Creativity Is A Warning

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

How many times to we discuss a real world event and compare it to something in fiction? “This is just like that book,” we say or “this reminds me of that movie.” Lost in these realizations is often the fact that we were warned and we should either be thankful for it or shamed we didn’t listen enough.

Of course we should also ask how many times did fiction and art help us head off even worse things in the world? We may have sudden realizations, but might want to ask how many times the creative prevented awful things.

With these inspirations of realization, shame, and wonder we should then ask how can we use our creative abilities to head off bad things. Sure we worry about the wars and tyrants of the present, but we should also work to warn and inform and help people prevent them in the future.

Those yet to come may be quite thankful we gave them enough warnings in our creative work.

This is a massive power that creatives have. Because we connect with our works, we can warn effectively. Because we inspire, we can get people to see future threats. Because we teach others to dream, we can produce new generations of creatives to carry on undermining tyrants.

We should also keep in mind how subversive our work can be. Yes people may invoke the warnings of certain classic books and films – but those are the obvious ones. It’s the inobvious ones that the oppressors current and future miss, and the ones they may either sweat over in fear or not even know exist.

So ask yourself this, how are you going to use your creative power to not just head off the dictators and oppressors of now – but of the future? Maybe you’re busy with the fights of now, but if you can prevent the fights of the future, give it a try.

Perhaps you create a predictive work to warn of what may happen. You may prevent a problem, or help people deal with a future one.

Perhaps you create a work that develops skills or views to face the challenges of the future. They become more creative, or introduced to new ideas they will use, and so on.

Perhaps you create works that let people see the present differently and make different future choices.

And even if you can’t prepare for the future, maybe your current activities can keep oppressors off guard by making them wonder what else you might be doing that affects the future. Keep them guessing with that imagination.

Steven Savage

The Future of Conventions: Modular

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

Conventions have been part of my life for nearly 40 years. For many people, much like me, the story is the same – a majority of our life has involved attending, hosting, and even being guests at conventions. Now that they are threatened by COVID-19, we rightfully wonder what will happen to them.

Since COVID-19 has struck, I have wondered how conventions can survive. This is really a two-part goal: how do we preserve what makes conventions wonderful and how to we maintain having events. Vaccine-wise I don’t expect cons until late 2021 at best, and wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t see the first until 2022.

So how do we help them survive? One piece of the puzzle came to me recently when Dianna Gunn held an online Writer’s Conference.

This was a tight, focused, effective event. It focused only on writers. Each panel focused on a given subject, such as worldbuilding, and each had a monitor. There were rules, Zoom meetings, an discord, and in short a plan. I obviously enjoyed it – and as a Project/Program Manager enjoyed how well run it was.

Now this small event had all the elements we’d want from a convention. It was social, it was friendly, and of course it was an event. Smaller than even a mini-con, but it had the elements we’d want at larger cons.

What struck me then is that this may be the future of conventions – in part. Literally.

Imagine this as a blueprint for the future:

Small groups like Dianna’s evolve to hold “mini-events” that are tight, focused, and polished. They should focus on a given audience and themes, with a team just the right size to pull them off. They shouldn’t necessarily hold these events as part of cons – they should develop independently but form alliances.

Conventions should also work to create small groups like the above that to tight, focused events that are like the events they used to hold in person. They should not feel they have to hold them as part of a convention – though they may. But any set of events should be considered independent.

And then conventions can use these “modular events” to assemble online conventions as needed. Conventions might even share content and run at the same time.

What do you get out of this?

  • You get groups that are good at running a set of specific things – and have a target audience.
  • You get groups that can run relatively independently.
  • You can have these events happen on their own, but when they are part of a convention, everyone gets to know more about these events.
  • You can work outside the usual convention schedule.
  • When we can finally meet in person, you have the talent you need to do things in person, or share things virtually, or whatever works.
  • If any con falls apart, its elements can survive.

This idea is one I clearly need to think over, but it feels like it’s something that can work, and I’ve seen similar business structures such as Scrum At Scale and even SAFe. Maybe we can save and improve conventions by making them modular and distributed.

There’s a seed here we can grow.

