Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Struggle (And Pro-Tips For It)

Image from this great video on time and how our brains are being rewired
We're living in a time when we have to actively fight a lot of our own instincts. Much of the way our brains have been wired comes from our earliest ancestors - cavemen who struggled just to survive. Modern life in the western world allows for many of our basic needs to be met without question (I don't mean to overgeneralize, but if you're allowing yourself the luxury of reading this blog post, I assume the existence of your next meal or where you're going to spend the night is not in question), and thus comes the dawn of living in moderation, and working for things that necessarily meet any of our immediate needs.

It's really interesting to see how we're rewiring our brains to adapt to the world around us. The internet wasn't a thing twenty years ago, and now everyone with an eye on productivity is figuring out ways to shut out or limit the amount of time we spend on it. Dieting would never have become an issue until cheap, high calorie food became so readily available. We're all struggling against something in our lives. And I'm not exaggerating when I call it a struggle. Fighting our natural instincts takes work, and a lot of mental energy. Honestly, we've got it a lot harder than those cavemen ever did. They got to follow their instincts all the time. And as far as I can tell, the only thing they ever had to deal with was hunting for food and avoiding dinosaurs.

Alright, confession time: the whole point of this post is to admit that six months in, despite my best efforts, Create / Consume is still not an easy process for me to maintain. Technically, I never actually said it was ever going to be easy or get easy, but in my head I guess I figured I would have somehow mastered my use of my free time by now. I thought maybe I could come on this blog and tell everyone I figured out the secrets of mastering productivity. But sadly I have not achieved an automatic, instinctual balance for myself just yet. Perhaps there simply is no point in which I will ever love all the lazy things I do any less. Like everyone else, I'm hard-wired to not want to work any harder than I have to. And I'm probably flying directly in the face of my body's internal mandate to just chill the heck out and stop working so hard. Especially with Mad Men Season 5 out on DVD, and the holiday gaming season upon us.

The good news is it hasn't been a fruitless struggle. I have done quite a bit of writing and performing over the past six months, and as always, I can feel myself improving, both in my work, and in ability to my avoid some of the pitfalls of productivity. The victories are mostly minor at the moment, but progress is always worth noting.

I have some to thoughts to share that come from my efforts against the eternal struggle. I've talked about how to make Create / Consume work for you before, but these are some additional tips to help get yourself on track when you're not seeing the results you want, or as a way to improve your current level of productivity. I honestly think these three little things (all of which you've probably heard before, but I'm going to reiterate today) in addition to the C/C strategy of tracking your time can make all the difference in a productive day/week/month. It really goes to show how much productivity is less about constant internal motivation or straight-up willpower than it is about just providing the proper environment for inspiration.

1) A Distraction-Free Environment
I've been bad about this, despite hearing it over and over for years, but I think I'm finally starting to get it. At work, when I have the time to spare, I try to get in an hour of Creation - usually writing - during my lunch break. It's actually hard to make the mental shift from day-job mode to writer-mode, but having said that, it's the only time I ever make it a point to put myself in a totally stimulus-free environment, because its the only way anything will ever get done. I try to find an empty conference room, I turn off (or just hide) my phone - which is honestly the biggest distraction any of us have these days, and with nothing but uninteresting stimuli around me, my brain pretty much has no choice but to focus up. And it totally helps. Now if only I could ever get myself to leave my distraction-prone apartment when I'm supposed to write...

2) Deadlines!
If you're involved with Create / Consume, it's likely that you're trying to develop your skills to get to the point where you're working that dream job or creating your best work. For now though, you're probably working on your own time. Although there's something great about the freedom that comes with picking what, when and how much you want to work on something, sometimes without any kind of deadline, nothing ever escapes "creation limbo" where several of my story ideas (including my unfinished NaNoWriMo novel), blog posts and plans for world domination are currently floating.

It's amazing how much more motivated you'll be when, more than just goals and aspirations (which I presume you've already got), you have an actual deadline. I debated taking writing classes for a while, having told myself there was no reason I couldn't write just as much on my own. "I'll just write when I say I'm going to write, and everything will get done." Right? WRONG. Sure, I wrote, but I'd hit a wall on a lot of pieces, and at some point I decided to start writing something else instead, because hey, technically I'm still writing.

