Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

The Tension (and Relationship) Between Creating and Consuming

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Editor’s note: This is a guest post by KC Procter, whose mission is to encourage men to live beyond mediocrity. His alarm goes off at 3:00 a.m.. He has three kids and a wife who thinks he’s crazy. Follow him on Twitter @thatguyKC.

Content is a coin with two sides: creating and consuming.

Often in a community like this, the content is created for people who in turn consume the work and then go create more. It’s self-propagating. But as we know, that’s not always the case.

Create and consume

Photo Credit: the measure of mike via Compfight cc

Sometimes, we err on the side of consuming too much content — checking Facebook one too many times, getting lost in an endless of blog posts an online articles. Or we can be prone to bouts of artistic bingeing.

And if we’re not careful, we can lose sight of why we create and consume in the first place. Yet, it’s in the delicate balance between creating and consuming that we find our sweet spot.

Quality control

Let’s start with a basic assumption: Everyone cares about quality… right?

Our goal is to both create and consume high-quality content. Whether it’s an entertaining blog, a business book, or a funny video, the content we encounter needs to add value — to our lives and the lives of others.

We need quality in both the content we consume as well as what we create, because:

  • Consuming content educates us. Creating content educates others.
  • Consuming content encourages us. Creating content encourages others.

The success of this us-and-others relationship lies in the balance of creating and consuming.

Creepy consumption

Let’s be honest. There’s a lot of awesome content out there.

Sure, plenty of garbage is floating around, too. But it’s not that hard to find a gold nugget here or there. The problem is trying to consume all the awesomeness available is a full-time job.

Unfortunately, reading blogs doesn’t pay the bills. (If it did, I’d have more money than Donald Trump.)

If all you do is consume, you become an information glutton. And if all you do is “eat” content and never exercise, you get fat and lazy.

It’s great to absorb information, but you also need to do something with it in order for it to be effective. Otherwise, you’re just another hoarder — and let’s face it: that’s one reality show you do not want to be on.

So what if you’ve got 75 blogs in your RSS reader and a sagging bookshelf?

If all that knowledge crammed in your cranium doesn’t lead to action, what’s the point? If you don’t chew it up and create art for someone else, what difference does it make?

By all means, consume great content. But don’t forget to put down the fork and pick up the pen, paintbrush, or hammer.

Cold creation

Creative people are a varied bunch, but they all have something in common: They actually make stuff.

This creative energy springs from somewhere and like a tank of gas requires a stop at Chevron now and again.

Creating is addictive, and there’s a tendency to lose yourself in the craft. If you only focus on creating, your mind gets full and doesn’t leave room for anyone else.

Your perspective can become myopic, with your thoughts and opinions being the only ones that seem to matter. Your ego inflates, and you alienate the audience you set out to reach.

Work hard, make stuff, and ship it. Just remember to unplug once in awhile, to close the laptop and read a good book, too. Without the challenges issued by other people’s content, your own work will stagnate.

Finding the sweet spot

There isn’t an exact formula to balancing contention creation with consumption.

Balance doesn’t mean a 50/50 split. What you need to do is find which side you tend to lean toward and hop the fence once in a while.

The easiest place to start is to ask yourself two questions:

  1. How much have I created in the last month?
  2. How much have I consumed in the last month?

Input without output leads to constipation. Output without input leads to stagnation.

It’s just that simple.

A final word about content…

This content we’re consuming and creating isn’t limited to blog posts and YouTube videos. Life is content.

We are consuming content created by others all the time. Everyone is making something — with their actions, words, and behavior.

In fact, this may be the most sobering reality of all: Whether we want to or not, we are creating content with every decision we make and every word we speak.

Every piece of communication leaves an impact of some sort. So let’s pay close attention to what goes out and in. And let’s try to make our words count.

Are you strategic on how you balance creating with consuming? Share in the comments.