Steven Savage

Steve’s Books 10/8/2020

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 . . .

The Artist As Art

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

Friends and I regularly run movies and videos for each other online, a wonderful tradition it only took a pandemic for us to devise. We recently watched The Horse’s Mouth, a film based on a well-regarded book, starring Alec Guinness as an artist who destroys as much as he creates. At first it seems to be a relatively standard comedy, but as I sat with it, I felt it was more like Spinal Tap and similar movies – a comedy that hits close to reality. The artist Guinness portrays, Gully Jimson, is a a rambling storm of pathologies, who fascinates and repells at the same time – everyone seems to have a radically different opinion of the man.

The Artist As A Loutish Rorschach Blot as you will.

As Serdar, who introduced me to the film, noted, there doesn’t seem to be a market for stories of working artists. We seem to like our films to be about people who are wild or crazy. We may often see them as offensive like Mr. Jimson, but ultimately there’s something about our culture that accepts artists as talented a-holes. In the film, Mr. Jimson at best does a month in jail for threats, but is somehow accepted despite the fact one may question if his art is worth putting up with him.

But when we step back, our lives often contain many workman like artists and creators. We just pay attention to the annoying ones, and as they consume mental space, we forget everyone not being a bipedial emotional disaster. For every musical star posturing in their psychopathic delusions, I can easily think of ten of more talent and less need for treatment. Why do we ignore this?

First, I think that this is part of the Great Man theory that has infected our culture. We want to believe in a rule-breaking Ultratalent who transcends all boundaries to create great art. Certainly encouraging that viewpoint has fueled the rise of many artists and creatives and leaders, as well as the fall that always seems to come later. We create the idea of a Great Man.

Second, we are envious even if we may not admit it. We wish we were that person, who breaks rules and is awarded fame and money and sex and places in a museum. We want to believe it, so we both encourage it in others and feed the media our demands. We create the idea that maybe we can be like that – and should be.

Third, we believe each creator is unique and thus uniquely valuable. It is true everyone is unique, but that doesn’t mean there is superior value in that uniqueness. Because we may assume some ranting business leader is somehow unique, we assume he must be special. Sometime one is merely uniquely annoying. Yet we create the idea of value.

Fourth, we are distracted by spectacle. A posturing performer, an artist leaping atop a table and yelling at a convention, a start-up king burning millions gets attention. We want to enjoy the show, and writers and moviemakers will deliver that. We’ll create an interest in showing our dreams on sreen.

In the end, the reason we get these figures in media is we want them. Sadly, it means we miss out on the fascinating figures who may have not been drug off into rehab or melted down publicy. This is one of the reasons I adore movies and documentaries that go behind the scenes and into the less known – because often there’s far more there than a strutting rooster of a performer.

We get stories of these pathological artists as we created the delusions and the demand.

This is why, ultimately, The Horse’s Mouth fascinates me. This annoying, obsessive man (and a few others as bad as he) is a decent and passionate artist. But people worship him, or want his art, or tolerate him, believing there is something there. But is he worth it?

That’s probably the question, but except for one or two characters, Gully is surrounded by artists who’ve created their own idea of him.

Steven Savage

Confidence In The Undefined

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

It’s hard to plan for the future right now, as so many crises and potential crises bedevil us. We must make plans to have some order and confidence, but its hard, and plans have limts in the best of times. It is difficult to have surety in our goals and our plans to reach them when they’re so often interrupted.

With that lack of confidence in our plans, we lack confidence in ourselves. We feel we cannot predict, and we feel we cannot effectively plan, and that leads us to doubt who we are.

I’m sure you’ve experienced this. I have as well. Let me share something that helped.

When I was looking over some of the things I needed to do in the future – or may need to do – I realized that they couldn’t be planned for easily. I faced many variables, many possible challenges, and nothing was certain. All I could do was monitor and adjust.

Suddenly, I felt filled with a surge of confidence at that realization. All I could do was adjust facing the unknown – but I knew I could. I had adapted and adjusted over the decades – and certainly had done the same during this Pandemic. I could do so in the future as well.