It's well worth the money I spend just knowing that I have submit a "finished" piece on certain dates, whether I'm in the mood for it or not, and whether I think its any good or not (more on this in a second). Whatever it is you're working on, figure out a way to make it DUE, even if it means giving a friend $100 (or more, if $100 means nothing to you, money bags) and telling him/her they get to keep it if you don't meet the self-imposed deadline in time.

3) Avoiding Perfection (And Just Focusing On Getting Better)
Second confession time: this blog post has taken me way longer than I thought it would because I wound up scrapping the first two drafts of it. I didn't like how I started, I felt a lot of the advice was stuff that's already been said better elsewhere, and I didn't feel like I was saying anything incredibly valuable or important. So I sat on it for over a week. Here I am now, finally finishing it, telling myself it's going up today one way or another (see: deadlines above) because I have to this post behind me.

One of the reasons I think I got into improv and didn't write for so long was I think I didn't have time to second guess myself on stage. I got up there, did my scenes, and for better or for worse, they were over, and I didn't have much time to second guess my work, since my next scene was right around the corner. I was extremely self-conscious about my ability as an artist early on, even to this day as a matter of fact. I'm very well aware that I have a ways to go as a writer, but it sucks knowing that the work I'm putting out right now isn't up to the same standard of quality of those I admire/aspire to be as good as. I think Ira Glass sums up the whole issue in this video here - he talks about storytelling specifically, but I think it applies to almost anything creative, or any skill, really:

<iframe src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/24715531?badge=0" width="500" height="281" frameborder="0" webkitAllowFullScreen mozallowfullscreen allowFullScreen></iframe> <p><a href="http://vimeo.com/24715531">Ira Glass on Storytelling</a> from <a href="http://vimeo.com/thedak">David Shiyang Liu</a> on <a href="http://vimeo.com">Vimeo</a>.</p>

Don't worry about mastering the craft, or creating a masterpiece in the short term. You just have to get better, and the only way to do that is with practice. LOTS of it. Seeing an idea through to the end is an accomplishment, no matter how's it's received, or how you feel about the finished product. Easier said than done sometimes, I know. Like I said before, even with minor victories, you know you've made progress towards your goal, and that's further than you would have gotten had you opted not to try at all.

***

The struggle to create, to be productive, and to form new, better habits for your life is an exercise of will power, and it can be quite draining at times. Like any training regiment, it requires hard work, and dedication. You're not going to be able to rely on self-motivation all the time. Your body will fight you. You mind will fight you. It will come up with every excuse in the world to keep you from doing what you need to do. We're all in this struggle together, and we're all doing what we can to achieve our goals. Keep at it, and know that you're not alone (that was as much for me as it was for you guys).

Best of luck,
Matt

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

An Ode To Creation



Bet you didn't see this one coming, eh? Ok, so I spent some time talking about the somewhat overlooked benefits of consumption, so I'm planning to spend some time today talking about the also somewhat overlooked benefits of creation. Then, having mastered this skill, I'm going to look on the internet for jobs in the field of "writing about somewhat overlooked benefits of things," or maybe just "odes to things."

I'm going to make a bold assumption here and say that pretty much everyone has created something they were proud of at some point in their lives. Maybe it was a drawing you made as a child. Or the first time you nailed a song in music class, on the instrument you were assigned (mine was the clarinet). Or maybe it wasn't even an artistic expression - it could easily have been a party, or night out with friends/family. Or the name you gave your pet that totally nails his personality and is not at all cliche (I hate cliche pet names - if we ever meet, do NOT tell me you own a "Fluffy," or an "Mr. Mittens"). Whatever it is, you know the feeling you got after everything finally came together. It's amazing, isn't it? There are very few things in life that match of feeling of a creation seen through to completion.

If every single nugget of an idea I had for a blog post, essay, story, sketch, game, app, or killer/sex robot was enough to bring said idea to life, then Create/Consume wouldn't even need to exist. It'd be no contest - I'd sit at home all day long, thinking of amazing ideas and just zapping them to life, probably without the need for any breaks. I'd already probably be a gazillionaire too. I just have so many great ideas you guys! It's that damn "1% inspiration, 99% perspiration" thing that gets me, and I imagine many of you as well. The idea comes with a burst of excitement - "think of how awesome it would be if I made this!" - then you realize the amount of work involved bringing that idea to life, and a little bit of that excitement goes away. But it doesn't have to - not if you keep your eye on the prize, and remember just how amazing it is to create something from nothing.