About KC Procter

KC's mission is to encourage men to live beyond mediocrity. His alarm goes off at 3:00 a.m. every day. He has three kids and a wife who thinks he's crazy. Follow him on his blog and on Twitter @thatguyKC.

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  • Steve Cooper

    John Maxwell teaches leadership, which starts with self-leading in the way we fill each day. One of his latest books describes the strategy we have adopted. He shared with us about The Rule of Five, the 5 fundamental things we do every day that keep us focused. Maxwell says every day he reads, every day he files, every day he thinks, every day he asks questions and every day he writes. Sticking to these priorities will keep us balanced, so along with great advice from Jeff Goins on crafting, I try to stick to a similar list: I pray, I read, I write, I think, I call at least one person to share life with.

    • http://www.annepeterson.com/ Anne Peterson

      I like the last one. The sharing with one person on the phone. I think that’a a lost art these days.

    • http://ThatGuyKC.com/ ThatGuyKC

      I really dig the concept of having a short list of every day tasks. That way each day has a sense of purpose. Thank you for sharing.

  • http://www.annepeterson.com/ Anne Peterson

    Great post. I’m afraid I vacillate between the two. Kind of gorging myself and then spewing it out. Balance sounds wonderful. Also, I like how you managed to add the dimension of life to it. Because while we are writing in our life, our life still consists of more than writing and even more than both writing and reading. There is living.

    I need to add more of the living when I find I am just doing the other two. Thanks for your post.

    • http://ThatGuyKC.com/ ThatGuyKC

      Amen. Living is the 3rd dimension that makes it work. Create, consume & community. The people behind the content we consume and the people we create for are important to connect w/ outside of the context of content. To simply BE together and live.

  • Alison@DailyMovesAndGrooves

    This is such a unique and awesome perspective! It is definitely easy to fall into over-creating or over-consuming. Thanks for this post!

    • http://ThatGuyKC.com/ ThatGuyKC

      Thank you, Alison! Good luck as you try to find your sweet spot.

  • Boni

    This is so true.

  • http://www.sheepdressedlikewolves.com/ Andy Mort

    Yes! Great post. You’re right, this absolutely translates to life outside of the internet too. Creation and consumption must be balanced. There is a point at which creation needs to stop and we need to engage, get inspired, interact with others around what they are doing. Likewise there is a point at which we need to stop consuming and actually put a bit of ourselves into the mix. I can’t believe your alarm goes off at 3:00am. Does that mean you also get up at that time!? :)

    • http://ThatGuyKC.com/ ThatGuyKC

      Relationships are so key to this. Getting lost in our “art”, however good it may be, will not replace the human connection and need for community.

      Yes, my alarm goes off at 3:00am Mon-Fri. Follow me on Twitter at @ThatGuyKC and you’ll see proof. :)

  • http://storiesmadepowerful.com/ Arlen Miller

    Keep going, Mr. KC. Thanks for writing. What the cook (me) feeds on certainly affects what gets served on the table. I think it even goes a step further. Who’s content I feed on affects how and what I serve. Because it seems the spirit of artist comes through their art. I believe I become like the content creator I most follow. I am becoming like my greatest hero… whether I want to or no. Thanks for setting the alarm at 3. Your profile doesn’t say what time you hit the floor. Is that assumed at 3:01 feet on the floor? :)

    • http://ThatGuyKC.com/ ThatGuyKC

      I love the cooking analogy! I’ll have to steal that in the future. :)

      My feet hit the floor soon after 3:00am because I don’t want to wake my wife or the baby.

    • Hans Ruysenaar

      Great observation Arlen! It’s not about when the alarm goes off …it’s when your feet it the floor.

  • kentsanders

    Very insightful post! Thanks, KC. I can definitely relate. One of my biggest frustrations is all the training material I’ve purchased over the last couple of years, but not having the time to go through it all. Too much input and not enough output. :)

    • http://ThatGuyKC.com/ ThatGuyKC

      Thank you, Kent! I’m right there with you. So much awesome content is out there waiting and I easy fall into the trap of gorging on the buffet instead of taking what I need and converting it into action.