I invite you to reassess your needs to plan and have order when the plans are fluid or situations challenging. Maybe you can’t plan – maybe no one can – but you can adapt and adjust as things change. Look to your past trumphs of fluidly changing, of shifting towards victory in the face of surprise. You’re almost certainly good at adapting, likely better than you think.

So in the face of chaos, internal, external, or both, look at your past. Did you adapt? Did you develop adjustable techniques in planning? Did you overcome?

You probably did. This means you can do so again – with even more experience than those past times.

In this age of troubles, give yourself credit and confidence that you can adapt. You may not have a plan, but when the time comes you can do the right thing, and create one as required.

Steven Savage

The Pandemic In Fiction

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

We know, inevitably, the Pandemic of 2020 (and sadly, 2021) is going to eventually work it’s way into fiction. Humans use fiction to make sense of things, humans use real events in fiction to ground them, and known things sell books.

But what will the Pandemic of 2020 do, specifically to American media and fiction? I asked myself that recently – and then found myself standing on a precipice of imagination, looking into the unknown.

The Pandemic of 2020 is, for America, an unmitigated disaster, with 200,000 people dead as of this writing. We’re humiliated in the eyes of the world, our politics in chaos, our social media clogged with conspiracy theories, and no end in sight. Right now the biggest source of Pandemic fiction is people lying about the situation or making up stories to grift money or excuse our failure.

How do we fictionalize this?

If we step back, the Pandemic of 2020 looks like a badly written novel. If you had composed this a decade ago, would anyone have believed it? America having the worst outcome in the world? The CDC losing face? 200,000 deaths? This would be a made for TV movie or hack novel at best.

I asked myself again, how do we fictionalize this?

So as I stared into this abyss of the unexpected, I’ve come to a few shaky conclusions. Perhaps this is in my own head as I try to cope with the insights as well as the Pandemic.

First, I don’t expect to see “Pandemic In Fiction” as a theme for awhile. We’re still in the middle of it, and crass and exploitative as some media is, I don’t see this becoming widespread. Also we’re sick of it, and there’s little market for it when you’re living it.

Second, I expect any fictionalization of the Pandemic of 2020 will be politicized or seen as politicized. You can tell the most honest researched story, and some hack pundit will decry it for hits and to push products. In time this may pass, but not for a few years.

Third, I expect to see many a fiction piece that are political fiction of the Pandemic of 2020. Some will indeed have agendas, pundit ranting aside, and you can expect plenty of apologia and non-apologia. It is my hope this is minimized in the face of harsh reality, because even if I agree, crass fictionalization of important things may not do any good.

Fourth, I expect fictionalization of the Pandemic will have no middle ground. It will be done in wild metaphor or fantastical parallels in world of magic and science fiction – or it will be tales based on real life. The uncomfortable middle ground where we mix hard fact and big dreams will be too ambiguous, too uncomfortable. We’ll want the abstract fantastical – or the painfully familiar – because that middle ground is where speculation runs and harsh truths emerge.

We’re ready for Godzilla and Alien Plague, or for two people at a coffee shop decrying the state of life. We’re not ready for fiction with enough fact that the speculation cuts us.

The near future of Pandemic Fiction is going to be not much different than we have now, a mess of politics and agendas, the fantastic and the on the nose, and people arguing over it. It is my hope in time we can confront our experiece and our history with the power of imagination, but for the short-term I fear a muddle is where we’re headed.

May we reduce the time we’re in that muddle so our writing may clearly illuminate the human experience, our lessons, our losses – and those responsible. Because we’re doing it half-assed now.

Steven Savage

Work From Home: Different Experiences

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

I know. I keep thinking “hey, I’m about done with this,” then some new wrinkle shows up and next thing you know, blog post. I also like it as some of my career advice has aged out, but this is relevant and fresh and helpful.

I was chatting with some friends about our different experiences in Work From Home (WFH) and then something struck me. As much as many of us are WFH, as many of us have done WFH . . . we’re often forgetting just how diverse people’s experiences are.

One friend of mine has done it for two decades. Another had remappable experiences. I had done it on and off for two decades and had participated in WFH experiments. It was interesting comparing notes.