Relaxing is seriously great and all, but just as 'all work and no play make Jack a dull boy,' did you know that 'all play and no work make Jack a boy with an admittedly comfortable life, but not a whole lot to show for it?' And I should know too, as I kind of was that version of Jack throughout my 20's. I'm immensely proud of the work I've done over the past few years, and though it took a lot of discipline and getting through some serious self-doubt, I actually feel like a real, accomplished adult for the first time in my life. And I mean that in a good way (this is the reverse of the dreaded "adult-machine" I mentioned in my last post).

There's a reason I want to create more than I consume, and why I came up with this project in the first place. Consumption is certainly valuable for my mental health, but it can also be very near-sighted. Given the choice between working on something hard/time-consuming and just playing a fun game, my mind is always going to try to convince me the fun game is the way to go. In fact, I regret just saying what I did, as I see my brain repeating it back to me the next time I sit down to write ("don't you need to work on your mental health, Matt Shafeek?" Yes, I say my full name when I address myself). But without exception, whenever I finish the hard work involved for sake of creating, I never regret the time I spent on it. I never wish I could go back and slack off instead. Because I now have something tangible to show for my time.

I value my work, and I value my time, so I have to be diligent about how I manage it. Creating is in my blood, it satisfies me in a way nothing else quite does. Maybe someday people will be paying me to do it too. Wouldn't that be nice? Even though clearly, either way, I'll gonna keep doing what I'm doing.

So here's to taking that exciting new class. Here's to the hours lost ruining your dinner trying out a new recipe. Here's to finishing that big project you've been working on for weeks...nay, months now! Here's to that wonderful moment where you can lean back, look at your work, and just know what whether or not anyone ever sees or cares about what you made, something exists, right now, that wouldn't have otherwise existed without you.

Here's to the magic of CREATION, and to having it take over as much of our lives as possible!

-Matt

PS: For those of you interested (I'm not going to do a big post about it), I finished September back on track. Here's some data/charts, presented without commentary (other than what I just said):




Wednesday, September 26, 2012

An Ode To Consumption


I think one of the biggest dangers with taking on a project like Create/Consume, or deciding to rearrange your life in order to get more 'serious' or 'productive,' is that you automatically assume anything that is antithetical to your goal is a waste of time.

I'm at the point with doing Create/Consume (and in case you're wondering, yes I'm still tracking all my time, and so far September is going better than August) where it has become automatic to reach out, pull out my iPhone and start the clock every time I'm about to doing something creative or consumptive. When I'm about to start writing or performing, I mentally give myself a little pat on the back, knowing that I'm being the productive person I aim to be. Conversely, when I pull out my phone to start tracking anything I count as consumption - usually TV or a video game, there's a small sense of disapproval that comes with starting the counter, knowing that every second that ticks by is a second I'm going further into the red.

On the one hand, this is a good thing, and the reason I started tracking in the first place. I want to be held accountable for my time, and before C/C I knew I was erring too much on the side of over-consumption. On the other hand, it's very easy to start equating 'relaxing,' or 'enjoying yourself' with 'wasting time,' and 'unproductive.' And that's a bad thing. Studies have shown that people equate time with money (the logical end point for this line of thinking) have a harder time enjoying themselves during leisure activities. Sounds pretty awful right?

When I was a kid, I was fascinated by the line between childhood and adulthood. I couldn't comprehend why people would ever stop wanting to be a kid. In my head actually pictured a machine on an assembly line that people (presumably aging teenagers?) would have to go through to 'enter' adulthood. I didn't know exactly what happened inside of the machine, but I did know that upon reaching the end of the assembly line, suddenly fun things like freeze tag and video games stopped being worthwhile pursuits. And now business meetings, exercise and proper diet were of the utmost importance, while watching too much television or eating a whole bag of Doritos was utterly shameful.

I never wanted to enter that machine. I wanted to be a kid forever. And guess what? I actually resisted hard enough that my dream sort of came true, for better or for worse. I spent my 20's not excelling at any career, but rather priding myself on having free time, being able to have fun, and having an active social life. My nights have never been filled with deadlines or late hours at the office, but rather the things I've chosen to fill my time with. Sometimes it's an improv show, or a night of writing. Other times it's time spent out with friends, or staying in watching four episodes of The Walking Dead in a row (in fact, that was just last night). And that definitely makes me happy.

