Consumption Vs Creation II

4 min 25 May 2016

The Importance of Making

My previous post on this topic looked at the need for balance between consumption and creation. It can be read here, but the main takeaway was that both are important – you just have to pay attention to what you’re doing, and know when to switch between them.

This post will further explore the creative side of things, and address why recognising our need for creativity will become more important as we head into the future.

Moving forward

If we graphed the amount of consumable content against time, it would look something like this:

eponential growth creation

This is good. It means we have access to far more interesting stuff than anyone who came before us, and those who come after will probably see stuff we couldn’t even imagine (or we’d already be making it). The problem with this content is the same problem that the world is experiencing with the distribution of money – it’s the 1% holding power over the 99%.

That is, most of the content we’re seeing is being created or filtered through brands and entities so large that they are effectively thegatekeepers of global culture. 

These types of brands can be good, in that they enable stuff to exist on a scale far beyond the means of any individual – I love that Game of Thrones is pushing the boundaries of TV, with each episode now costing $10 million to make. But what content like that does is invalidate content made by the masses, those without credibility and money.

As such, more people turn to consumption instead. It’s easier to consume the same cultural stuff as everyone else, than to try and make your own way creatively. Our culture tends to encourage this:

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Sharing your creative efforts is certainly easier now than it ever has been before, with outlets like Bandcamp and Amazon helping those who want to handle distribution themselves – however, sales from outlets like these represent a very small portion of the market. Bandcamp had facilitated a total of $112 million in music sales in 2015, since its inception in 2008. Awesome. But the music industry had a total revenue of $14.97 billion in 2015 alone.

This makes the prospects of being a “successful” creative person a bit grim. But being creative shouldn’t be done for external gain – it should be done for yourself, even if nobody else ever sees what you make. The true value of a creation is understood only by its maker.

Technology

Technology of the immediate future is going to make it easier for people to tip their own balance in favour of consumption. 2016 is set to be the year of Virtual Reality, with a newly competitive market for VR devices and content. I’m not saying this is inherently bad – just that technology like this is going to make consumption more attractive. And we’re only going to see more of it.

Jumping further into the future, we’re set to see a massive decline in employment and a huge change in the types of employment available. However the world reacts to this change, it’s likely it will result in a lot more free time available to you, the individual. Combine that with the rise of consumptive technology and availability, and we’re going to see a huge potential for over-consumption, unless people become aware of the need for its opposite: creation.

Words from the wise

Terence McKenna was perhaps best known as an advocate for thelegalisation of nature (i.e. mushrooms and marijuana), and as a broadly-educated academic. However, it was his acute awareness of the need for creativity that is relevant here. The following are his words, slightly modernised:

“We have to stop consuming our culture. We have to create culture. Don’t watch TV. Don’t read magazines. The nexus of space and time where you are now is the most immediate sector of your universe, and if you’re worrying about the Kardashians or Donald Trump or somebody else, then you aredisempowered. You’re giving it all away to icons, icons which are maintained by an electronic media so that you want to dress like X or have lips like Y. This is shit-brained, this kind of thinking. That is all cultural diversion. You want to reclaim your mind.”

The whole thing can be heard here. It is worth your time. McKenna’s views are stronger than my own, in that I don’t reject consumption completely as he does – in fact I think it is a vital part of human existence.

To conclude

In the first blog post on this topic, I talked about paying attention. 

Then, I was talking about paying attention to your own needs, to your personal balance between consumption and creation.

Now, I'm talking about paying attention to the world, to everything and everyone in it, to the cultural engine that drives our world and your place in it. To cultivate a critical cultural awareness.

Most of all, pay attention to your need to create, and that same need in those around you. It's what makes us human.

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The act of creating something, of making something yourself, is one of the most beautiful things a person can do. You're taking something that did not exist before, and making it real - whether it's the three lines of a haiku, a shelf to hold your fine china collection, or an artwork of staggering complexity.

It doesn't matter. It's the doing that matters. So go and do.