How's Your Consume-to-Create Ratio Looking?
Somewhere in-between low and high camp along the Mardi trail in Nepal, I met a flute player.
He had come from Kathmandu to walk the trail with nothing but a small backpack and his flute. He was moving along the trail, from tea house to tea house, playing for no-one in particular. It was just him, his flute and the magnificent landscapes that surrounded him.
That night, he stood out in the rain, playing his flute, until his hungry stomach grumbled.
And all I could think was, I wish I was so passionate about my art, I'd stand in the rain for it.
When I tell people I write every single day, they often look really surprised. Even other writers will tell me how admirable it is. But I don't see it that way.
Writing every day doesn't mean that I'm creating anything with substance every day. Some days, it'll be a mix of emotions and thoughts, spat out on a piece of digital paper. Other days it's an article or a newsletter I publish. Sometimes it's even a personal memoir I keep hidden on my laptop. Some days, I can't get more than a few sentences out.
The point isn't what I create, but that I create.
When I stop writing every day, I strangely lose my need to write. I'd rather just scroll. But when my consume-to-create ratio is off, self-doubt start creeping in. I start feeling like I'm not good enough to deserve to write every day.
Which has made me realise, fuelling a creative passion by creating, is very different than fuelling it by consuming.
Writing every day doesn't make me a great writer. It makes me a determined writer – maybe even a passionate writer. Maybe not writing in the rain passionate, but passionate nonetheless.
The Consume-to-Create Ratio
Questioning how much we're consuming versus how much we're creating could actually help us create more. It's a way to hold ourselves accountable.
The truth is, consuming too much can be really bad for our creativity. Like everything in life, anything done accessively can be bad for us. But consuming has fast become a very big part of our lives. We do it without even realising we're doing it. I know I press the Instagram icon without even thinking about it. It's just become a force of habit when I open my phone.
So I'm making a change, for creativity's sake. I'm becoming more aware of how much I'm consuming, versus how much I'm creating, so my ratio is 1:1, at the very least. And I encourage you to do it too.
1. Create before you consume
It's taken me a long time to fully grasp this concept. Hell, to this day I still catch myself spending hours reading Man Repeller articles when writer's block strikes.
I've been telling myself that consuming good content inspires me to create good content. It makes sense, right? Scroll past a beautiful flatlay or read a striking article, feel inspired to create your own.
But does it really work that way?
For me, when I use reading as a way to cure my writers block, I'd never find myself any closer to writing. The only time I ever actually get words onto paper, is when I stop myself from consuming, I put some music on, and I sit down, determined to write.
The hardest part is just starting.
So remind yourself, you shouldn't need to consume content in order to create content.
2. Practising is better than consuming
Sure, you might get a better eye if you continue to consume. Writer's read, filmmakers watch, musicians listen – it's just what we do. But the only way you'll ever better your art, is by doing.
I really believe in the saying, practice makes perfect. I don't believe in perfection, but I believe when you do something enough, you'll eventually become good at it.
I don't even just believe in practising something until you're good. I've lived it many times before. I'm a self-taught photographer, designer, hell I'm even a self-taught writer! And there's nothing wrong with that.
Practicing means creating for the sake of creating.
When I tell someone that I'm busy writing, they'll usually give me a confused look and ask, what are you writing?
To them, just writing for the sake of writing is totally weird. This used to make me feel really uneasy, so I'd hide my writing time when no one was around.
But when I started talking openly about writing, that sometimes I just write because I love to write, and that I write about everything and anything, it became more normal. Not only for people around me, but for me too.
There's no shame in creating for the sake of creating.
3. Consuming clouds your judgement
When you consume more than you create, often you just recreate what you've seen. This can be ok to begin with when you're just learning your new art form, but copying will never get you far. You'll never be known for your craft, because someone else was there doing the same thing before you.
The artists that make a real difference in the world have created something original – something new and exciting. Something that people gravitate towards because they've never experienced it before.
And I'm not saying you need to be the next Uber or AirBnB. You don't need a brand new idea to be noticed. You just need to put a bit of yourself into your work.
You may be an art deco style designer, but even though there are probably hundreds of you, if you put enough of you in your work, it'll stand out.
But how do you but 'you' in your work? Well, this is a skill you learn by always creating. Eventually, it'll just happen naturally.
4. Find what your creativity craves
You know how children have the wildest imaginations? They can create just about anything with nothing but a bit of space to move around in. We need to find a way to un-tap that creative energy.
I've tried a lot of different ways to get out of a creative rut – and I've been in a lot of them over the years. I've found the most successful way to get back into writing, for me, is to travel.
But let's be realistic here, that's an expensive way to produce content.
The reasons travel works so well, for me at least, is because I get to switch off. I stop consuming all the content out there – the content that I genuinely love to consume. When I stop consuming, and I place myself in a new and exciting setting, my mind gets a break. It gets the chance to be curious and excited.
I think kids brains work in the same way. Their minds are free to be curious and to be excited about every moment, the way that travel excites our minds.
5. Tackling self-doubt
The sad reality is that we all suffer from self-doubt – even the most experienced and successful people out there.
Self-doubt is a serious downer. And it often comes from the content we're consuming. These days, it's so easy to compare ourselves to all kinds of people, all around the world.
So the very best way to seriously kick self-doubt in the butt, it to switch off and to do something new. This could be as simple as jumping in the car and going for a drive. Or going for a walk. Or even going to catch up with someone you haven't seen in a long time.
Switching off and breaking the cycle helps rejig your brain to think about something else.
And when all else fails, tell yourself it'll pass, and just get back to creating.
Seriously, creating is a form of therapy.
And so is laughter.
Do you ever think about your consume-to-create ratio? Leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts.