Creator Trapped in a Consumer Body

UPDATED ON APR 27, 2023 : 688 words, 4 minute read — PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT

TL;DR: Find out whether you default to consuming or creating. Bias yourself towards action, Stop reading about creating and start doing it. Not watching TV does not mean you’re productive.

I am a creator trapped in a consumer’s body.

Some people are consumer by nature; they consume vast quantities of knowledge purely for learning’s sake. Others are producers; they consume knowledge with the intent of one day acting on the knowledge and producing something, be it a book, a song, a blog, a startup, etc… Neither is better than the other1.

The key is to answer one question: which are you?.

Years of experience 🔗︎

After reading the quote from Rob Walling, the dots connected. I have so many ideas I want to bring into reality, but my default state is to explore and read. I have over a decade of experience consuming with the intention of creation, but never taking the plunge. Hundreds of hours were spent learning how the best miniatures painters operate without ever lifting a brush. There is a a collection of small electronics parts, books, and tools in the closet, yet I never completed the circuit. Whether it’s from analysis paralysis or something else, the outcome is the same.

Lying to Myself 🔗︎

Spending a bunch of time consuming isn’t a bad thing, so long as you aren’t fooling yourself into thinking it’s making the same progress as if you were getting your hands dirty. I eliminated TV shows and social media from my schedule, so I had convinced myself I was so significantly more productive. Weirdly though, I wasn’t producing any more than before. The reality was I just changed the form of media I was passively consuming to Medium articles, self-help books, and learning material for whatever project currently had my fancy rather than dealing with the consumption itself. In some ways this is worse, since at least when watching fail compilations on YouTube I can’t pretend I’m being productive.

Consuming information should be done intentionally. What’s the point of reading books on personal growth if you won’t act on anything you read? It’s fine if that’s just your cup of tea to relax and read, but it shouldn’t be a stand in for actual progress. Part of the danger is you often think you are capable of more than you actually are since you haven’t had to put any of your learning to the test. It’s like reading flash cards about math to prepare for a test without doing any problems to find out you don’t understand it.

Letting the creator out 🔗︎

Since I have a burning desire to create that is at odds with my natural tendencies, to make any progress I have to enlist some help. Willpower ain’t gonna cut it. I need to set up systems and guard rails in my life so I can stay the course.

The first step was recognizing my default tendency. The second was realizing I have been fooling myself with fake productivity, and need to keep an eye out. My current plan consists of:

  • Enlisting the help of Cal Newport’s idea of Deep Work so the time I devote to tasks is quality
  • Using Pomodoro timers. This is breaking work into 20-30 minute chunks with breaks in between. The breaks force me to step out of rabbit holes I can go down and notice that’s what I’m doing.
  • Write one page in a journal every day, doesn’t matter what it says as long as it fills. The idea is just to keep myself from having a 0 day for creation. Every day I have that minimum bar set, and as long as you aren’t at zero you’re still moving forward.
  • Biasing myself towards action. If there’s a question of whether I should find more resources to consume, assume no and just start taking action.

This will be constantly evolving as I find out new ways to spend more time creating and less time consuming.

  1. This quote is from an article that does not appear to be on his site any longer, ‘The Single Most Important Career Question You Can Ask Yourself’  ↩︎

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