require a moral reckoning.

This is scary enough, but truth be told business processes and job methods probably do need to be thought over. Why are things stored a certain why, why is some business done in person, why did we turn down this request, etc. It’s a good idea to ask if what you do works anyway, and when you look at Work From Home, it requires you to rethink everything. Work from home just requires asking a lot of uncomfortable questions all at once.

The thing is during COVID-19, people seemed to have answered those questions, removed those rejections, and modified those processes pretty damn fast. The Pandemic has proven we can restructure work and work processes in an emergency, so we might as well run with it.

We’ve been able to do this for years. We proved we could. Let’s go do it.

Steven Savage

Debating A Podcast

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

I’ve been debating starting a podcast. Yes, I know we’re all locked indoors so probably everyone is thinking of starting a podcast. But this is going beyond being stir-crazy.

Anyway I was thinking that ta podcast could be pretty interesting. Plus yeah, there’s that missing human contact thing.

First, I have a lot I can talk on. It probably wouldn’t be careers, but I could speak on a variety of creative subjects.

Secondly, it would be a good compliment to my blogging. I’d probably replace a few blog posts with podcasts instead, say one every other week or something.

Third, it would be a new challenge. I could learn podcasting technology. I might even do it by video as well to have double the audience.

Fourth, it would open a new world. There’s lots of great podcasts I listen to, I might eventually team up with people or suppor good ones.

So just a few thoughts going around. If you want, message me and give me your feedback.

Steven Savage

Steve’s Work From Home Findings: Those Who Can’t WFH Deserve More

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

So I’d like to sit down and discuss what I’ve learned about Work From Home over the last few months. I am of the firm belief that more people can work from home, should work from home, and there are great benefits. I think we need to shift our businesses to more work from home. But this brings up my first finding: those who can’t Work From Home deserve a lot more.

A LOT.

This isn’t just about people in essential jobs deserve to be paid more. This isn’t just about these jobs require a lot of skills. This is that those in these hands-on, be-on-premises jobs, deserve more PERIOD.

They deserve to be paid more – and most of us are pretty underpaid as is. This is pretty much a given. But let’s look at what essential people face;

  • They have to travel to a job, disrupting their life and schedule.
  • They have to deal with all the problems of being tied to a location, which as we’ve seen has challenges.
  • Work tied to a location often has inconvenient schedules, where many of us get standard weekday work.

And consider what many “on-site people” have to do. These are skilled jobs:

  • They have to deal with people person-to-person. If you have ever seen a cashier, stocker, etc. deal with an irate or curious or lost customer, that is serious knowledge and emotional labor being deployed.
  • They have to deal with physical infrastructure: traveling in an area, dealing with physical inventory, installing computer components, etc. There is physical, mental, and skilled labor here.
  • Dealing with physical infrastructure often has risks: chemicals, heavy equipment, disease exposure, etc. Doing that right, being safe requires work – and compensation.

These people deserve more money and of course proper benefits. But they also deserve more.

They deserve respect. We’ve just found that those who can’t work from home are people we often depend on, and they deserve to be respected. They do not deserve to be abused by angry customers, or people that won’t observe health advice, and so on.

They deserve a career. We need so many people who can’t WFH and they deserve to have a life, with a career. Not just because they do work, but they’re DAMN GOOD at what they do, so let’s make sure they have a path. Some do have a career, of course.

They deserve support. Medical care on site. Health services. Meal services. Anything that helps them do their jobs dealing with US the annoying public.

This applies to people from store stockers and baristas to doctors and nurses. We rely on these people to be intimately involved in our lives and help us out. They deserve a lot more.

And if this makes you realize your doctor and the barista who has your coffee are similar, good. Because that doctor who deals with your hypochondria and that barista who remembers your order and gives you a kind word, are both supporting you. Keep that in mind.

Now, my future writing is going mostly go to us who can work from home. But keep in mind those that can’t deserve MORE.

