After hearing a well-known food writer talk about how he forces himself to write first thing with coffee every morning, I’ve been thinking about how much time a creative person should allocate to the following areas:
- Create: For a writer, forcing yourself to put pen to paper. A musician: actively composing. An artist: paint must be on the brush—whether or not you are feeling the Muse.
- Consume: Reading, listening, participating in the arts passively. It’s hard to think of an interesting musician without finding a person who listened to older records obsessively. Same goes for all other artists, with few exceptions, and most of the exceptions are liars.
- Communicate: Talking to others about/within/around the topic; sharing stories; formal and informal meetings. Online communication is certainly a big part of it (What I am doing now with this blog entry in fact). Writers have retreats. Musicians have jam sessions.
- Practice (This was gong to be “Learn” but “CCCP” was a better acronym): Includes all forms of active study, from practicing your instrument, to attending lectures, to reading instructional materials. It can even be watching TV or YouTube if it teaches you something.
It seems there must be some kind of balance, and I suppose it depends somewhat on the kind of work you do. Communication seems less important in most of the visual arts, and Practice is probably hard to do if you’re a writer unless you’re actually writing, and that puts you in the Create area.
I am curious to hear from anyone who’s developed an approach to this. As a self-taught musician, and a wanna-be writer, I used to believe that everything was in the Create zone. I felt guilty, even angry at myself when I was doing anything but writing. It’s taken me a long time to realize how important the other 3 areas outside Creation are important. I think I have got the Consume area down — now I could definitely could use more Practice in my life.
One thing I have noticed is that you need to understand where you are on the curve of learning vs the plateaus of inspiration. If you are finding it hard to be inspired, there’s a good chance that your energies would be better spent learning. Study someone whose work you really respect. Immerse yourself in it. Don’t worry about being a copycat—you’ll probably only retain 5% of what you learned anyway, and you’ll synthesize whatever you retained into your toolbox. The next time you try to create, you’ll have a new palette to choose from. That’s my take anyway, and I’d love to hear yours.