Prioritizing Creating Over Consuming

Musings on creating before consuming and what it leads to.

I want to make things. That has been clear to me for most of my life. For years I wasn’t happy with my creative output, which led me to wonder what I was doing wrong.

About a year ago I stumbled across the thought of What if I prioritize creating over consuming? That question has been my guide when deciding what I spend my free time doing.

Do I want to read this book or write a novel?

Do I want to read this comic or draw a comic?

Do I want to watch this TV show or write a script for my own show?

Do I want to play this game or make on my own game?

Posing the question as consume this or create that makes it easy to decide. If my goal is to create more stuff, then the answer is obvious.

Priority means doing one thing before the other. That means creating something before consuming. Before reading at night, I make sure to have written, even if it is only for ten minutes. Writing something is more important to me than reading the next chapter in a book. And, most days, I have the time to create and consume, which is a win-win.

The challenge is that creating is almost always more challenging than consuming. For example, watching a TV show is easy. It requires little effort beyond sitting and staring. On the other hand, writing a script for a TV show is difficult. It requires learning the format and structure of a TV script. It requires imagining the characters, settings, and plot. It requires actually writing the damn thing.

I’d rather have written a script for a show that’ll probably never get made than watch a TV show. The feeling of creating is incredibly rewarding. When I got lost in what I am creating, it’s a surreal experience. I can picture the places and the characters. I can see the future. I can see the past. It’s surreal.

What I am talking about is prioritizing, not replacing. I am not advocating foregoing consumption any art or entertainment. Books, movies, TV shows, games, podcasts—they can be incredibly inspiring, entertaining, and educating. More often than not, something I consume gets my brain working in a way that gets me thinking and influences what I create.

It’s about creating before consuming.

Over the last three months, I have gotten a handle on prioritizing creating over consuming. Now begins the journey of trying to create things that people actually like.

About Ideas

Thoughts on ideas and how one stumbles across them.

Two days ago I spent my free time—walking, doing the dishes, prepping food—trying my damnedest to conjure up an idea for a short film. The thought of “I want to make a short film one day” crept into my mind, but without a concept, I couldn’t visualize what it would look like.

I looked for an idea in the leaves on the sidewalk, the houses that lined the streets, and the minutiae around my apartment. Nothing. That same night, I brushed my teeth and stepped into the shower. In that instant an idea popped right into my head. It wasn’t a concept that would make sense as a short film, but it was an interesting and inspiring idea. An idea worth exploring.

That’s how ideas work: when you try to conjure one up, they’re elusive. When you least expect it, they show up out of nowhere. It’s a special feeling, and it’s exhilarating when one shows up.

An idea has no inherit value though. Ideas don’t get you very far. Ideas are sparks that need to be used to light larger flames that can burn for more than just an instant. Taking an idea and fleshing it out is a wonderful feeling, but for the times when all you want is a new idea, it’s best to think about anything but.