‘C’ words: finding a balance
January 26, 2013 § 1 Comment
I was reminded recently of the unbalanced nature of the creative object. Whether it be a painting, film, comic strip, short story or podcast, there is an astronomical difference in the amount of time it takes to create something and the amount of time it takes to consume it. The difference in time is so great that after an extended period of consuming, having to create something just seems too big an undertaking, and almost fruitless. Now that the internet has given us millions of entertainment options and a seemingly endless stream of new content that’s uploaded at a rate faster than any individual could ever hope to keep up with, what’s the value in adding one’s voice to the incessant roar?
It’s a good excuse, isn’t it? The process of creating takes too long and there’s too little reward. I’ve almost talked myself out of ever having to write/draw/paint/edit/record anything ever again.
It’s true that the amount of time it takes to create something never correlates with how long it takes for someone else to consume it, but measuring in units of time seems wrong because that’s not how people usually assess an experience. There’s a level of engagement that occurs – or at least, that’s the hope – and one can’t put a value on that. One can’t measure what one takes away from an experience, and that’s where the justification lies in all that effort. That’s why we keep on making on.
I’m having a hard time accepting this little corner of the internet as my own, as I would a new notebook or journal. There’s a finality here that makes being comfortable difficult. In wanting each blog update to be something of substance, I’m dismissing ideas before they’re fully formed, and so, overwhelmed by the self-imposed pressure to do a good job all the time, I return to consuming – reading, watching, listening…
Robert Pagliari contends that the worst thing about consuming is that it prevents us from creating. I think Pagliari’s article has a touch of the dramatic about it, especially when he suggests that exposure to other people’s ideas is detrimental because they influence our perceptions in such a way that we are not ourselves anymore, but rather receptacles of other people’s ideas, but I am inclined to agree that consumption in excess can prevent creation.
In opposition to Pagliari’s view, Len Kendall explains that he has to consume in order to find the inspiration to create. Consuming helps him connect ideas, thus sparking his creativity. Rather than seeing exposure to the ideas of others as a negative, he holds the view that ‘everything is a remix‘. Similar to the theory that only seven basic plots exist; everything is just a (conscious or unconscious) reworking of what has gone before.
There’s value in consuming, but, I would argue, only in relation to what comes of it. The creation doesn’t necessarily have to be tangible; it might be in the form of a thought-provoking conversation starter or an attitude. The latter’s the reason why I indulge in The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, for example (allow me this one delusion). We become the combination of what we consume; we take it all in, we filter, turn it this way and that, and maybe, if we’re lucky, do something with it – add, substract, appropriate, sample – releasing ideas back into the ether where the cycle continues.
Matching the amounts of energy and time one puts into consuming with that spent creating is a balancing act, one that I am still struggling with. But I have to wonder whether that will ever change. I suspect that I’ll always feel as if there’s something more I could be doing, no matter how skewed the scales might be in productivity’s favour.
Luckily, a guilty conscience is a wonderful motivator.