6 Seductive Ways Consumption Is Killing Your Creativity

photography by dan james
photography by dan james

In these days of information saturation, we’re relentlessly bombarded by invitations to consume new goods.

The underlying message is always the same – “Buy me, buy me NOW, or your life will be miserable and endlessly unfulfilling and your family and friends will all disown you!”

These temptations can be difficult to resist, and very few of us are immune, especially if we’re feeling down or vulnerable.

But can consumption habits affect our creativity too?

Well, yes, aside from having a negative effect on our bank balance, unhealthy and unnecessary consumption can have a seriously detrimental impact on how (and how often) we create.

Here are six of the most harmful reasons why –

1. Your focus is on acquisition, not creation.

Or, put another way, you’re looking at what you can take in, rather than what you can give out.

When you’re continually thinking about which new materials and equipment to buy (yes, even if they’re art materials), it shifts your focus away from the likely abundance of perfectly adequate and usable ones you already have, and how you can best use them.

Your creativity is put on a back seat, while your insatiable lust for the new is given free reign to consume more and more. Even before the new materials you just ordered have arrived, you’re off looking for the next ones.

Not the ideal state for producing innovative new creative work.

2. You’re always seeking perfection.

Because you’re always looking for that perfect one and only automatic pencil or paintbrush or camera that will instantly enable you to create masterworks every time you use it, you’re forever seeking something that doesn’t really exist.

Aside from feeding a sense of constant dissatisfaction and disappointment (because no one tool or material is perfect for every artwork you want to create), you overlook the unique features and qualities and quirks of all the stuff you already have.

Those same unique features that, combined with your talents and ideas, can help you create original, human and beautifully flawed artworks.

Forget perfection, focus on purposeful progression.

3. You don’t appreciate the beauty around you.

Forever focusing on the consumption of the next big thing is like always having your eyes on a distant horizon, waiting for something life changingly miraculous to appear upon it.

The trouble with that is, you don’t see what’s already around you.

You could be standing in the middle of the most glorious garden, up to your knees in abundant, fragrant blooms, but because you’re looking far into the distance, you don’t appreciate or enjoy a single petal. You may as well have a bucket of set concrete on your head for all you’re using your senses.

Being creative begins with being able to notice and absorb the beauty that’s around you, then capturing that in some way – a photograph, a quilt, a painting, a haiku – and sharing it with others.

If you’re not even seeing the beauty yourself, you’re not going to be making interesting, memorable and beautiful work.

4. You’re robbing yourself of valuable energy.

Money is energy. Time is energy. Attention is energy. Everything is energy.

To lead a creative and rewarding life, we need to be mindful of how we’re using and directing the limited energy we have.

If you’re giving these precious elements away to continually poring over catalogues or websites of new stuff you could buy (and then buying them), you’ll have far less energy (money, time, attention) to invest into creating your most amazing work.

Save your energy for the stuff that really matters. And start making it.

5. You’re scattered, diluted and ineffective.

To be able to create meaningful and rewarding work, we need to immerse ourselves in it, to become focused on nothing else.

This doesn’t necessarily mean locking ourselves away in a secret hideout for a month and doing nothing but creating. (Though sometimes this works!)

That complete and immersive focus might be simlply the five seconds it takes us to compose and capture a photograph, or the ten minutes it takes us to write a short poem.

But we need that uninterrupted focus – that concentration of energy and attention where nothing else in the world matters or exists.

Habits of consumption train us in endlessly seeking the new, the next amazing purchase that will revolutionise our life. It breeds a scattered and skittering mindset, not one than can hone in and settle like it needs to, to create wonderful work.

6. You’re chasing after a false freedom.

Buying new stuff can make us feel excited and powerful. Within a matter of days we can have virtually any product we want delivered to our doorstep.

But your ability to buy something new will never be anything like as powerful as your ability to create something new.

Anyone can whip out their credit card and buy stuff. But no-one in the world can conjure up and develop the creative ideas you have in the same way you can.

Forget this false freedom of purchasing power, and find it in a different way – by instead showing up and focusing on making what you’re truly inspired and called to make.

Consumption habits kill creativity, often without us even realising.

So, over to you.

Which of these ways are most familiar to you?

What steps can you take to make them less likely to happen again?

Come and join the conversation, we’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.


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