Do you ever find yourself endlessly scrolling through social media or binge-watching TV shows instead of working on your creative projects? You’re not alone. Many creatives struggle with consumption habits that prevent them from creating their own content. Myself included. But why is this happening, and what can be done to break this cycle?
Consuming content = procrastination
One possible explanation is that consuming content, a well-known form of procrastination, it’s actually a way of coping. It’s easy to get lost in the endless stream of information and entertainment available online, especially when we feel overwhelmed or stuck in our own creative work. It’s a tempting distraction that can provide temporary relief from the pressure to produce our own work. It’s not because you are lazy, but because you might think that you are not good enough.
Dr. Nicole Lepera explains how when you procrastinate it’s because your body is in a threat state or a freeze state which is autonomic and involuntary and it happens when we are stressed, have a million things to do, but can’t seem to get started, it’s a normal reaction to what it perceived by the body as threatening. Dr. LePera advises that to overcome procrastination, we must first identify the root cause of our avoidance. Is it fear or anxiety about the task or project? Is it perfectionism? Is it a lack of clarity or direction? Once we have a better understanding of the underlying issue, we can develop strategies to address it.
Creating content = freedom
Mindlessly consuming content is a habit difficult to break. The more we consume, the less time and energy we have for creating. And over time, this can lead to frustration, self-doubt, and even burnout. Once we can get control back of our time, and we start to lean naturally toward creating something rather than consuming, that’s when we are free from feeling stuck.
So what can we do to shift the balance and prioritize creation over consumption? Here are some tips from well-known creatives:
- Set boundaries and create a routine. Designer and writer Austin Kleon suggests establishing a daily schedule that includes specific times for consuming and creating. For example, you could spend the first hour of your day working on your own projects, and then allow yourself to check social media or watch a show for a set amount of time. This can help you avoid getting sucked into endless consumption and make progress on your own work.
- Get inspired by the work of others, but don’t compare yourself to them. Author Elizabeth Gilbert advises creatives to “steal like an artist” and draw inspiration from a wide range of sources. But she also warns against comparing yourself to others or trying to replicate their success. Instead, focus on developing your own unique voice and style. So you might use Instagram for 10–30 minutes to look at some creative from your field, but then step away and put together your vision.
- Start small and build momentum. Musician and producer Quincy Jones suggests breaking big projects into smaller, manageable tasks. This can help you make progress without feeling overwhelmed, and build momentum that can carry you forward. Even a small step, like brainstorming ideas or sketching out a rough draft, can help you get into a creative mindset and feel more motivated. Starting is often the hardest step, once you put that pen to paper, you might not want to stop.
- Embrace imperfection and experimentation. Artist and author Keri Smith encourages creatives to let go of the need for perfection and embrace the messy, unpredictable process of creating. She suggests trying new things, taking risks, and exploring different mediums and techniques. This can help you stay curious and engaged with your work, and also build resilience in the face of setbacks. Something that holds us back as creatives, it’s the need to be perfect, which we all know doesn’t work in our favor, especially when it keeps us from creating anything. Allow yourself to be wrong, create crappy things, and start again.
Remember that creating is a process, and it’s okay to take small steps and make mistakes along the way. Endless scrolling and how-to videos should not be your go-to places for inspiration. Before going to your device try to get inspiration in a different way, go for a walk, put thoughts on paper, move, or chat with a friend.
Lastly, curation = your friend
Curating your social media feed and having a clear purpose when consuming any type of content can greatly help in overcoming procrastination and improving productivity. By being intentional with what you allow in your social media feed, you can limit distractions and ensure that the content you see aligns with your goals and interests. This can prevent you from mindlessly scrolling and wasting time on irrelevant or unhelpful content. Additionally, having a clear purpose when seeking out content can help you stay focused and avoid getting sidetracked. Whether it’s learning a new skill, gaining inspiration for a project, or simply seeking entertainment, having a specific goal in mind can guide your content consumption and help you stay on track with your creative pursuits.
As creatives is easy to get lost in the sea of content out there, but we need to add to that sea our inputs, contribute with quality content, and show the world our art, writing, or moves. Some other creatives might just need to see your creative approach out there to feel empowered to start.