Steven Savage

Your Creative Contribution

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

Those of us who want to create want to have an effect. We want to reach people, inspire people shock people, to somehow change people. We’re catalysts, producing change (and perhaps being changed by the interaction).

But we must also remember that we creatives have different effects. This is important as we can become obsessed with having one kind of effect, and forget the many others. If we focus on having a specific type of effect, we loose our chance to be much more, or be who we are.

Think of all the different ways you can effect people with our creativity. Imagine life as a building – where does your creativity come in?

We can be foundations. Our creativity can provide people something to build on in the world, giving them something solid on which to make more. We’ve all read that good novel that made us go “yes, and now.” We’ve all seen that documentary that said “I get it, and now see where to go next.” You can be that solidity that lets others grow.

We can be pillars. We can create that work that is seminal, that people refer to for years, decades, or centuries. We can stand as an example people rally around. This may seem challenging, but if you’re a specialist in your area, no matter how minor, you may be a pillar. That novel you wrote that is very specific may truly be the best of its kinds for a hundred years.

We can be the roof. Our work my be that which protects people, creative stories that heal the soul or provide comfort. It is these works that restore and heal, that shield the mind against despair and hopelessness.

We can be the alchemy. Our works can interact with the creativity of others, to simulate them into thinking and growing. Your story, your advice book may explore and challenge ideas, and thus lead others to think deeper. Such works inspire new ones, and create even stronger creative results.

We can be the decorations. A light and frivolous film is fun, and fun is important to cheer us and to inspire us and relax us. We may create something that is inspiringly artistic, a monument to what can be done. We can enhance the experience of others, such as when a story explores common tropes in a new way.

Your creative results may be one of these – or perhaps one I haven’t come up with in these simple metaphors. You may aim to achieve a specific kind of creative result, which is laudable. Focus is important for success.

But keep in mind that your creative path may lead you to other areas. The epic novel you write to stand the test of time may turn out to be more comforting to others, and that is still an achievement. The light short story we created can turn out to be timeless, a pillar which rallies others. Be open to your creative work having different results than intended.

But as always, keep creating and keep seeking the best results for others.

Steven Savage

A Worthy Remake

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

A meme I’ve seen going round repeatedly can be best summed up as “don’t remake good films, remake bad films” with the idea that you should give good ideas badly done a chance.

Now first, despite having good friends that study remakes, I do get a bit tired of them. But there are also times remakes are a good idea, and I think this may be one of them.

So when is “it was bad but it could be good” a good reason to remake something.

Is There Something There?

There are quite a few films and shows out there that may not have been good but have some seed elements that are actually interesting. Think of all those bad movies or cheesy shows or not-great-but-interesting novels that we may critique but somehow like. We connect with it, there is something in there that’s worth it.

Now just because we like it, it doesn’t mean it’s remake-worthy. But if a story of some kind has good seeds, we should ask if these are things worth sharing. Would a remake bring benefit to others if we made it?

If you’ve ever tried to explain the “magic” of a not-really-good thing to someone, you get the idea. Imagine if something could be remade so the magic comes out!

The Artistic Value

When remaking something there’s little value in just doing it the same. Just updating a film or rewriting a book is really more polishing something. It may be good to bring out the magic, but I think more value comes if there is some artistic challenge or improvement.

Change Of Media: Maybe a bad book is better as a comic or movie.

Change Of Style: A poorly done movie might be better done if there’s a change in genre or shooting style.

Change Of Sequence: A bad TV series could be better as a movie to tell the whole story – or a TV series might be better done as a serial show.

The Challenge: A good writer or actor, giving a flawed but interesting work or remake, may grow if given that challenge. So a remake of a bad piece of work could bring out the skills of others.

A Few Examples

Finally, a few remakes I’d like to see – most of them courtesy of Rifftrax/MST3K

Manos: The Hands Of Fate – This infamous cheesy film had a certain charm, mixing cult fears, horror, and some occult/eldrich god stuff. That’s an interesting mix, and I think a remake could do something with this.

