Creation vs. Consumption

There’s this idea going around that we create, curate, or consume*. Implicit in this assumption for many is that that list is in descending order of importance – or even virtue. It’s most virtuous, of course, to create. Who doesn’t want to be a creator? And if you can’t (or don’t want to) create, then at least curate, which involves actively engaging with the media. If nothing else – if you simply can’t be bothered – then you can consume. But we (the intelligent, the connected) are going to think you’re just a wee bit less smart than we are. Nothing personal. You still have time to go and create something, you know.

If you can’t write a video game, then at least you curate your collection based on data that would be of the most public good. If you can’t even do that, then I guess you can play a video game, but wouldn’t it be a better use of your time to ride a bike? (Insert your medium of choice here)

Setting aside the sheer falseness of this hierarchy of public good**, let’s just concentrate on “creating.” What do you need to create? An idea and (optionally) skill. Where do you get ideas? Inside your head. Where do you get skills? From first watching, then practicing.


Hang on a sec. Doesn’t that make consumption a requirement for creation? Else how do you learn skill? And let’s take a look at ideas, too. They come from the inside of your head, sure. But how do you get them? You form opinions based on what you’ve consumed.

For the past two years, I’ve been waiting to start my Grand Life Plan. The first thing I chose was reading my To Be Read pile: complete and unapologetic consumption. Still, I feel pressured to create instead of consume. To engage with the works in some manner that isn’t just enjoying them.

But here’s the secret: there were no ideas in my head.

I’m an off-again, on-again writer, like many of my other hobbies. Had I gone to the well as soon as I finished school, there would have been nothing there but dry, cracked flagstones. In order to replenish that, I needed to consume. I needed to take in, to have something to engage with, to rekindle the spark of Awen that had been extinguished by rote schoolwork.

The precedence of creation over consumption has implications for more than hobbies, of course. Is planning time less important than execution during a project? Is training and development time less important than time spent doing the tasks you need to complete? Is research and active learning less important than the paper you write to synthesize the information?

Is passive time spent consuming really more important than consumption?

* I’ve also seen it as “creation, consumption, and communication, oddly enough. But I think only marketers think that way.

**I know that’s a big issue. I’m a weightlifter; I can handle it.