Adult life is filled with responsibilities and work, and it's easy to see why over time people stop being able to really relax and enjoy themselves. I've been blessed (or cursed, depending on your perspective) with the opposite problem - I've spent a reckless amount of time having fun and avoiding certain responsibilities while ignoring what it takes to really pursue my passions. As I take steps like C/C to take my work more seriously, I've got to ensure that I never forget the joy that comes from a gaming marathon or a late night out with friends, whether or not the "clock" (literal or metaphorical) is running. Otherwise I'd be doing the child that's still inside of me - whose opinions on ice cream and superheroes are very much still valid - a terrible disservice.

So here's to finishing a full season of Breaking Bad in less than a week. Here's to hitting 100 hours in Skyrim. Here's to unapologetically wasting an entire afternoon on Facebook, Reddit, whatever, you name it. Here's to indulgence, the devil on our shoulder, the reward we rightfully deserve.

Here's to CONSUMPTION, the very important second half of the Create / Consume equation!

-Matt

PS: Note that this post on the joys of Consumption just netted me about 45 minutes of Creation for blogging. Create/Consume is not without its loopholes.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

August Was A Bust (/Sweet Vacation!)

I have a confession to make. August was not a very successful month for me, as far as Create / Consume is concerned.

72 hours and 38 minutes of glorious mostly guilt-free consumption
Now, keep in mind this chart also includes not one but two "vacation" periods (first weekend in August, as a celebration for completing July, as well as this current holiday weekend) where I wasn't tracking but I was consuming plenty. So its actually even worse than this. It probably didn't help that I got my first PS3 and a slew of games to go with it. Look at all this blue!

On the plus side, my list of completed video games grew nicely in August
So, just in case you thought Create / Consume was something that becomes easy or that you naturally gravitate towards once you stick with it for 30 days...no and no. I'm not being hard on myself right now, but it is important to me to be aware of how easy it is to slip back to old habits. The same thing happened to me when I gave up video games for an entire year. I allowed myself to gorge pretty heavily once the year was over, and a lot of the new interests and habits I formed wound up falling by the wayside.

Despite how poorly I knew I was doing this month, I was definitely diligent about recording my activities. I wanted to see/show the results here, no matter what. I stopped looking around halfway through the month though, knowing I wasn't going to like what I saw.

"Miscellaneous" pretty much means working out. 11 hours of outdoors exercise in August is probably a small victory in and of itself
I think it's important to reward yourself for a job well done, but also to recognize when an extended reward is turning into an old habit returning. But hey, these things happen, but I'd like to say here and now that I'm going to do my best to get back on track for September. Just like week I had something pretty awesome happen - a piece I wrote got on my favorite blog, and got a fair amount of press along with it - so I'd like to keep that momentum going if possible.

As always, thanks for reading. Look for more thoughts this coming month.

-Matt

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Thoughts From Another Create / Consumer

When I first came up with Create / Consume, one of the first thoughts I had was that it would be a great project to pitch to others to do themselves, since it's tremendously flexible. Lots of friends showed interest, but so far only one of them actually followed through and did the full experiment for a month.

The face of a man who knows how to balance his time.
My fellow Create / Consumer's name is Drew Tarvin. I met him a few years back at the Magnet Theater where we both perform improv every week. Drew went through his own version of C/C that was fairly similar to the one I set up for myself, tracking writing, shows, research on the one end, and internet use, TV, and leisure reading on the other. He also tracked a few "gray area" items of note (like watching improv shows).

Hmm, even more time creation time than me. No need to outshine me on my own project, Drew!

He even went so far as to track the times of day he was most productive, something I didn't even think of:


Drew's thoughts on the very successful experiment can be found on his personal blog - which you should totally go check out. I'd like to share his final thoughts on the experience here though, right now:

"So what was the biggest benefit of all this? For me it was giving me insight into how I work and keeping me honest about how I’m spending my time. By having the data in front of me, I can make strategic decisions on things I want to keep or change (such as less time on the Internet).
But perhaps the greatest thing about doing this challenge was that simply knowing I was tracking my time influenced my behavior for the better. Early on when I didn’t have much “creation time” reserved, I did less consumption because I didn’t want to tip the scales. That alone was worth implementing the system.
For those of you with creative ambitions, I recommend you give it a try. You certainly don’t have to keep as strenuous of logs, nor do you have to go into as much analysis, but it is an interesting challenge to at least try for a month."
Thanks a ton Drew for fully committing to the experiment and helping to spread the word. Create / Consume is officially a multi-person project!

-Matt

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

One Month Challenge Completed!!


