I often read the expression ”Stop Consuming, Start Creating”. Sometimes on Twitter sometimes on Medium. It seems it appears on every platform. It has some truth to it, but it remains a black-or-white fallacy.
Those articles preach the idea that consuming is a bad thing and that we should all be “doers”. They are usually followed by a call-to-action inviting you to buy products that will enable you to realize your wildest dreams. Don’t be fooled, it’s oversimplifying motivational bullcrap.
The truth is that there is no such thing as consuming and/or creating. What is the first law of chemistry you learn at elementary school? Conservation of mass: in nature, nothing is created, nothing is lost, everything changes. What we call creation is nothing but a transformation of what we consume.
I’m not saying you should indulge in shallow consumption. You have to consume in an intent to create, or out of curiosity to open yourself up to new ideas. It’s not the same as consuming ephemeral content. You need content that will take your stomach some serious digestion work. Great creators are great consumers who managed to breed several ideas together to result in a new innovative one. James Altucher calls it Idea Sex. Picasso, Jobs, or Stravinsky call it Good Artists Copy, Great Artists Steal.
Don’t trust me? Have a look at some masters we all appreciate. Tarantino watched tons of movies during his youth and regularly comes back to them for inspiration. When you watch a Tarantino movie, you can always find great ideas that often come from the work of other directors, but with his own personal twist. Picasso started Cubism after being inspired by African art. Bob Dylan was a huge fan of Arthur Rimbaud, you can feel the influence in some parts of his huge career. The list goes on and on…
Senses are meant to consume content, external stimuli created by your environment. You have to learn to produce, and you have to learn to consume. It’s a balance. Only then can you truly create.
You can be a doer. You can be a maker. It doesn’t mean your work will have any worth, so don’t auto-congratulate yourself, and don’t mock “consumers”. You won’t have anyone to create for otherwise.