Create vs Silence vs Consume

The search for the balance and harmony between the need to create, the silence that generates ideas, and the media consumption that inspires them.

As someone who often gets “stuck in a rut,” it’s often because I’m spending the majority of my time in the “consume” stage. And I don’t only mean watching Netflix (although that too). I’m talking about consuming inspirational content on YouTube, reading personal development books, researching solutions for technical or personal problems, admiring different forms of art, and so on.

Now, there’s value in consuming content when it’s inspirational.

But I’ve made a habit of “demonizing” media consumption (even the inspirational kind) because I get so frustrated that I’m not creating anything. I might have a bunch of “great ideas” for myself, but I’m not actually putting any time and energy into bringing them into reality.

Now, I don’t need to jump on every idea that I have, but there are genuine ideas that I believe would help me, or that I want to pursue, or want to develop and I am completely ignoring them.

And so I tell myself that it’s imperative that I stop watching YouTube, stop watching Netflix, stop enjoying games with friends, and stop scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest feeds.

I tell myself that so that I’ll hopefully actually DO something. Actually CREATE.

Written content.
Photographs.
Stories.
Personal projects.
More … progress in life.

Logically, that makes sense: do less dumb stuff, do more awesome stuff. The reality for me is much different. While it’s one part self-discipline (i.e., the lack of), simply cutting off content consumption isn’t enough, because consuming content is actually quite valuable.

Putting some of my time into “inspirational content” is what inspires me to do much bigger things in life. Watching talks by Tony Robbins and Gary Vaynerchuk, for example, will amp me up and put me in the mood to get shit done. Reading books about lifestyle design helps me to understand that there’s more than one path to an amazing life.

And I overlook that value quite a lot. I realize now that my problem is simply the ratio between consumption vs. creation. It’s not the content itself that is problematic.

I spend far, far, far too much time in the “consume” stage, and sometimes I have to switch it all off in order to actually generate anything. I’m “hyper inspired” and equally “hyper unproductive.”

That’s where the disconnect comes in. I have to be able to actually switch off that content, that media – all of it – in order to actually produce anything.

Some of my favorite creators talk about silence, sitting by yourself without all the distractions of the world. Facebook, Instagram, Netflix, and even books, friends and family, and other forms of inspirational stimulation.

Silence allows our subconscious minds to more proactively focus on finding solutions to our creative pursuits. It’s often when we’re not consciously creating something or consuming content that it’s able to generate an “aha! moment.” It’s oftentimes when we least expect it.

So how do we find the balance? I’m not sure. I don’t think there’s a perfect ratio between creativity, silence, and consumption. It’ll fluctuate depending on where we’re at in our pursuits. Some days, weeks, and months will require more consumption of media and inspiration. Others will require us to sit in silence, away from distractions. And other times we’re better off just creating non-stop for a stretch of time.

Personally, I find the most value out of “creation,” because I’ve done so little of it that I put a much higher ROI on it. I’ve spent so much time “consuming” and “becoming inspired” that I’m actually very frustrated that I’m not even spending 10% of my time creating and bringing my ideas to life.

So how do I cultivate creation, silence, and consumption?

Everyone has a different method to the madness, and I’m still figuring out what works best for me. I have no consistent rhythm. Maybe I’ll find it, maybe I won’t. So right now, I’m learning to figure out which “state” I need to be in, in a given moment.

Do I need to be in a state of creation and production?

This is where the idea to “create lots of crappy art” comes from. When I’m not making any progress right now, stop focusing on creating the perfect piece of content and just create. Take a bunch of little steps. I’m probably over analyzing what I should be doing, so much that I spend 3 weeks trying to figure out what to do.

When I could have instead spent 3 minutes just trying it and learning more in that same amount of time than “trying to figure it out.”

And sometimes when I need to create, sometimes I do have to pass through the stage of silence – disconnecting from all the stimulation so that I can get focused.

Do I need to be in a state of silence and and introspection?

If I’ve spent a long time being “inspired,” chances are that I need to turn it all off and stop consuming. This means I’ll either need to actually create something or give my mind the silent opportunity to generate ideas on its own.

And sometimes silence can mean watching TV or playing a game, and allowing my mind to wander. These are where some of those “aha! moments” happen.

Other times, it helps to simply sit by myself with nothing more than a pen and my notebook, letting ideas pour out of my mind. It’s without all the stimulation that I’m able to connect with “me.”

Do I need to be in a state of consumption and inspiration?

Then it’s okay to spend some time watching YouTube or admiring art on DeviantArt or Pinterest. Or spending some time reading personal development books.

Even if this is often the stage I get stuck in, it still has its importance: providing me with fuel and motivation to make a more exciting life.

Consuming content isn’t bad, like I was obsessed about thinking. I just need to find a better balance.

So what state is relevant right now? That’s the question I need to be asking, not telling myself to get off YouTube.