In the age of information, anything and everything is easily accessible at any time, anywhere. The proliferation of words, images, videos, and unforgiving content, has made it too easy for us to get our “fix” or whatever we need at a moment’s notice.
As a creative type, I’m always searching for new and valuable inspirations to push me to work harder and create better. And I take full advantage of the infinite sources of inspiration at our fingertips — whether it’s from an Instagram photo or a beautifully composed poem found on Tumblr to expand my vocabulary. Inspiration is everywhere. But of course there are drawbacks to this all-consuming content too. I might watch one of Rocky’s most epic, inspirational speeches, then hop to Steve Jobs’ Stanford keynote speech, and then pop on over to a list of Muhammad Ali’s most famous quotes. And yet, even after four hours and two Blue Moons of doing just this, I’m still sitting on my couch, “feeling inspired,” and with nothing to show for it.
Then it dawned on me. It’s easy to drown in “inspirational” distractions and end up not actually creating anything; it’s easy to have these hollow “feel-good” days, when we feel inspired and motivated but don’t actually produce anything. “Everything in moderation,” said the doctor. Well maybe inspiration, like everything else, should come in moderation too. The balance between creation and consumption should be as close to equal as possible, in my opinion. It’s easy to feel inspired and talk about all the things you’re going to create. But it’s another thing to actually take that inspiration and apply it to your own work, in your own style. Below, the five crucial techniques for increasing our creative productivity.
“I’m going to watch a ton of short films online so I can expand my knowledge of plot structure and character development.” Okay. But we have to make sure that we don’t end up binge-watching film after film without actually busting out the word processor. Instead, try watching one film, then implementing those techniques into your own screenplay, before moving on to watching another. Ration your inspirational doses and hold yourself accountable to keep a 1:1 ratio of consumption and production.
2. Create, Consume, Circle Back.
Although it might sound like a catch-22, try creating first, before filling your brain with inspiration and content. “But I need inspiration before I can create!” –I know, I know. But sometimes, consuming too much can almost hinder our motivations. Why? Because we run the chance of feeling inadequate, or demoralizes, and thus decide to halt our productivity. Instead, try forcing yourself to create first. Never mind if what you produce feels “forced” or “boring.” Producing something first, before consuming, not only helps to ensure progress, but it helps foster the necessary skills for self-editing.
3. Queue Your Inspiration.
Instead of consuming stuff immediately as it’s thrown upon us, try bookmarking some for later. For example, save an intriguing article in a folder to read later on, in the subway or before bed. If we can limit our consumption to “non-peak” hours, we free up our most productive times of the day for actually producing something. It also helps us turn down-time into productive down-time later on. Already, there are so many apps that help us do this; the very essence of technology is to help us work smarter, not harder.
4. Tailor To Your Own Personality.
Having trouble sitting through a movie, from start to finish, at home? Try going to the theaters instead. Don’t have the patience for reading? Try trading in those books for audiobooks. You’d be surprised how many books you can go through each month by simply listening to them in the car or while cooking or cleaning the house. Knowing your own weaknesses allow you to create a tailor-made style of consumption to help increase your creative productivity.
5. Keep Good Company.
Last but not least, remember that inspiration is best when coming from people, not things. To increase our own creativity, we have to spend more time with creative folks. It doesn’t matter if they practice a different discipline or live a bit farther away. Corporate life and people who play by the rules end up killing your creativity. It’s our kryptonite. Instead, hang out with artists, painters, musicians, cinematographers, poets, dancers. Feed off of these energies to help keep your inner child alive. Keep a playful outlook on life and learn to see things through an unorthodox lens. This means being open and receptive to new perspectives and ways of living. Surround yourself with good company. After all, it is people that inspire people.
Now get out there, and create. Really create.