Balancing consumption and creation

As I’ve come to a time in my life where I desire to create more than anything else, many of the habits formed in the past five years are a detriment to that. I struggle greatly to focus on one task for any length. Even if I achieve that focus, I still find myself switching spaces, letting my thoughts drift to other subjects, my fingers seeking that source of new input.

Chris Bowler, in an interview with Ian P. Hines, Intrvws, 27 April 2011.1

There’s a constant need for those who create to balance consumption and production. Both go hand in hand, but especially with smartphones and the Internet, it’s increasingly easy to get stuck consuming. As Chris says, Twitter is the best example of this “tension.”

But one could spend a lifetime consuming and only scratch the surface of all the quality content that exists, and in the process, little of it would get the attention it deserves. One must accept that it’s impossible to keep up with all the content being produced, especially when it takes time just to discover what’s worth an investment of further time and attention. But if the web is treated not like a book that must be read from beginning to end, but like a magazine,2 then the overwhelming amount of content becomes not a burden, but an opportunity. It’s not easy to let go of the idea that we’re somehow missing out, but much more is missed by getting lost in consumption.

Accepting our finiteness allows us to take control, and to “seek depth,” which is Chris’s advice to both readers and writers:

If you want to write, do as best you can. Take your time and digest your work before offering it to others. When you’re reading, take your time and do it thoroughly as well. Trim that reading list if you have to. Limit your input in order to give yourself time to digest, meditate, and create your own things. Whatever they may be.

  1. Via Shawn Blanc 

  2. Patrick is talking about Instapaper, but I think the same principle can be applied more broadly. 

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