Consume Less, Create More.

This blog post has been sitting in my drafts for a while now. I’ve been too afraid to publish it – afraid to be seen as preachy or too self-helpy but I think the time to publish this is now. It’s written as much for me as it is for you.

I am guilty of it. Of consuming way more than I am creating. Consuming provides me with a sense of achievement – of “learning” something. Until recently, I didn’t realise I had it all wrong.

Consuming, in the context that I am using the word is consuming information – be it in form of books, blogs or videos. Creating in the context that I am using the word is, well, creating something – be it photographs, blog posts, videos or anything tangible.

There are many reasons to favour creation over consumption and everyone has a different take on it. But for me, it is very simple. It’s about legacy. Do I want to be remembered as someone who read a thousand books or someone who created a thousand beautiful photographs that touch someone after I’m no longer around? Do I want to be remembered for what I knew or the difference that I made with what I knew? For me, the answers to these questions are painfully obvious.

Two reasons why we consume too much.

  1. One of the reasons why we are consuming so much information is because it is encouraged in our culture. For example, we are encouraged to read a lot which in general is a good advice. However, problem with that is that when we consume the information in a book and then move on to the next book straight away, we don’t give time for what we learnt from the previous book to incubate.This leads to, for me at least, not retaining the information fully. Real retention happens when we create with what we consume. For example, writing a blog post and using what we read earlier as the fuel for that blog post. Consuming too much information in often means that very little is actually retained.This, incidentally, reminds me of a classic Homer Simpson dialogue.

    Homer: Every time I learn something new, a little of the old gets pushed out of my brain. Remember that time I took that wine making course and forgot how to drive?

    Marge: You were drunk!

    Homer: And how.

  2. Another reason why I think we consume so much is that there is so much information out there. Yes, that also means that lot of us are creating that lot of information but I’m afraid a lot of that is just plain noise – at least to our ears. It some may resonate with some, but not everything will resonate with everyone.

Currently, my RSS reader has 500+ blog posts in the queue for me to read. And it’s only taken few days of me not logging on for the queue to get to this number.

There is a lot of noise out there. Be intentional of the voices you listen to. Favour quality and depth of the voices over the number of voices.

Prolific writers, along with prolific photographers consume a lot. But they also have incredible energy to convert their consumption to creation. They churn out one blog post after another, one photograph after another. I’d make a guess that their consumption to creation ratio is probably around 50-50. For us mortals, the split between consumption and creation is probably 90-10.

To help relate this back to photography, consumption in photographic context ought to be the fuel for you to create. Consumption needs to fire your engines so you can get creating with what you are consuming.

For example, if we are sitting around reading books after books on photography, it’s time to head out to use what you are learning to create beautiful photographs. It may sound obvious but reading about photography is not same as doing photography.

If you have just finished reading a book on photography, do not immediately jump on to the next book about photography. Take time to create with what you learnt about photography from the previous book. That’s the best way to retain what you are learning.

Let consumption be your reward for creating. Bring the ratio back to 50-50.

Ultimately, to go back to the questions raised earlier in this blog post – do we want to be remembered as the person who read a thousand books on photography or as someone who created a thousand beautiful photographs?

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