  • http://www.eileenknowles.com Eileen

    “Input without output leads to constipation. Output without
    input leads to stagnation.” Well put! output w/o input also leads to starvation. The road of creating and consuming really does need to go both ways

    • http://ThatGuyKC.com/ ThatGuyKC

      Well said! I like “starvation” even better. :)

  • wiktorjodlowski

    Great timing with this post! I have recently been in constipation and my life partner got me back on track. This post keeps me focused on the importance of not only consuming but also making stuff happen. Thanks KC, thanks Jeff!

    • http://ThatGuyKC.com/ ThatGuyKC

      That’s awesome! Glad it encouraged you. I struggle w/ consuming too much and failing to convert the inspiration into action or creation.

  • http://www.donaldmcallister.com/ Don McAllister

    Great word! ‘Input without output leads to constipation,’ and I might add: hinders our calling.

    • http://ThatGuyKC.com/ ThatGuyKC

      Gluttony in any form is far from godly.

  • http://jimwoodswrites.com/ Jim Woods

    Love it KC! I compare it to spending all day at the buffet or actually doing something. All you accomplish by “consuming only” is getting fat, bloated and tired. It’s so important to get out there and DO THINGS!

    • http://ThatGuyKC.com/ ThatGuyKC

      Aye matey!

  • Paulina

    After having read the beginning of this article, I visualized my mind: it’s a fat and lazy glutton. Oh, reality checks may really hurt, auć.

    Great stuff! As always. Recently I’ve started creating my commonplace book. It was supposed to be about everything, but there are more and more quotes from U, so I think it’s going to be about how to write and create great content. Thanks for that!

    • http://ThatGuyKC.com/ ThatGuyKC

      Admitting the problem is the first step to recovery, right? Good luck on your book. Let us know when you’re done writing and launch.

  • http://repossible.com/ Bradley

    You had me at, “3:00 am every day … has 3 kids and a wife … ”

    This is such a hard one. I wish I had a tool to measure the balance that I needed on a certain day (or week). I can picture the pie chart now … “Ooh, need to do some reading this week!”

    I didn’t have much Internet access this summer and it was an excellent “boost of confidence” as I wasn’t influenced by those “ahead of me.” It was also fun. ;-)

    Thanks for bringing the balance question into perspective, KC.

    • http://ThatGuyKC.com/ ThatGuyKC

      The alarm is no lie. I think balance is less of an equation and more of a constant adjustment. Less like a scale and more like walking a tightrope. Less pie char and more apple vs. pumpkin pie.

      The chance to unplug is a great opportunity to reset and discover how productive you can be. Quality consumption still happens by reading books and the influence of people around us.

      • http://repossible.com/ Bradley

        I also find that if you go on a “Consumption Diet” for a bit and then come back to consuming, you appreciate more–and get more out of it. Like when you, say, do a juice fast for a few days and then eat something and it just tastes SO good.

        I like the tightrope note!

  • cindyfinley

    For me, the danger is running to consumption when I’m overwhelmed or bored – sort of opposite ends of the spectrum. But where I’ve been convicted lately is the necessity for writer-types to actually get out and live. And for me, that means leaving my iPhone in the car and watching my kids’ soccer game, talking to the cashier in the grocery store, putting aside the consumption in order to be present in the now.

    • Stefanie O’Brien

      I agree with you completely. It is a challenge to turn off all the distractions (including the wildly running thoughts) to be present.

    • http://ThatGuyKC.com/ ThatGuyKC

      Amen. Amen. Amen. Jeff’s book “In-Between” really convicted me of this as a parent. It’s so easy to get addicted to the instant consumption available on mobile devices. Good on you for leaving the iPhone behind once in awhile.

