Consuming vs. Creating

I wish I could find the exact quote; I read a book once, a good few years ago (I can’t even remember what book it was). I have no recollection what the book itself was even about, but I do remember this: the author quoted someone who said something like “if you aren’t actively creating, you’re just a consumer”. That simple, harsh truth really stuck with me.

Back then I realized that, for a variety of reasons at that particular moment in my life (okay… decade of my life) I was barely creating anything. I was solely consuming in all meanings of the word- consuming food, entertainment, and material goods mindlessly. I wasn’t using my creative mind in my job, in my hobbies, or in my day to day life. I was spending way too much time scrolling endless junk articles on my phone. I’d lost my teenage penchant for writing poems and playing with visual art.

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^Ignoring my friends for my phone? >.>

I don’t want to come off as preachy- technology is super useful, and we use our cell phones for so much more than distraction seeking. Plus, it’s fun and recharging to do mindless things once in a while, and I have abandoned the term “guilty pleasure” because if you love something, why should you feel guilty about enjoying it? Speaking of which, read this awesome blog post by @biblionyan on the topic of guilty pleasures!

But that’s the thing; this “guilty pleasure” pastime of scrolling and losing myself in click-bait wasn’t actually enjoyable for me. It was just a habitual, unfulfilling distraction I automatically turned to because it was easy and gave me a hit of dopamine.

I knew I wanted to spend more time creating again and really using my free time to learn new things and develop new skills, but for some reason this mindset just didn’t stick. I’d read an inspirational book, or watch a documentary, and feel motivated- for a couple of days. Then I’d fall back into the same stale routines.

Happily, I have now gotten to a place where I am creating and living so much more again. I am writing, drawing, painting, dancing, studying, traveling, and learning new skills like public speaking. I’m seeking out new opportunities rather than hiding from them. This has come about in the last two to three years. How did I get my creative spark back? Why hadn’t I been able to reignite it sooner?

My anxiety and depression were holding me back.

I unpacked about my struggles with anxiety and depression in a blog post recently, which you can read here. Long story short, after years of battling these issues, talking to counselors, and trying lots of methods unsuccessfully to manage, I finally tried medication prescribed by my doctor, and it helps me so much. Life is exciting and fun again. I feel like the old self I once knew and lost somewhere between adolescence and adulthood.

The passion for my job at the library, which I knew was lurking inside me, finally bloomed. I worked on building up my self-confidence from my lowest low. I started seeking out new opportunities instead of waiting to be asked. I began using my creativity more in work projects, and at home.

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Feeling lifted out of the muck, I sought out new hobbies: handbell choir, dance classes, sewing, yoga, cosplay, crafting, dabbling with ukulele, volunteering at the SPCA. I even helped out with some small roles in a local web-series created by-nerds-for-nerds. Speaking of which, my dorky fangirl self, who had been hiding in a sort of shame cave, fearing judgement of others, emerged proudly once again.

I started creating visual art again, something that I had largely abandoned in the height of my anxiety and depression. Before long it became a familiar habit. I get a regular urge to create art now, and when I get into my flow several hours can pass without my realizing.

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I’ve since started sharing my art in small local galleries & markets, and online. Sharing my art and creative projects with the world brings me joy.

I think that everyone has the capacity to be creative in their own way. Sometimes we get bogged down by a narrow idea of what “creativity” means, but we can be creative in so many different ways- at our jobs, around our homes, through the clothes and accessories we wear, or in our gardens, for example. Right now I am slowly but surely working on a goal of being more creative in the kitchen with baking and cooking.

Speaking of infusing creativity into our daily lives, recently I came across this extremely interesting Ted Talk by Ingrid Fetell Lee about the roots of joy.

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She presented her insights about some of the universal triggers of joy as discovered through studies of people all around the world- things like bright colours, soft shapes, fractal patterns, novelty, abundance, a feeling of light and air.

Two take-aways that stuck with me:

  1. Why,  if these playful, colourful, and creative expressions bring us joy and increase our happiness and productivity, do we design so many aspects of our homes, offices, hospitals, schools, and streets in uninspiring, predictable shapes, and shades of beige and grey?
  2. Why do we judge people who embrace colour and creativity in their own lives, in what they wear, how they decorate and so on, by labeling them as kooky, emotional, unprofessional, or “girly”?

I think we can learn so much from people who incorporate fun fearlessly into their lives (or rather, refuse to let go of it just because they are getting older). I’m fascinated by people like Iris Apfel, Yayoi Kusama and Elizabeth Sweetheart who present themselves however feels right to them, and don’t give a flying fluevog what society thinks of them for being different. Thanks to social media like Instagram, it’s easier than  ever to find unapologetically creative people and bold sartorial inspiration.

