article, writing tips

Balancing Creation and Consumption

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“You cannot create when you are consuming.”

Pragmatic writing advice if I’ve ever heard it.

It sits at the opposing end of the spectrum from “read widely” and “refuel your creative tank”, which are also widely accepted as good advice for authors.

I’m still deep inside the second rewrite of my dark fantasy novel, and prioritizing it against other creative pursuits. I wrote a post a few months ago about writers having other hobbies, and I still stand by my opinion that two hobbies is the “right number”.

Finding Balance

Further prioritization of  limited time has found me exploring  how to balance pursuits that create versus consume. It has meant letting go of some things that I used to enjoy doing, but honestly can’t justify devoting time and resources to anymore.

Video games were the biggest sacrifice on this list. I used to be an avid gamer, and I still love gaming, but the industry seems to have moved in a direction where the games became huge time sinks. I can’t justify putting 25-60 hours into something that, while it may grant a feeling of accomplishment, doesn’t create any sort of tangible creative product.

25-60 hours is a lot of writing. That is short stories, revised chapters, posted submissions, or even a few rolls of film on a photo shoot or two. These are efforts that create, or at least advance, a body of creative work. It’s why in January I made a “silent resolution” to stop buying new games.

Making Art

It’s a matter of creating your own art versus consuming that of others.

I stopped purchasing games to throw into an ever-growing backlog for the same reason I let go of trying to voraciously speed read through my TBR book pile. I had become obsessed with trying to consume “all the things” and it was stressful and detrimental to my creative process. Anyone who can afford an internet connection is lousy with entertainment choices these days, and there seems to be a strange quasi-guilt emerging with it. Is that FOMO? Is that why Marie Kondo is so popular on Netflix?

Maybe I’m becoming more aware of my own mortality, but the older I get the more I desire to establish an artistic legacy. Adult responsibilities always seem to get in the way of creative time, so it makes those free hours even more precious. However, you can’t be creative all the time. That is a sure-fire recipe for burn out. So it requires balance.

A Process

The balancing of creative output and what I’ll pretentiously call “artistic consumption” is a matter of scheduling, routine, and determination. By creating an intentional routine, I’ve learned that I write far better in the early mornings, when my brain is still energized and fluid with ideas. Once I’m burnt out from the day, I can relax in the evenings with a book out of that TBR pile for a couple hours. It’s a process I’m always refining, and in other odd moments I eek out submissions, the occasional blog post, or a little promotion.

I’m curious what other authors do to balance their creative output versus consumption of media and art. No matter what your process is, I think it’s a good problem to have. The luxury of available means and ability to hone a craft is still a valuable commodity in our fast-paced, modern world.

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The Aesthetic of Your Journey, Creative

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Holidays are all about tradition, and I plan to start a new one by making a cynical humorous annual post about overused words.

This list is based on my own opinion, and unlike the generalized lists that creep out on the internet this time of year, it is mostly targeted at “creatives”.

So without further ado, our first overused word.

 

“Creative”

adjective
  1. having the quality or power of creating.
  2. resulting from originality of thought, expression, etc.; imaginative:creative writing.
  3. originative; productive (usually followed by of).

Folks, it’s an adjective. Not a noun.

The number of times in 2018 I have heard people refer to one another and themselves as “creatives” is maddening.

I’ve been writing for a long time, and hanging out with writers and other artsy types for nearly as long. So I know we like to play with words, “expand the lexicon”, and sound all flowery and pretentious on occasion. What’s the point in being an artist if you can’t get pretentious and drink expensive coffee once in a while. Right?

While that’s all well and good, I feel like writers have a responsibility to uphold the “correct” traditional use of language (grammar and syntax) whilst the internet attempts to dismantle it on an hourly basis. I’m looking at you Twitter!

OK, traditionalist diatribe over.

The real reason this word is such a thorn in my paw is that it has been insidiously co-opted. The next time you’re reading a site or listening to a podcast where someone calls you a “creative”, their compliment is usually followed by an offer of some sort. Like when everyone became an “entrepreneur” back in 2015.

If you’re a creative, you might like my ONLINE COURSE/BOOK/SERVICE.  

Yuck. Get your marketing out of my art. Let me be a CREATIVE!

 

“Aesthetic”

adjective
  1. relating to the philosophy of aestheticsconcerned with notions such as the beautiful and the ugly.
  2. relating to the science of aesthetics; concerned with the study of the mind and emotions in relation tothe sense of beauty.
  3. having sense of the beautiful; characterized by a love of beauty.

Another adjective being turned into a noun. Sorta like when “Google” became a verb.

“It has an aesthetic.”  /   “My brand’s aesthetic.”  /  “Your aesthetic is beautiful.”

Not as brutally irritating as “Creative” but nonetheless, “aesthetic” is so overused at this point it is starting to lose its original meaning.

Plus, there are so many other less fun-to-say words you can use instead. “Look”, “style”, “feel”. These don’t have the SAT-word quality of “aesthetic”, but they are still valid.

 

“Journey”

noun, plural jour·neys.
  1. traveling from one place to another, usually taking rather long time; trip:six-day journey across the desert.
  2. distance, course, or area traveled or suitable for traveling:desert journey.
  3. period of travel:week’s journey.

Hoo boy, this one…

So nothing grammatically incorrect about this one, and everybody loves that old axiom about “it’s the journey, not the destination…” Thanks Emerson.

In 2018 we are apparently ALL on a journey. You’re not just dabbling in a hobby. If you buy that beginner’s watercolor set at A.C. Moore, you’ve taken the first step on a grandiose adventure of personal evolution.

I felt pretentious just typing that last sentence.

If there is one thing I implore you to do in 2019, stop referring to making art as a “journey”. Besides the inherent self-important tone of it, it implies this kind of fluffy, overly positive, unicorns-in-the-meadow connotation to what art really is. Work.

Creating art is challenging, difficult, time consuming, and at times, painful. I’m sure I’m coming off as a real jerk when I say this, but I think overuse of the word “journey” (I’m looking at you, Youtube!) gives people the misimpression that these processes are a loose and breezy thing you can just pick up and put down while still getting better at.

Is it technically wrong? No. But I just feel like it’s simultaneously misleading and pretentious. Just my opinion. This is an opinion piece, remember?

In Conclusion

That’s my overly sarcastic list of Overly Used Words 2018. Are there any words or phrases all you “creatives” out there have grown to hate this year? Let me know down in the comments!

Merry Holidays and Happy 2019!