I know that I’m happiest when I’m in the core of creativity—when I’m making something. But I often find myself spiraling outwards, too often out to the “collect” orbit. It’s excessively easy to look at other people’s work these days and when doing it for long enough, push yourself into a bad space creatively. Jealousy, desire—or depression in the worst case. But even best case I’m adding more ideas to the long list of things-I-want-to-try-doing-but-haven’t-done-yet.
So I “curate” the stuff I’m collecting—keeping “inspiration” Tumblrs, posting to Pinterest, emailing links to friends, Twittering about how “my mind just got blown” by this “epic and amazing” project. I feel like I’m participating in creative culture, so it feels less self-indulgent than merely “collecting” images, and more like I’m accomplishing something. But for this reason this orbit might be more insidious than “collect” since I can fool myself into thinking I’m truly “making” something. Obviously “secondary research” (browsing the web) is important to staying inspired/current/relevant/etc but it’s still not really doing or supporting creative work.
"Consumption"—actually exchanging value (money, attention, time) for creative output (whether they be physical or experiential)—is the most authentic way to engage in other’s creativity. It’s so easy to feel like I’m swimming in other people’s work—I stream music all day, I look at designed objects, I reblog art, I read critical articles on culture—but when was the last time I went to a gallery opening? When did I last buy a record? When did I last go to Quimby’s? Damn, I haven’t been out to a show in a while. Why do I keep putting off reading some fiction, but instead choose to obsessively keep up on my Instagram feed? “Consumption” as a word gets a bad rap, but in the case of creativity, it’s too easily forgotten in the age of free online media. We swim in an infinite sea of stuff, but the side benefits of actually taking the time to engage it in the physical world is easily overlooked.
At the core of it all is “create”—making and doing my own work. Obviously this takes the most effort, especially in the case of creating a body of work or a serious exploration of a project. But there’s also a case for regular “creative interventions”—daily forced output of something small. These interventions are perhaps best positioned to disrupt the easy distraction of looking at other’s work, to stop myself before I get too deep in my Tumblr feed. In the end, creating and broadcasting my own work to others better fulfills me, and acts as its own self-fulfilled inspiration.
Obviously I think a modern creative needs to orbit in all of these rings at some point in the day, but the key is being aware which one you’re in, how long you’ve been there, and what you ultimately get from it.
As you move away from the core, less effort is required. As you move closer to the core, more personal reward is gained.