A potential struggle for being creative is the busy lives we lead- there were times when I thought “how will I possibly have time to finish this personal project”? But as with anything in life, you make time for what is important to you, what makes you happy and fulfills you. I work on art during my work breaks sometimes, and because I consider my art time important for my well-being, I will pass up invitations or events on occasion if I know I haven’t had time to paint in a while. I am lucky to work at a library where I have the option of using my creativity on a regular basis such as illustrating the Joke of the Day, making fun book displays, or drawing pictures to accompany my power-point slides!

Yes, I still check my phone, yes I still watch Netflix and play video games, but when I do I always aspire to be mindful and intentional with this use of my precious time, and avoid getting lost in zombie-like distraction. Time is the most important commodity we have, and in this often cruel and unfair world I’m privileged to be a healthy woman living in a safe country where I have the gift of free time to explore my creativity. I don’t want to squander that.

Freeing myself from depression and intense anxiety has enabled me to enjoy my life and creativity to the fullest. I am glad that the days of dragging my feet through life are behind me. After 10 years of waking up with sighs of fatigue and defeat, sighs of contentment are a welcome change. There are so many things I want to do with my life that I don’t know where to start, so I am dipping my toes into everything.

I wish I could share this wake-up call with the world (well, that’s what a blog is for, I guess) but I think that, first and foremost, it’s something that you need to truly want for yourself.

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Author: HideNGoShauna

Canadian 🍁 B.Ed, Future librarian 📚 Love dogs 🐶 &Vampires🦇 Artist🎨 Cosplayer 🎀 Shawol, lil freak 💎🔑 Ringer 💍🍃 Hufflepuff⚡ Fangirl! 😆

14 thoughts on “Consuming vs. Creating”

  1. This is so relatable. I’ve been stuck in a creative rutt far more times than I’d care to admit recently, and even though I’m blogging more and more regularly these days, I still find it hard to keep up with all my other hobbies – they’ve near enough disappeared completely now. I definitely need to try and make more time for them.

    Emma | https://geekytourist.com

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So true! I am so guilty being on my phone at all hours of the day!!! Addicting and difficult to balance hobbies with time wasting moments on my cell. I try to do an hour of creative work every day after I put my kiddo to sleep.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was thinking while I was writing this, I don’t have kids but that would add a whole other dimension to finding personal creative time (especially when you have little babies who can’t create with you!) Glad you are finding time for it though 😊

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  3. I love this and I am so happy to hear that you’ve found that spark again! I think I’m actually finding mine again too. Changing some meds up, not just for my mental health, but other health conditions and finally getting on top of my chronic fatigue after it taking my life by storm three years ago, and yeah, I’m ready to roll! Thanks for sharing this, it’s kinda just opened my eyes to what’s been happening and I’ve not even realised. Something to remember on the darker days 🙂

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  4. Recently, I came across a quote “just because it didn’t happen online, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen at all”. I think that’s important because as fun as it is to connect online and social media, it’s okay to take a break. I struggle with anxiety and depression too, and often find that creativity helps eases those intense feelings. As much as I like social media, mostly Instagram, I find the internet cannot be hugely distracting as well as inspiring and entertaining. It’s definitely a delicate balance. Amazing post! 🙂

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    1. I use Instagram a lot too. I agree, it’s important to make sure we are the ones using the internet, and not the other way around. Balance is important. Thanks for your comment! ✨

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  5. Great post. I have always found that I am at my happiest when I am creating. Fortunately many of of my hobbies help in that respect, playing roleplay games (or running them), writing anything, playing strategy games, going out and learning stuff. It all counts. Glad you’ve found your stride again. Incidentally, a comedian I quite like has a sketch about Guilty Pleasures you might enjoy…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DrWGSWPplXo

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  6. I loved this, it was so well written! I’ve suffered with my PTSD and anxiety for almost 8 years now and it was only within the last 3-4 that I realized too much “screen time” and not enough creative time was significantly affecting my mental health. I relate to everything you said so much and I’m thankful that I started delving into being creative again…

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  7. This post is highly inspirational. I do spend a lot of time in front of the screen. But, creativity can also be with a screen 😉 Writing and drawing is one part of it 🙂 But I also love doing crochet. It’s one of my favorite hobbies. I stopped because of stress at work and feeling guilty. But slowly I’ve been back at it 🙂

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