creating beats consuming

it is really hard to consume and create at the same time

We are meant to be both creators and consumers. Today, however, most people consume far more then they create. Part of the reason for this is because being both a consumer and a creator at the same time is very difficult, and because goods and services have never been more accessible. But a healthy life is one that balances both creation and consumption.

Consumers vs. Creators
When you consume you are often appreciating other’s work.  You eat, watch movies, visit nice places, read books, and party. You vegetate to the sounds of your favorite musical artist on a wonderful couch while surfing Facebook on your beautifully designed laptop.

Creators do just the opposite: they strive to make something that others (or their future self) will appreciate.  Creators toil, try different things, fail, and try again.

People were Born to Create
People need to create and they need to have a creative outlet. Creating things lets us use our imagination, add value, provide a sense of accomplishment and ownership, and is both rewarding and satisfying.

Media,85812,en This is why children enjoy drawing, painting, and making arts and crafts so much. This is also the reason why people in start-ups are generally much happier than people at large institutions – smaller companies give people the freedom to create and have fewer restrictions.

There is nothing more satisfying than creating something. In fact, the fastest way to kill someone’s soul is to subject them to a life where they can no longer create.  But because of our natural tendencies to be creators, this is hard to do: even in the Soviet gulags and Nazi death camps, prisoners found ways to remain hopeful by making intricate designs in their imagination.

In general, creating things tends to be more rewarding than consuming things:

Writing beats reading.
Painting beats viewing.
Giving beats receiving.
Playing beats being a spectator.
Composing beats viewing.
Trying (and failing) beats complaining.
Cooking beats eating.
Lending beats borrowing.
Coding beats pretty much everything.
Yes, creating beats consuming.

Gluttony The greatest threat to our creative nature is ourselves. Today, many people are intentionally compromising creation by living lives focused on consumption.  This is because it is so much easier to consume in today’s world than in the past: wonderful goods, services, and experiences are so readily available.  This does not bode well for society’s long-term outlook and my guess is that few things can be worse for your physical and mental health. 

This is not to say that consuming isn’t important. It is. Consumption and appreciation play a central role in our lives.  But most people need a diet of more creation and less consumption.

Here are some simple tips to help fight the move towards an even greater consumption-oriented society.

How to Create More:

Kids-cooking2 Think of things you would like to create
– Instead of focusing on what you are going to consume, focus on what you want to create. You will be much more likely to follow through with something if you are passionate about it and/or have been meaning to do for a while.

2.    Start with small creation goals – Setting small goals can help break-in your creativity engine and to build momentum. This can include painting a wall, trying to cook a new dish, setting up a website, starting a blog, writing a story, and more. Don’t worry if the end result is not perfect, the idea is just to start creating.

3.    Consume Less – Because we are programmed to either consume or create within any given timeframe, consuming less will actually help you create more. But instead of consuming less immediately, set realistic and manageable goals to cut back on consumption.  If you are going to spend money on luxury, I would suggest you focus on things that buy you time rather than getting yourself more stuff.

4.    Surround yourself with creators – Perhaps one of the most effective ways of becoming more of a creator is to seek out and surround yourself with other creators. By doing so, you will talk about creating more often, get more ideas for creations, and have a reinforcing support circle.

20 thoughts on “creating beats consuming

  1. Greg Fodor

    This also might be why it’s more fun to give gifts than receive them. Even if you didn’t physically create the thing you are giving as a gift, you *are* creating the “gift experience” itself, through your choice of gift and how, when, and to whom you give it.
    And of course, if you *do* create the gift itself (such as a sculpture, poem, or drawing), or buy something made by an artist, craftsman, writer, or musician that has a name and a face, that gift becomes even more meaningful and fun to give.

  2. Mark Chang

    This is a really well done and uplifting piece. thanks so much for writing!

  3. James S

    If you’re serving others, you’re going to be creating more than consuming…. there’s an ethical, even spiritual question lurking just under the surface…

  4. Anju Rupal

    Thx Auren, liked this and agree “creating is the essence of a fruitful life”.
    Don’t agree with “Cooking beats eating” though 🙂

  5. Molly Cantrell-Kraig

    I think of creating and consuming as respiration: creating is exhalation; consuming inhalation. Each must exist for the other to thrive, but as you say, balance is key.
    When I create, I find that my cells are thrumming and I am engaged on many levels. When I consume, different neurons are activated.
    Thanks for making me think. Best, M.

  6. mckra1g

    I think of creation and consuming as respiration. Creation is exhalation; consuming, inhalation. One is kinetic energy; the other potential and each makes the other possible.
    When I create, I feel engaged and energized. Conversely, when consuming, another set of neurons fires: sensory of a different sort. Appreciation, recharging.
    I appreciate the forum; thanks for making me think. Best, M.