Space Mutiny – The oft riffed film is interesting for two reasons. One, there was clearly some larger storytelling there that got shuffled around due to the many crises on set. Secondly, it rested on the easygoing charisma of Reb Brown. A remake as a miniseries, with the right lead, and a retro sensibility would be fun – and allow name recognition to promote a good lead.

Gamera – Gamera, the famous Godzilla ripoff, got a remake as some darned good kaiju films. But I feel that it actually could be redone one more time – as a TV series. There are some continuing plot elements in the film, and a story of people ant their relationship to this protective/destructive kaiju would be incredible.

So there you go folks. What would you remake?

Steven Savage

Covid-19 Thoughts And Outreach

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

So it looks like the US lockdowns at best gave us a plateau of Covid-19. We’ve got opening up going on, Covid-19 spiking, and pretty much we were on hold. Now we’re not, and the virus is surging again.

I think we’re going to see increased cases, obviously. We will likely see increases of deaths to come (hopefully less as we know more). There’s almost certainly under-reported deaths and under-measured infections. Basically, here we go again.

This means inevitably, we’re going to see more lockdowns and returns of lockdowns. Even places that won’t lockdown are gonna see a lot of people locking themselves down to be safe. This also means more disconnection, lonliness, and sadness.

Sorry to be a downer. But also, there’s something I am finding helps – I spelled this out in my post on ruggedizing geekdom, but wanted to go into detail.

Simply, I started a video channel on Discord so some of us could watch TV and movies and videos together. I invited some friends and folks from writing groups – and it worked.

We quickly got a rythm going of one “known film” and one weird/odd/obscure/unappreciated movie. One night it’s “Knives Out,” next Friday it’s something like “The Man Who Stole The Sun.” This was a lot of fun, and people from various groups, areas of the country, etc. started coming together to watch and chat.

People who’d never have met otherwise, reaching across the world and from their various clubs and groups to connect.

This kept growing. We’ve now got someone streaming a forgotten TV series. I’m hosting virtual fireworks on the 4th. I’ve started posting this meeting in writing groups and social groups, and more people keep meeting each other.

And watching people connect is amazing. People with 15 year age gaps finding they have similar interests. People living alone during this mess connecting with people. Folks in other countries meeting each other.

So right now things are awful. But if you have that one social group, that one social thing, you can use it to bring people together. A Discord channel, a Zoom, a Blog, something. Use it.

We’re gonna lock down again. We’ve got months of being cautious, and months upon months until we have preventatives and vaccines. We need each other.

But you probably already have the tools to do it.

Steven Savage

Steve’s Book Roundup

I write a lot and have quite a few books.  So now and then I’m going to post a roundup of them for interested parties!

My sites:

Fiction

I’ve been returning to fiction with a techno-fantasy setting of several planets orbiting a star called Avenoth.  Take a typical fantasy world of magic and gods, and let it evolve into the space age and internet age . . .

  • A Bridge To The Quiet Planet – Two future teachers of Techno-Magical safety find trying to earn their credentials hunting odd artifacts backfires when you’re hired to put some back . . . on a planet where gods go to die!

The Way With Worlds Series

This is what I do a lot of – writing on worldbuilding!.  You can find all of my books at www.WayWithWorlds.com

The core books of the series will help you get going:

  • Way With Worlds Book 1 – Discusses my philosophy of worldbuilding and world creation essentials.
  • Way With Worlds Book 2 – Looks at common subjects of worldbuilding like conflicts in your setting, skills for being a good worldbuilder, and more!

When you need to focus on specifics of worldbuilding, I have an ever-growing series of deep dive minibooks.  Each provides fifty questions with additional exercises and ideas to help you focus on one subject important to you!

The current subjects are:

Creativity

I’m the kind of person that studies how creativity works, and I’ve distilled my findings and advice into some helpful books!