      • cindyfinley

        Thanks, KC. And thanks for writing such a great post. I’ve added your blog to my list of “dailys.” :)

  • Allison

    Oh gosh.
    I procrastinate so much, and get distracted so easily.
    And then when I make stuff, I lose focus of everything else but creating.
    However, creating and consuming doesn’t always help with homework and chores.
    So what I need help with is getting out of the creating/consuming cycle so I can get on with other things in my life…HELP!

    • http://ThatGuyKC.com/ ThatGuyKC

      I feel your pain, Allison. In 2011 I completed an MBA while working full time and having a family. Jeff has talked before about the productive power of getting your butt in the chair and doing the work. A great resource might be a book I’m slowly blogging through, Manage Your Day-to-Day. Check it out on Amazon or as part of the 4×4 series on my blog. Godspeed.

  • Stefanie O’Brien

    I am learning this balance myself. I consume a lot of content which then inspires creation. Sometimes though, I over-consume and then get too overloaded with information that I get blocked (constipation). I am learning that delicate balance of consuming just the right amount than creating from that.

    • http://ThatGuyKC.com/ ThatGuyKC

      This is my challenge as well. There is so much great content out there I don’t want to miss something, but in turn I tend to miss the opportunity to write. Godspeed with finding your sweet spot.

  • http://www.frivjogo.info/ Friv Jogos

    We can get a lot of shared ideas around it. So now there are too many social things of interest.

    • http://ThatGuyKC.com/ ThatGuyKC

      Social media is the bane and bounty of my existence. I’ve made so many awesome connections (like Jeff Goins and his lovely readers), but at the same time it’s a major distraction.

  • http://morethanadventure.com/ Kurt Swann

    One technique I use is to keep a daily list on a spreadsheet of certain priorities I have, such as writing. It doesn’t take much time at the end of the day to put down how many minutes I’ve written. Then I try not to have too many zeroes on the spreadsheet :)

    • http://ThatGuyKC.com/ ThatGuyKC

      Wow! You are for more dedicated than me. I work w/ spreadsheets all the time at my corporate day job so I try to keep them away from my home office. :)

      However, having a system that gets you writing and finding balance is awesome. Keep up the good work.

  • Anita Dawes

    I do try and balance all my activity for I am a good student and pay close attention to what people like you and Jeff advise. But… On those days when progress is painfully slow, (or not happening at all) it is all too easy to fall into the trap of ‘maybe I should…’ or ‘what if I…’ and you get a little sidetracked.
    But I never expected to get this far at my age, so I must be doing something right, right?

    • http://ThatGuyKC.com/ ThatGuyKC

      Oh, I’m the worst student! This writing habit is rough to establish and I succumb to distractions constantly.

      I find renewed confidence in that every choice and day is new. We cannot change what we did (or didn’t do) yesterday, we can only take action today.

    • Hans Ruysenaar

      Joanne Rowlings had her manuscript turned down by at least half a dozen literary agents ….before she ven go close to a publisher….. I wonder if she ver thinks : Wow, look at me now.

  • Elizabeth Mitchell

    Pants, you’ve shamed me into action! I’m in the process of setting myself up a blog and a website but there is a definite stagnation problem as I try and find out everything about everything. You are so right, time to step away from the information and actually do something. Thanks (can’t stop, must go and create…)

    • http://ThatGuyKC.com/ ThatGuyKC

      Well I don’t want to shame you, but if the ends justifies the means I’m glad to have played a small part in you starting!

      When it comes to starting a blog and writing there are so many resources out there it’s difficult to get stuck before you even begin writing.

      START!!

      Get your writing out there and adjust as needed going forward. We’re all just making this up as we go anyway. :)

    • Hans Ruysenaar

      Go girl!

  • Molshri Singh

    That was helpful! But putting that in action is quite difficult..

    Btw I love what you write! You are such an inspiration.

    http://a-quest-to-bring-out-the-creative-me.blogspot.in/2013/09/day-1-inception.html this is my blog. I would love any suggestion or criticism.

    • http://ThatGuyKC.com/ ThatGuyKC

      Amen. Never said it was easy to find balance. I’m struggling w/ consuming too much and letting creation slack off.

