Be A Creator, Not A Consumer

Reclaiming Humanity In A Passive Age

I read too much. I also spend too much time listening to podcasts and music. And there are even times that I binge-watch TV shows (like the X-Files, Black Mirror, and Daredevil).

Consumption is our favorite activity in the 21st century. We wake up to push notifications bringing us the day’s news. We flip open Twitter to see what the president elect has said today, or what new cringe-worthy tweets have caused tidal waves of outrage. We click on the Youtube videos our buddies text us, and spend at least an hour sliding our fingers up and down our Facebook feeds so that we can be sure we’re up to date on what our friends (and that person we met at that party 5 years ago) are up to.

It’s a full time job staying up-to-date. We could live a hundred lifetimes and still not skim through all of the books or blog posts we want to read. We could be reincarnated with an extra set of eyes and still not watch all of the HBO, Netflix, and Amazon originals that catch our fancy. The fact of the matter is that we’re at a point in history where we can gorge on content indefinitely.

While this is good in many ways, it’s also a curse.

It’s a curse because I believe that the act of creation is our primary purpose. And, yes, in one sense we have more creators today than ever before. Before the advent of the Internet you only had a handful of individuals with movie equipment advanced enough to make a high quality film. Today, however, your iPhone has a camera that would make Charlie Chaplin envious. Each minute there are 300 hours of video uploaded to YouTube. That’s 2,628,000 hours each year. Since the average human lifespan only contains 672,000 hours, this means that there are four lifetimes of video content placed on youtube each day.

But even though there’s this explosion of content, it seems to primarily be produced by a very small group of prolific creators. It’s well known in the digital product design world that 1% of the users created 99% of the content. There’s even a name for this, The 1% Rule.

So even if there’s a true explosion of creation, I think that a smaller percentage of people are being active and creative than ever before.

This needs to stop. We need to rediscover our creative cores, and spend our time expressing our thoughts and dreams — in writing, drawing, painting, video, and photo.

The best person writing on this topic today is James Altucher. He recommends that we force ourselves to come up with 10 ideas each and every day. He writes his out on a waiter’s pad. I write mine in TextEdit on my Mac (or in a cheap legal pad I bought off Amazon).

Don’t like writing? Think that coming up with 10 ideas a day sounds too boring? Come up with 10 guitar riffs. Create 10 different drum beats. Draw out 10 different cool hats, or 10 different funny faces. Create, and record, 10 different 10 second monologues. Take 10 photos of fascinating textures in your environment.

Do 10 of anything. Project your mind outward. Force your perspective out into the world. Stop being a gigantic, passive vessel — collecting and consuming the ideas of others.

Create and express your own. Become fully human. The world is waiting for you.

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