As a creator, do you create more than you consume? Are you constantly in production mode, cranking out your craft 24/7? If you live a creative life, there’s a good chance you have at some point. Especially those creators whose primary income depends on it. But creative wells run dry. We need to find new reservoirs to feed our creativity. And that’s why consuming art is just as important as creating it. Our creative inputs drive our creative outputs.
I often find myself staring at my computer, trying to create something. I’ll write a few words for an adventure. Start a new map. Brainstorm a new project. Then scroll on Twitter. Rinse. Repeat. The truth is that there’s not much inspiration or creativity in those moments. I’m trying to force it but it doesn’t work. Even if a good idea somehow scribbles its way onto paper, it’s not one I’m excited enough about to finish. It’s a frustrating cycle.
The antidote for me is consuming more and creating less. Watching new television shows or movies. Reading new books. Listening to music. Looking at real art (fuck NFTs). Feeding my mind the creativity I’m looking to produce.
While it’s important for creators to consume art similar to theirs (a painter looking at paintings or a TRPG designer reading fantasy novels), it’s important to “broaden your horizons” and allow more inputs from other art forms. I create content for D&D. Reading fantasy novels is an easy way for me to find inspiration. But I also read and watch science fiction stories. This brings in a different sort of inspiration that I can use. Take it a step further. I watch social issue TV dramas (and an unhealthy amount of CoComelon). Each of these brings something different to the table (except maybe CoComelon) in terms of inspiration. This strengthens creative output.
Being Intentional With Creative Input and Output Time
If you’re anything like me, you’ll stop your creative input as soon as inspiration strikes. For example, if I’m watching the Wheel of Time series on Amazon, I might see something that inspires my own worldbuilding. At that moment, I’m tempted to turn off the TV and open my computer to start creating. Sometimes this works. But most times it doesn’t. Those seeds of inspiration need time to grow. They need extra thought and effort put into them. At that moment, they’re just seeds.
To avoid this temptation, I keep a small notepad and pen nearby at all times. When inspiration strikes, I’ll stop what I’m doing and write a short note so I can remember it later. Almost like a to-do list for the next time that I sit down to create. Then I’ll resume my creative input. Finishing the TV series, the book, the movie, etc. This helps keep creative input and output times intentional.
We all feel down or burnt out as a creator at some point. In those times, we can feed our creative minds by consuming more and creating less. It’s even more powerful when it’s intentional.