  • http://www.jenniferkaufman.net/ Jennifer Kaufman

    This is excellent. I find my fear of putting myself and my work out there leads to overconsumption, for sure. Thank you for the call to action!

    • http://ThatGuyKC.com/ ThatGuyKC

      So glad this encouraged you, Jennifer. We need your awesome. Create!

    • Hans Ruysenaar

      Jennifer…it is so much easier to consume than to produce. And when you produce it is so soul destroying when you cannot find consumers (to step out of their comfort zone) and consume your alien offering.

  • http://www.jackiebledsoe.com/ Jackie Bledsoe, Jr.

    Nice post! I have been guilty of consuming too much and not producing enough, but then I had an “aha!” moment and shifted to producing more. I occasionally shift back into my consumption outweighing my production, but it doesn’t last long. This post is another great reminder.

    I guest posted about my “aha!” moment here:
    http://kylelacy.com/shifting-from-content-consumers-to-content-producers/

    • http://ThatGuyKC.com/ ThatGuyKC

      I’m in the same boat, Jackie. I err on the side of consuming versus creating so this is a reminder to myself as well. :)

      Will checkout the post about your “Aha!” moment. :)

  • Ben Hilgemann

    Consume: the gold nuggets of some good, good reading. Create: gold literary worth in your writing. It’s a sure-fire way in a reading-writing relationship to create good literature. Yes, good advice.

    More on the art of writing itself on http://qburtsblog.wordpress.com/

    • http://ThatGuyKC.com/ ThatGuyKC

      Amen. Very succinct. Thank you for recommending the post. Will check it out.

    • Hans Ruysenaar

      Sure-fire? It ain’t necessarily so . There can be many shades of grey:-)

  • http://www.yourworkisyourlife.com/ Razwana

    KC – love this. Ain’t nothin’ comfortable about constipation – literally or figuratively.

    The great thing about the internet is that the posts/articles will always be there (unless they’re taken down – doesn’t happen so often). So we (read: I) can stop with the pressure of consuming everything today.

    I try and make reading blogs an indulgence. When I saw the number of comments on this post I though ‘What????? 45????? What more can I add??’ – but hey – so what if I’m late to the party? I’m still here, right??!

    • http://ThatGuyKC.com/ ThatGuyKC

      Thank you, Razwana! So glad you stopped to drop a comment.

      Such a great reminder that the awesome content we find will (most likely) always be there to catch up with later. I often bookmark content with Evernote and tag it as “Read Later’ for a rainy day. It’s a great tool for aggregating content on different topics I can look up later.

      Blogs are my daily online fare and I struggle w/ over consumption rather than ego-driven creation. I need to establish better habits so this post is as much a challenge to the man in the mirror as anyone else.

      Godspeed!

  • http://www.mondayisgood.com/ Tom Dixon

    There really is a tension in this for myself. When I am in create mode,I have to back off the consumption to some point. It ebbs and flows – but when I focus on one I feel like I’m neglecting the other.

    • http://ThatGuyKC.com/ ThatGuyKC

      I think you’ll find a rhythm w/ a flexible creating-consuming balance. It’s less of an equation and more like balancing on a tightrope. You’ll constantly being adjusting to stay in the sweet spot.

      Another thing is that seasons of creating and consuming are a reality. No shame in that if it works for you. Just be aware of the tendency to get stuck in one or the other.

  • Patrick Garmoe

    Good post. Would love a post on how to regulate your content intake. That’s what I struggle with the most – trying to decide what good content to let float by.

    • http://ThatGuyKC.com/ ThatGuyKC

      Me too! :)
      Actually, I’ve found great value in scheduling both content creation and consumption. And while you might miss out on something awesome, the beauty of following blogs like Jeff’s is that there is always more coming down the pipe. Don’t be afraid of the “Mark all as read” button. I’ve clicked a few times on impulse and it’s very freeing.

