The Battle is Real: Consumption vs Creation

I seem to have fallen into somewhat of a slump with my regular blog post writing. There’s a lot of things I could blame this on:

  • The beautiful weather we’ve been having lately in Vancouver
  • My struggle to return to a regular 40 hour work week versus shift work (working 12-hour days for two weeks at a time, followed by a blissful two weeks off)
  • Netflix (have you seen El Casa de Papel? So good. But very hard to knit productively while reading the subtitles.)
  • A multitude of other interests and distractions

You see, lately I’ve come to the realization that there are a lot of (maybe even too many?) things that interest me. To name a few:

Creative writing, blogging, trail running, cooking ethnic foods, experimenting with kombucha, vegetable gardens, propagating succulents, investing, web and graphic design, geomorphology, natural dyeing, weaving, knitting, knitwear design, knitting machines, natural fibers, sewing, music, embroidery, philosophy, meditation, anthropology, behavioral economics, macrame …

Of course, that long list above is just a sample of what I’m interested in. It should also be noted that I haven’t actually experimented with all of the above things, but that they are all things that interest me and that I would love to experiment with in the future. Meaning that, much of my time spent on one topic could mainly consist of scrolling through Pinterest or Instagram while telling myself “This is going on my knit list” or “I wonder how I could make this?” or “This would make a perfect gift for [insert name of newborn here]!” See what I mean?

Too many hobbies, not enough time!

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I think Pinterest and Instagram are evil. But they, as well as many other social media apps (Facebook, Youtube, to name a few) provoke a tendency to consume instead of create.

These ideas (or should I say, one idea, as they are like two sides of the same coin) of consumption vs creation have taken over my mind lately. I’ve started to categorize my actions into one or the other. Am I passively consuming information (i.e. scrolling social media, reading a book, watching netflix) or am I actively creating something new (i.e. working on a knitting project, writing, brainstorming)?

The real challenge of it all (and this could be applied to so many aspects of life) is finding the balance. Although I wouldn’t go so far to say that creating is inherently “better” than consuming, society definitely veers towards a tendency of overconsumption. It could be argued that consumption is good, necessary even, for the economy. But just as valuable, if not more, is the generation of new ideas. This requires brain power. It requires looking at something old or mundane, and seeing it in a new light. Maybe it consists of creating a new flavour of kombucha, by combining the unique tastes of North American edible wildflowers  with a love of fermented beverages. Or maybe it involves taking that oh-so-gorgeous stitch pattern from this stitch dictionary and turning it into an intricately laced cowl. Whatever it is, it involves adding value in meaningful way to the world around us, versus appreciating the value provided by others.

But what ratio should we strive for? As much as I hate to admit it, I can’t deny that I consume much more frequently than I create. And judging by the amount the general population (myself included) is glued to their smartphone, I feel like many of us are in the same boat.

Some might liken the relationship of consumption and creation to the relationship of ‘give and take’. If that is the case, it would be easy enough to build a solid argument in favor of creating more than we consume. Of course, we don’t want to run ourselves dry, in which case finding a balance between the two is the closest we’ll most likely ever get to perfection. It’s sometimes all too easy to let the pressure build on ourselves, with the feeling that we’re not getting anything done, without stopping to reflect on all we’ve accomplished.

If any of the above sounds at all familiar to you, then I may have some advice.

Delete [insert name of time-wasting app on your phone here].

Okay, maybe that seems deceptively simple, or maybe you’re just so attached to that app (you know the one I’m talking about, wink wink) that you balk at the mere suggestion, but at least think about it. In my case, it was Netflix. Of course, if I was being 100% honest with myself I would have deleted Instagram too, but hey, let’s be reasonable here! I figure Netflix was still a pretty good start. And you want to know the best part? If I still had Netflix on my phone, I would most likely be listening to my favourite show right now and not writing this extremely thought-provoking post.

Side note: A distinction should be made between the passive consumption of mindless social media such as scrolling through your Facebook feed, and the passive consumption of something more “fulfilling” such as reading Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. But I’ll leave the nitty-gritty details of all that for another post.

And when you’re really feeling overwhelmed, sometimes it’s just nice to get outside and take a breather for some shinrin-yoku, like we did these past couple of weekends in Alice Lake Provincial Park and on the Diez Vistas Trail. Not sure if that counts as creativity or consumption … but it definitely left me feeling refreshed and inspired. 🙂

So are you a consumer? Or a creator? Or one of those lucky few who are somewhere blissfully balanced between the two?