I want to talk about a pattern in my life that’s been unfolding over the past several years — a pattern I’ve only recently become aware of. Slowly (so slowly I didn’t notice!) I’ve been making the shift from consumer to producer.
I started this blog more than a year ago and, at the time, I thought I would start writing again. I thought I would start writing regularly (I imagined myself writing poetry and stories, not essays) and publishing those stories and poems on my blog.
But it didn’t work out that way.
I do write regularly these days, but the blog post I publish each week are nothing like the creative pieces I had initially imagined.
Instead, my blog drifted from poetry and stories to essays and my creative writing practice (although it has experienced periods of productivity) has, more often than not, floundered.
Creativity and building a creative writing practice is a subject I’ve devoted any number of blog posts to, and yet it’s still not a code I feel I’ve cracked.
I feel like I know all the things to do creatively and yet I never actually do them.
In other words, I often feel like a creative failure.
And yet, there’s a thought that’s been percolating in the back of my head for the past couple of weeks — a thought about making the shift from consumer to producer.
What exactly do I mean when I say “the shift from consumer to producer”?
Increasingly I am convinced that creativity happens in the margins, in the pauses and the white space we build into our lives. And in today’s hyper-connected, always “on” culture — consciously cultivating white space is getting harder and harder.
And I’m not just talking about the seven TV shows you follow religiously (my number back in the day).
There’s actually two different kinds of consumption:
- There’s the physical, tangible stuff we consume — the news articles, the blog posts, the podcasts, the TV shows, the books, etc.
- But there’s also the intangible stuff — the stuff we don’t so much buy as buy in to. These things are the stories we tell about what people are supposed to do, who a person is supposed to be, what daily practices and habits a person is supposed to cultivate.
In my experience, it’s this second kind of consumption that’s most toxic to creativity.
For every bad habit of tangible consumption I’ve cut out (the food blogs with recipes I never cooked, the health blogs that left me feeling more anxious than I started, the writing blogs that reminded me daily that I wasn’t writing enough, the hours of TV I used to numb myself on weekends so that I didn’t have to feel my own discontent), I’ve bought into a half-dozen new stories about how TV is a waste of my time and how my writing practice should be a perfect expression of my creative soul and how my cooking is too utilitarian and my recipes should always be effortlessly delicious and look like art.
My inner perfectionist dive bombs into these stories about the perfect person I’m supposed to be — and the subsequent guilt of not living up to my own expectations entirely zaps my creative energy.
My white space is still filled… just not with physical clutter so much as clutter of a different, more poisonous kind.
And I believe that in order to develop a sustainable creative practice you have to throw out *all* the clutter, in all of it’s various forms.
Creative brilliance begins in the blank moments and the empty spaces when you’re caught adrift somewhere between existence and boredom.
Whether your clutter is physical or mental, the end result is always the same: you’re busy filling in the blank stretches of your mental space.
And without that empty space there’s never going to be room for something new and beautiful to grow.
I’d love for this to be a conversation and not a monologue! Are you interested in making the shift from consumer to producer? Which kind of consumption do you struggle with more, the tangible or the intangible? Let me know in the comments below.