  • The Power Of Creative Paths – Explores my theories of the Five Types of Creativity, how you can find yours, and how to expand your creative skills to use more Types of Creativity.
  • Agile Creativity – I take the Agile Manifesto, a guide to adaptable project development, and show how it can help creatives improve their work – and stay organized without being overwhelmed.
  • The Art of The Brainstorm Book – A quick guide to using a simple notebook to improve brainstorming, reduce the stress around having new ideas, and prioritize your latest inspirations.
  • Chance’s Muse – I take everything I learned at Seventh Sanctum and my love of random tables and charts and detail how randomness can produce inspiration!

Careers

Being a “Professional Geek” is what I do – I turned my interests into a career and have been doing my best to turn that into advice.  The following books are my ways of helping out!

  • Fan To Pro – My “flagship” book on using hobbies and interests in your career – and not always in ways you’d think!
  • Skill Portability – A quick guide to how to move skills from one job to another, or even from hobbies into your job.  Try out my “DARE” system and asses your abilities!
  • Resume Plus – A guide to jazzing up a resume, sometimes to extreme measures.
  • Epic Resume Go! – Make a resume a creative act so it’s both better and more enjoyable to make!
  • Quest For Employment – Where I distill down my job search experiences and ways to take the search further.
  • Cosplay, Costuming, and Careers – An interview-driven book about ways to leverage cosplay interests to help your career!
  • Fanart, Fanartists, and Careers – My second interview-driven book about ways to leverage fanart to help your career!
  • Convention Career Connection – A system for coming up with good career panels for conventions!

Culture

  • Her Eternal Moonlight – My co-author Bonnie and I analyze the impact Sailor Moon had on women’s lives when it first came to North America.  Based on a series of interviews, there’s a lot to analyze here, and surprisingly consistent themes . . .

Some Thoughts on Ruggedized Geekdom

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

As I write this, America’s response to COVID-19 has been dismal without federal vision. There are many problems, but one of the things I’ve been considering is the status of geeky activities: cons, gaming events, cosplay, etc.

This is not intended to be flippant or minimize issues. However these activities are big parts of people’s lives, create and reinforce social ties, and encourage creativity and development. They do matter, and I wondered how they can survive our current situation, become stronger, and build a better geeky community. My barely-organized thoughts are as follows.

As a note, this is based on two things. One is my knowledge of organizational structures. The other is what I’ve observed, learned, etc. about the virus, possible treatments, and responses. The short form is I think this will bedevil the world for two years, that a vaccine IS possible (but needs annual updates), that there will be better treatments/preventatives, but lots of people aren’t going to follow science.

CONVENTIONS

Conventions should plan for the worst case scenario of no in-person cons happening until mid-2021 easily, possibly start of 2022. I’m missing them as much as anyone, but there’s not going to be anything big until we have a widespread vaccine, and even if we find preventative/prophylactic medication who’s going to take the risk.

But we also needed to rethink cons anyways. Some are overly huge draws. Small ones provide useful niches but get ignored. There’s giant logistical challenges. So here’s my takes.

  • Every con out there should plan to go virtual for the next 18 months easily.
  • A kind of “league of conventions” needs to be formed to share knowledge, tech, and ensure survivability.
  • Cons should consider breaking up into smaller events online, then possibly in person, then re-consolidate if needed.
  • Cons should look at things like outdoor events, etc. that will minimize risk when we’re nearer the end of this.
  • Small cons need to Voltron together right now to support each other.
  • We need convention guides and info sites to focus on virtuality and track them.
  • Duplicate con events as singular events – online viewings, dealer rooms, etc.

GAMING GROUPS

Argh. I didn’t play a lot of tabletop and P&P RPGs as of late, but I wanted to get back into them, and now this happens. I can’t imagine how devastating this is for various gaming groups and stores. Fortunately I’ve seen a lot of gaming groups going virtual or having it as an option anyway.

  • First, I don’t know how bad this is going to be for game stores, but my guess is pretty devastating – many held gaming events. It’s imperative for people to support them.
  • I think we need to see someone write and promote guides on moving gaming groups virtual temporarily. Discord, tools, etc. I see people pick this up by osmosis.
  • Other groups (con groups, cosplay groups, etc.) need to promote these.
  • Gaming groups are great ways to build virtual events to – you guessed it – support cons.

WRITING AND CREATIVE GROUPS

I belong to a bunch of these, and trust me they’re helping a lot of us stay sane and focused. Be it writing, art, or cosplay, these are vital. Fortunately, a lot of these have been going virtual for ages (in fact, I think they’re ahead of gaming groups). The ones I’m part of have adapted well.

  • These groups should cross-pollinate. I’m doing that with my current groups, and it’s helpful to maintaining them, and is psychologically comforting.
  • Some groups are good at specializing, and this helps cross-pollination. Have a “shut up and write group” share members with a “business writers” group.
  • Combine with other events to promote the socializing. We run a movie night and I promote it into my writing groups. This further reinforces things.
  • Start doing presentations WITH cons and other events – be a source of events!

VIDEO GROUPS AND BOOK CLUBS

These seem to have moved online pretty easy based on my experience, so hey, my folks, keep at it. A few thoughts

  • These groups can be vital to building social ties and be ready to help people. We need groups like this.
  • Video groups especially can help support other groups as they can be sites of casual socialization.
  • Experiment with different technologies and try them out – I’ve found out about optimizing experiencces.

GENERAL GEEKDOM
A few more thoughts on what geekdom can do to ruggedize.

  • SPEND. Financial supports of cons, groups, meetups, dealers, etc. Put your money where your mouth is.
  • VOLUNTEER. People may be busy, but we should step up to help our various clubs and groups and cons out.
  • DON’T depend on one technology. Do not count on Discord, Facebook, Zoom, etc. if at all possible. Use multiple technologies as social backup.
  • RECRUIT. Get people involved and help out. We need people actively supporting geeky communities.
  • LEARN AND SHARE. Get to know all these tech tools and share your knowledge.
  • RELAX. Treat yourself right, let your hobbies support you, and don’t overdo it.

So those are my thoughts of a more rugged geekdom. There’s a lot to do – and a lot I need to do more of. But maybe we can build a stronger geekdom in a hard world.

Steven Savage

Stringing It All Together

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

As I’ve often said, fun is important to us. It refreshes us, it helps us find ourselves, it connects us to others. But sometimes it’s hard to have fun, to find joy in the large. Where are the hours or days of joy that we want or need?

Well, first, human moods are always changing. I think rare is the time someone experiences joy near constantly, except for some transcendent experiences. But, still, there are times we need an extended period of being mostly-happy – and I’m sure a lot of us would like something like that right now.

I think the important thing is to string moments of joy together.

We an go looking for the Big Happy, the Giant Bliss and maybe we can’t have that. Or we shouldn’t. Or, as I will address later, that’s not a solid thing.

Instead, I’m finding as I age that happiness is when we can string together small moments together. An hour with a book, an evening with a friend, a thirty minute run in a video game. If we can’t have the Big Happy, we can have many small happies – manageable moments of fun and joy.

First, this is practical. In our busy days and trying times, we might not be able to get a week off or a free day. We can work in fun when possible.

Secondly, this makes fun resilient. When we can have many joyful moments, the loss of one or the other may not trouble us as much – we change a schedule or power through a challenge. When we have fun moments strung along our lives like beads in a necklace, we can overcome one missing bead.

In fact, I’d say that the small moments are the way we build a Big Happy. As we can find joy in small moments, they come together in larger ones. Perhaps that’s the best kind of fun – pieces adding up to a whole.

Third and finally, I find that these little moments of joy and fun make life more manageable. It’s one thing to look forward to an ill-defined week long vacation. To know you’re going to have a chocolate bar or play a game makes fun solid, manageable, and real. Tie enough of those moments together and you have something larger.

We can stack fun and joy together to build something bigger. It may be easier.

And these days, maybe the best thing we can do.

Steven Savage