It also struck me that as WFH becomes more normalized we’re going to need to keep this in mind to adjust.

As we move to WFH we have to appreciate our experiences are different than other peoples. There are things we know and things we don’t know. Things we can handle and things we can’t. Any move to WFH is going to require people to cultivate some personal awareness so we can develop, learn, and unlearn.

Also we’ll have to be aware that others have different experiences than us when it comes to WFH. We may find someone who know more and we should listen. Others may need psychological tips from us to navigate unknown waters. We’re going to need empathy and humility.

Some of our co-workers won’t have the above knowledges or sensitivities, and we’ll have to educate them. Hopefully we can do so either formally or appropriately, but I’m sure there’s already been plenty of WFH-based temper flareups. These will keep occurring.

Finally, this giant science/business experiment is happening during a pandemic. We’ll have to relearn and reapply our lessons all over again when things calm down (which is probably 9-12 month at my guess).

I’m terribly concerned right now that the continuing WFH that’s going on hasn’t had enough` effort by people to assess different experiences. I mean it’s sort of understandable – we got thrown into this fast – but that still means there’s a problem.

This is something I also need to sit with myself. I don’t think I fully assessed the different experiences and challenges people have faced. I need to understand my friends, family, and co-workers a bit better.

So for now?

  1. Realize your WFH experiences aren’t others.
  2. See who you can learn from regarding WFH.
  3. See what you can teach about WFH.
  4. Have empathy for people who are adjusting to WFH.
  5. Be ready to have to face changes to WFH because of how we did this.

Steven Savage

Career Advice: Your Climate Plan

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

As I’ve noted before, I kind of give less career advice lately. Some of it is that my advice has changed, some of it is that I am evaluating what I can share as a more senior professional, and most of it is the world has changed. However, I can provide some useful insights, repeating and expanding on what I’ve said before.

Work climate change into your career.

Sure I’ve said it before, but I should note that as of this writing in 202 I live in California, which got hot then caught on fire. Then everything caught on fire, and a bunch of states near us had it even worse. The term “climate refugee” got used in the present tense in the news, so I got thoughtful.

Oh and there’s a damn pandemic.

So here’s a few insights I’ve had from being in the middle of this.

Accept this is the reality. Climate change is real. It will probably affect your life and your job. That’s the way it is.

Evaluate possible climate impacts on where you live – and may live. This may not be as clear as it seems, so do your research. For instance there’s several possible scenarios of where I live, meaning I get to contemplate heat, fires, torrential rains, and mudslides (probably not at once). Also keep in mind these are impacts – don’t think in good or bad, because that increased heat to you may mean others wish to move to your area.

Listen to others. Share ideas with friends, follow the news, join a transition community. Connect with others to understand what’s going on – and what may go on. I’ve had more than enough cases of “oh, I didn’t know that” in just the few years to remind me of this.

Have a climate change plan. Evaluate what happens if you have to move due to climate change. Do not assume you won’t – instead evaluate how you might be impacted. Remember impacts could even be “my area is really climate safe and people may want to move here.”

Have a climate change career plan. You’re going to need to ask what you’ll do for a living. Do you have portable skills? Can you work from home and remotely? Where can you move and do what you do?

If you move, remember others my do it as well. If ten years from now you’re leaving a unlivable area, you won’t be alone. Keep track of what happens in your “relocation targets.” Also remember if you arrive late if there’s a rush, there may be challenges.

Team up. Don’t do this planning alone. Even if you’re alone now, when you move you may have a roommate, or an SO, etc.

Those are my thoughts, and I hope they help. Let me know your climate change plans and thoughts.

As for mine? My area has problems, but they’re straightforward, so I have some identified “bug out” areas and a job that can be done remotely. I’ve got it easier compared to some.

But I’m also older. I won’t be around as long as some of you. I hope my advice helps, and that maybe it does some small part to help you adapt to climate change. And perhaps we can work on mitigating it.

Steven Savage

Work From Home: Work From Home Training

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

And the series continues. I guess because I have A Lot Of Thoughts on this.

