December 13, 2011

Creating and Consuming

I started maintaining this blog as a vehicle for practicing my writing and creating content on demand. It's actually a really convenient format for such pursuits, and I will recommend the idea to junior grad students that ask for some advice. I expected to struggle with finding a writing voice (an ongoing process) and coming up with ideas to consistently turn into posts. Naturally, I didn't foresee everything. One unexpected result, so far, is the effect having a more clearly defined "creating time" outside of normal working hours has had on my daily routine.

I'm starting to see my activities as either creative or consumptive. That is, at any given moment, I'm either creating original content of some form, or I'm consuming content created by someone else. For example, as a grad student I may set up an experiment, analyze data, draw a figure or prepare a presentation. Those are all creative tasks. On the other hand, I also read the literature and listen to presentations from colleagues. Those are consumptive tasks. Note that I'm not using the word creative to mean "clever," but simply something that produces new content, which may be total crap or pure gold.

Outside of work, a similar distinction can be made. Writing this post is creation; reading your posts is consumption. Commenting on your posts is creation; reading your comments is creation. Watching kittens on YouTube is consumption; filming your cats for YouTube is creation. I never really looked at my actions this way until I started writing here. I'm not sure why, but finding myself attempting to create regularly in a space I previously only consumed certainly played a role.

Some acts of creation more illicit than others

Here's the great conclusion I've come to so far: creating original content is hard. Count me among the billions who have said "Ah, I could do that if I only tried" to something that I might be able to do, but severely underestimated the amount of effort and time that went into the creative process. Furthermore, it's very easy to burn out on creation. I originally thought it'd be great to put up daily posts, but that would come only at the compromise of quality, and I'd eventually stop. At some point, I need to consume some other people's content for both a break and inspiration.

That brings me to my final point: a schedule is creation's friend. I admit I'm pretty terrible at keeping a regimented schedule. Between procrastination and anti-authoritarian impulses, I'll find a way to do anything other than what I scheduled. But I'm trying, I'm really trying, by using very loosely defined "creating blocks" and "consuming blocks" without getting too specific with what needs to get done in that time period. Hopefully this solves a lifelong issue for me: without a set time for creation and a set time for consumption, I burn out after a short period of time. Then I find myself believing I could do anything, if I only tried.


  1. Your blog always puts me in a pensive mood. I agree with the points that you make... being creative is a lot harder than regurgitating existing things. Heck, even most of the unique ideas out there are just remixes of earlier things.

  2. Just dropping by.


  3. Bah I just post once a day and act like a loon, makes things easier..haha But yeah it is hard sometimes to come up with original stuff.

  4. I like to keep it spontaneous, i work better under pressure

  5. I can sort of relate to this. I'm constantly thinking of blogposts on the go and try to have a week's worth of post typed up in my head.

    And if this could help me prep for grad school, all the better.

  6. I enjoy your posts. Keeeeeep on posting :)


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