There you have it. My final numbers for my first successful month of Create / Consume. 85 hours and 14 minutes of creation to 56 hours and 1 minute of consumption, which came out to a nice overall 60/40 split. I really did it you guys!

By comparison (and in addition to the hours seen above), I slept for about 217 hours (No, I didn't actually track this, but I know for a fact that I come pretty close to 7 hours of sleep on average each night), worked my day job for 144 hours, and whatever else time was left in the month was spent commuting, bathing, exercising, cooking, eating or very likely, socializing (though there's definite crossover with that and movies, television and games).


Lots of great stuff accomplished in thirty one days. Four research books read, a full revision on my card game, a second draft of an older short story I was working on, and a first draft of a new story. Four weeks of improv shows/practice, one live storytelling set, and an average of two blogs posts a week on this blog and my other main blog (not to mention regular updates on my Batman tumblr).


With plenty of time still spent enjoying myself. Over a full day of television! Seems high, but national stats show I'm very much on the low end here for a full month compared to the average American (2.8 hours a day, or 83.7 hours a month). And that's just with television!

Next Steps / Going Forward

So you'll be happy to here I'm not done with Create / Consume. I absolutely love having an excuse to not be lazy, and I've yet to discover something as effective. So this is not the end of the project for me, merely the beginning.

Here are the changing I'll be making going forward, adjusting from the initial rules I set for myself:

1) First and foremost, I'm allowing myself some "vacation" time this weekend, as a reward for finishing the first month. I have a three day weekend coming up, so from Friday evening through Monday evening I'm allowing myself UNLIMITED CONSUMPTION, which won't be tracked at all. Then it's back to regular C/C again. I may do this once a month or so as a nice break, or whenever I leave town and am actually on a legitimate vacation.

2) I may at some point decide to count certain activities as 'creation' that are only actual creations in the loosest sense of the word. 'Exercise & Chores' is probably a lot more accurate. But I could use any added incentive to work out and do things like paint my apartment, so I'm ok with loosening the original requirements for the experiment for the sake of added overall productivity.

3) I may also adjust the values of certain kinds of creations over others. I've found that as a writer I am incredibly bad about editing/revising pieces I've written once I've finished and have cooled off a draft. Tweaking old ideas just never appeal to me as much as cranking out new ones. The solution? Editing and revising old drafts will counts as double creation, meaning every minutes effectively counts as two. I may do the same for other activities I similarly find myself dragging my legs with. And conversely, if a situation arises with a certain consumption I find myself addicted to (Skyrim, anyone?) I may do the same there to curb the habit a bit.

4) Non-research books are just going to be a neutral activity going forward. I think reading is always going to be valuable as a writer, and so I'm not going to punish myself for indulging on that front, unless I wind up with a subscription to US Weekly or something. Podcasts will also get a pass going forward, just because I listen to them while I'm walking or working out and they distract no more or less than music does, which was already exempt.

5) Lastly, I'm allowing myself to have internet breaks at work without penalty. Like most people who work in an office, I take mental breaks during the day, and all last month I recorded that time (approximately 15 minutes each day) diligently, but since I'm not counting the work I do at my day job as creation, I don't feel it's fair to penalize myself for the breaks I take from it. However, if I'm able to get away from my desk for lunch (which is not always possible), I will count that time towards either creation or consumption depending on how I use it.

***

I won't be updating weekly with stats anymore, but I will certainly continue to post here with updates regarding my own personal experience with the project, and for any related ideas that may help others who are looking to do the same thing (and if you're working on this project now, and have any thoughts or feedback, please let me know!)

Thanks to everyone for following along. I hope so far you've found the project as interesting as I have. Here's to another successful month, year, and/or lifetime of balance and productivity!

-Matt

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Day Twenty Nine - Week 4 In Review

Four weeks in, and less than three days to go. Create / Consume is pretty much old hat for me right now. I don't want to brag and say I've mastered this or anything, but...ok, let's look at how I did this past week:


For the first time since I started, I managed to maintain a solid 2-1 ratio of creation to consumption. 18 hours, 33 minutes (68%) of creation to 8 hours and 52 minutes (32%) of consumption. I've been holding steady with about 19 hours of creation every week, and slowly reducing my consumption level overall, filling my time with creation and other forms of productivity.

Let's take a look at creation - but before I do, apologies in advance for not having more fun stuff on this or my other blog to share as a result of all the work I've done this month. I've been doing a lot of writing, but I'm cautious about sharing first drafts of things I'm working on before I feel like they're really ready. I hope to have some stuff up soon though.