Me, I’ve worked from home (WFH) a lot, and I’ve had friends who have done it for over a decade. We’ve got certain work from home skills and abilities, that we probably don’t see as we’re used to them. I realized that recently, and it came to me that as we do more WFH people will need training to do it – and people probably aren’t ready.

How many of us actually are skilled at working from home? Because, in a world where WFH is comparatively rare, it means some of us lack the skillset – yes it’s a skillset.

Consider what WFH Skills include:

  • Time management on your own. Not as easy when you’re remote.
  • Phone etiquette and phone technology. Look, do we even use our phones for calls? When is it time to just text?
  • Proper use of chat programs as you can’t swing by desks. I’m talking not just sending messages, but replying.
  • Proper use of email as folks need to rely on it more (and trust me, a lot of us are terrible at it).
  • Proper use of tools for collaboration like Jira, Rally, and such. Those are even more vital for collaboration.
  • Use of documentation tools and proper use of documentation. Being able to hand someone a document is great for communication, but not if your writing is horrible.
  • Business processes and the like – because you can’t yell over your cube to ask someone “how do I do this?”
  • The psychology and manners of working from home.

Even typing that list i feel both exhausted and appreciative of those with good work from home skills. I’m sure you could write books on the skills, or run classes. Speaking of . . .

Organizations will need to ensure people are trained for WFH. The skills above need to be acquired by folks for any organization that wants or needs more WFH. These need to be learned intentionally; we’re in a rapid shift, and you can’t just hope people pick it up over time.

Note I say Organizations plural – because even in the post covid age, there will be more WFH for everyone. The business you work for will need this training, sure. But this will also be your church or temple, the con you do cosplay events for, and maybe even your gaming group. Every organization out there needs to be ready to teach people how to work from home.

This also means that there will be a whole new range of opportunities for people to write, teach, and educate. We’ll need guides and consulting services and people to teach work from home. Organizations will need to develop ways to improve WFH processes – or hire people that do. In fact, this might be a great chance for you to share your WFH knowledge with others!

But we’re going to need to train people to WFH, everywhere, and provide that education. This may be a bigger shift than people are ready for – but being ready is something we’ll need to be. WFH is here, there will be more, and in an age of climate change and pandemic, we’ll need to adapt.

It’s time to get educated.

Steven Savage

Creativity, Resistance, and Results

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

As I have written about regularly, creativity is necessary to get a better world. It is a power that dissolves the grip of tyrants, a kind of Alkahest that dissolves in a disarming matter. But one of the powers of creativity is that well-done creativity is about results.

For all its power and adaptability, good creativity is also strangely solid.

Think of the power of a single book. It is a real thing, it exists, its ideas are there. Even a lousy book is an achievement – and a great book is even more of an achievement. A book can change the world and take down empires.

A thousand books, even in a regime trying to censor them, can bring down an empire as it can’t stop them all. The empire might not even know they exist and what they say until it’s too late.

Now take those books and add in films, TV shows, podcasts, and more. Creative people can get things done, and that’s another reason tyrants fear them. Certainly if you’ve ever seen a dictator or would-be dictator style themselves a writer and artist while promoting their obviously poor and shallow works, you know they crave that completion, that artifact showing triumph.

I think this is for three reasons.

First, creative people are DRIVEN. It is often inspiration and passion. It may involve the creative ego which is remarkably productive. But the sheer drive of creative people can keep them going in the fact of kings and despots – even if that creativity is peppered with rage and hate.

Secondly, creative people can leverage their creativity to get things DONE.They figure out ways to manage their time (or mismanage it really well). They seek ways to get their work complete. Really good creative peoples get creative about their time management.

Third and finally, creative people can be creative about how to get work OUT. They will self-publish. They will make pamphlets. They will distribute files to twenty different e-book publishers. If you are old enough like me and remember the old ‘zine days or the early internet, you know what creatives will do even without modern tools.

So don’t just apply your creativity against the tyrant and the despot. Appreciate how your creativity drives you to finish, finds ways to complete your world, and get your work distributed. Embrace your creativity as it lets you realize itself.

And it makes kings and emperors afraid.

Steven Savage