  • http://www.trailreflections.com/ Chris Peek

    I don’t know that I would call myself strategic, but I recognize when I need to shift modes. When my writing seems to stagnate, I can pretty much point to the fact that my reading time has decreased, my podcast listening has declined, and that it’s football season.

    Lately, my creative juices have dried up a bit, so yesterday I listened to a sermon (from a pastor I had never listened to before) on my iPod while I walked at a park. By the end, I had a new blog post idea.

    • http://ThatGuyKC.com/ ThatGuyKC

      I’m like you, Chris. I need quality input to equate to output. If I sit down at the computer after a dry spell of no reading (or listening to podcasts) writer’s block is brutal.

  • Julius

    It’s very easy to lose sight of this. This article serves as an important reminder! Thanks!

  • Brian J

    Great post, personally I find myself somewhere close to a
    happy middle. I only get two hours of ‘consumption’ a workday. So I usually end
    up spending three to four creating in some form or another.

  • Hans Ruysenaar

    Someone….I can’t remember his name right now….but he wrote a book titled “Think and Grow Rich”. This revered author studied some 500 of the wealthiest people in the Carnegie era for more than … twenty years. That however did not make him rich. For the greater portion of his early life he was impecunious. All the information that he had gathered about rich folk over the previous twenty years was ….worthless….until….. then in his forties…he wrote the book. That is when he became RICH …and fortunately for his heirs …they continue to bask in his bounty. The simple formula for MEGA-wealth is right in there..(.it’s NOT in the book.)..yet no one articulates it …. but they do copy it. Some of those who have copied it even call it a ‘SECRET’ .

  • http://www.jonstallings.com/ Jon Stallings

    I would not say that I am intentional with a creating vs. consuming balance. I have found that in creating I become a consumer. When I create I often learn something new about myself. – I consume a lot and I know I need to create more. Thanks KC for the post.

  • http://www.developmental-editor.com/ Tiffany Cole

    I have this odd thing where I’m almost always at the extremes. When I was depressed, I created too much and consumed too little. Now that I’m happier than I’ve been my entire life, I consume entirely too much and create too little. Both have made me feel terrible. I just have to somehow find a balance, but it’s easier said than done.

    • http://ThatGuyKC.com/ ThatGuyKC

      It’s definitely easier said than done. The balance isn’t the same for everyone and it’s constantly in flux. Start with small steps. Being aware of your tendencies for creating and consuming is the beginning.

  • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

    I do seek balance between consumption and creativity. I tend to work in a rhythm where one has slightly more importance than the other fir a shirt period of time and then i flip flop in the other direction.

  • Sherry Carver

    How much have I consumed, how much have I created— I will post this message to read every morning. The days that I feel overwhelmed with consumption, I tend to wander just to get into nothingness. I watch bad tv and just stare out the window. That should be a sign to go take a walk and then come back to creating. Great post!

  • http://mikeskiff.com/ Mike Skiff

    Not coincidentally, just before reading this post I was thinking to myself, “Self, you really should work on those projects you’ve been putting off and get busy creating!” Instead, I succumbed to my lizard brain default of consumption. In this case, I’m glad I did as it was just the nudge I needed to get on it and keep creating – thanks KC!

  • http://mcgreevycoaching.com/ Michael McGreevy

    Wow Jeff, this has been so helpful. I just had a revelation that I spend too much time consuming and not enough time creating. You have a gift of simplifying this balance. It’s so easy to lose track of what side of the fence you are on. Thanks!

  • kuno xiong

    What a big surprise just in the morning our teacher has explained to us the way we have to be critical and avoid being a sponge that absorbe every information it receives .Thank you

  • Sue Neal

    You’ve made me realise how chaotic my management of this balance is – I frequently get over-absorbed with one thing or the other. Thanks so much for this helpful prompt to take a more strategic approach.

  • Sylvia Jones

    I like the references to constipation and stagnation!
    This haiku I wrote reminds me of your post::

    Seeking life’s balance
    movement, living, relaxing
    being true to self

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