In order to be a good creator (an artist, or writer, or singer, or anything in-between) you have to be a good consumer too.
It can sound counter-intuitive, to spend time consuming instead of creating. The very act of not creating goes against the rules of a creative’s life, but to really be creative you need sources to pull inspiration from, like tinder to a fire. Fuel to burn. Part of that “fuel” you burn when you create is what you’ve built up during your down time.
When you catch a movie producer reading a good book, instead of sitting in the studio going over storyboards, he may be consuming on the face of things, but he’s also creating. He’s creating new ideas, opinions, and perspectives. He’s building up the fuel he needs to go back into his studio and do the work he needs to do.
The hard part of consuming for any creator is to know when it’s consuming for the sake of building up creative fuel, or when it’s consuming simply for the sake of consuming (which is another word for procrastination).
When an artist is caught daydreaming in front of a television, the laugh track from an episode of 30 Rock playing loudly in the room, the artist could be merely building up her creative fuel. If, however, there’s a painting in the other room that has to get done, and that has been sitting there untouched for several hours, it’s possible that the artist is procrastinating, not building up her inspirational tinder.
The real trick to consuming is knowing the right things to spend your time with. If you want to make something great, you’ll need to spend time consuming great things.
If you throw a bunch of wet, gnarled logs onto a fire, the fire will die. If you throw good, dry wood onto a fire, it will soar. So when you’re consuming, be sure to first consider the quality of what it is you’re taking in, your creativity will be reflective of it.
It’s alright to spend time consuming – to read a good book, catch the latest movie, go out for wine with friends, etc. – just be weary of times when you’re procrastinating instead of feeding your creative fire, and always be mindful of the quality of experiences you consume.
Photo by Sundaram Ramaswamy.