  7. Andrew Boer

    You know what is interesting: there seems to be an active trend of people who are willing to pay money (consuming) to do activities that simulate creating, but aren’t actually creating.
    Everything from: paint your pottery stores (simulated art), Guitar Hero (simulated music creation) and participating/commenting in social media (simulated writing). My kids like a video game called Cooking Mama where they pretend to cook.
    But you are absolutely right about creation — the only possessions I truly value are those I either created myself, or others created for me.

  8. Javi Valca

    Nice article especially considering that our culture is headed more towards the consumer side lately. This fact should be pointed out in schools everywhere from a young age.

  9. Jacqueline

    Agreed! Thank you for this, Auren. I really appreciate your clear and succinct writing style and attention to actionable ideas!

  10. kate

    oh, man, was this just what I needed today! Sometimes the hardest part of creating is just getting started, not worrying what the end result will be, or stressing over mistakes or what others might think, just jumping in and doing it. This post has energized me to jump back in and create this afternoon, thanks!

  11. Bob Zeitron

    Thanks Aureen, you are effectively not only a creator but also an original thinker! Very much enjoyed this piece. I am a very poor consumer, which probably balances my limited creativity too (many different ways to reach equilibrium!), though I would give (personnaly) a lot of value to the emotional value creation you can invest in by supporting your friends, family being cnostructive at work and be helpful to others.
    But I cannot agree more and would point to a more general point:Life and Nature are about balance, in all aspects. And all excessive desequilibrium end up being readjusted, usually violently when it is of Nature’s own making or at a global level (wars), if rapid correction fails. So definiteively agree on the need to consume less as it will be challenging to get people to create, but itsn’t it then also about the geographical imbalance that does adjust this imbalance, but that is also slowly reblancing with the current economic crisis and as high growth country want to consume more! So still have a problem!

  12. Carol M Langford

    Auren, this is true unless you are a true introvert, according to the Meyers Briggs analogy test. Since around 80% of the people in this world are extroverts, it is hard for them to see that reading can beat writing sometimes. I am a writer and a reader, and a true introvert. However, I give speeches, teach large classrooms, etc. because I have adapted to an extroverted world. Introverts create a world in their own minds. I am also INTJ (introvert, intuitive, thinking, judging) – less than 10% of the population is that and they are about 90% men. We tend to consume, but we make money if we learn how to do it by being true to our introverted selves. Then, we can donate money to good causes.
    Take the test online if you can find it. There is a great book called “The Millionaire Code” and it consists of the test, and what it means for your career and life. It takes each combination and gives a summary if the qualities people with that combination possess. It is the best book I have ever read that explains what Meyer’s means for your life’s choices. And it is really easy to read; not scientific and boring.

  13. Einat Wilf

    It’s great to hear from you. Thank you for sending me this very sweet article.
    Of-course I completely disagree that “Writing beats reading. Painting beats viewing. Giving beats receiving. Playing beats being a spectator. Composing beats viewing. Trying (and failing) beats complaining. Cooking beats eating.”
    I’ve done all of the above and both sides of the equation have their pleasures! Neither beats neither.

  14. David Friedman

    Love your insight…its actually a theological proposition that we in fact are creations, created by someone else to be creators ourselves made in His image, to be creators like our Father 🙂
    As the Torah says, Genesis, “In the beginning, He created the Heavens and the Earth.” The first act of the Hebrew Bible is about creation and the very first line which introduces the reader to this person, God Almighty, is about him creating things.

  15. YLan Boureau

    I wonder if sometimes it’s not even more basic than creating vs consuming –just moving, doing vs being passive. The sheer joy of banging a piano is far from the purer joy of actually playing it, but still pretty much beats consuming. Running vs sitting on a couch. After all, brains and nervous systems seem to be basically have the purpose to allow motion – you’ve heard that story about the little shell animal that starts its life looking for a good spot, then fixates to it and proceeds to digest its brain and live the rest of its life without that newly-useless organ.

  16. Susan Bratton

    Great blog post about creating vs. consuming. I have a “deal” with my daughter (13). She is allowed to be on the Internet as much as she wants, as long as 50% of the time or more is focused on creating content, rather than consuming it.
    She creates videos, photo uploads… all kinds of content and has become a very facile multimedia maven. It’s much better than watching TV.

  17. Suzanne Lainson

    This is why I think the music industry is headed for more shocks. Right now the artists/bands are being told that in today’s market what they need to do is find their “1000 fans” or their “tribe” who will gather around them and financially support them. But those “people formerly known as fans” are being given the necessary tech tools to create their own music. They are finding out that it is fun. Now the market is being flooded with that many more music makers. That’s good for society, but not so good for people who think of themselves as professional music makers who can sell their services.
    I envision a world where we’ll all be music creators to one degree or another and we’ll play for and with our family, friends, and neighbors. We’ll need day jobs to pay our bills, but we will share the joys of making music. The democratization of the arts (with outlets like YouTube) are allowing all of us to participate in the creative process. Not everything we do will be great, but that isn’t the point. We’ll at least feel creative.


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