Writing and blogging took up about 50% of my creation time, as did performing, research and game design. I'm 23 pages away from finishing my 4th book of the month, which is something I'm not sure I've ever done before, even when I was back in college. Certainly not voluntarily. While this would be a very different experiment if any book I read counted as consumption, I'm satisfied with how I set things up - allowing myself an hour (at most) per day to read something instructive or otherwise relevant to my own work (like re-reading/analyzing one of David Sedaris' books, since I do a lot of short non-fiction writing) allows me to have a few more choices in terms of productivity whenever I have downtime.

Let's move on to consumption...


Look at how little time I spent on the internet! Two and a half hours? That was probably an average day for me less than a month ago. And thirty eight minutes of games? That was an average bus ride home. It's pretty amazing how things have changed. And most of that television was a single Sunday marathon of Game of Thrones, and Legend of Korra with friends, two highly enjoyable series very much worth the cost.

Finally, let's take one last look at my overall ratio to date before we get the final tally on Wednesday when the full month is over:


I never tracked a full month on either side before, but 77 hours of creation seems like a pretty kick-ass number. I imagine I'll hit close to 85 once the month is fully over. Maybe some other month I'll aim for 100, just for shits and giggles. And 51 hours of consumption averages to a little less than two hours a day, which is most certainly on the lower side of my past behavior.

I'll have some closing thoughts on the experiment along with a final breakdown on Wednesday. I'll also let you all know what I'll be doing going forward once the month is over. I'll give you a hint: I'm going to keep doing this. It's been such a wonderful experience, and so great at keeping me productive and responsible in a way I've never been before, it'd be silly to simply allow myself to go back to my old habits. There will be vacation days on the agenda though, specifically, next weekend, which I'll be calling the 'weekend of infinite consumption!' I'm very much looking forward to it.

Thanks everyone for reading. Anyone looking to start their own month of Create / Consume in August or anytime going forward, hit me up and let me know what you have lined up.

-Matt

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Day Twenty Two - Week 3 In Review

Week three is officially behind me, and I now have less than ten days to go! I'm excited, in case you guys can't tell. So how'd I do during week #3 of Create / Consume? Let's take a look:


This past week I mostly held steady from the week before, creating for 18 hours and 24 minutes to 13 hours and 14 minutes of consumption, with an overall ratio of 58% to 42%. So much for my goal of a steady 2-1 creation to consumption ratio. But I still came out ahead despite devoting an entire night to waiting on line for two hours and eventually watching the nearly three hour Dark Knight Rises. And I was forced to wait on line standing up outside in the rain, thus keeping me from drawing Batman for those two hours like I had planned. Ah, well.

So what kind of creations did I make instead? Let's see:


I've been working on some memoir pieces lately, and David Sedaris' books have been my bibles, since I love his style. On top of bouncing back and forth between his books and my own writing, I managed to have my usual week of improv practice and performing, posting on this blog, and getting in just a little bit more time on my card game, which I'm hoping to playtest a little later today.

On to consumption:


During future experiments, I think I might consider completing disallowing certain forms of consumption. I've already given up video games before, but I wonder what a week or dare I say, a month without internet would be like. Would I be able to function without facebook, twitter, and my google reader? To say nothing of my email. My money's on no, that I will, in fact, die over the course of the trial. But I suppose there's only one way to find out.

Finally, let's look at the month stats to date:


I've got almost twenty hours of creation over consumption at this point. Given that the total number of hours to date comes to just about 100, the overall ratio is right there there in the totals - 59% to 41%. Maybe I'll celebrate on July 31st with a full day of non-stop consumption, to end the month with creation just seconds ahead of consumption. Hah, I'm sure that be fun. And even though that'd technically be within the parameters I've set for myself., I think I'd rather push myself in the other direction to see just how far ahead I can get.
That's all for now dear readers. Thanks for following along. I hope to have something fun up for you all to read in the next few days. Stay tuned!

-Matt

Saturday, July 21, 2012

How Create / Consume Can Help You

To Do Create / Consume Too!
I talked a little bit last time during my weekly update about how how certain traits were key when setting goals for yourself. I think the topic deserves further exploration, and I'm going to weave it all into a post here about how I think Create / Consume can work to improve anyone's life.
(FYI - every study or fact you see referenced here, unless otherwise noted, is courtesy of Barking Up The Wrong Tree, a fantastic blog composed of amazing statistics that seeks to "understand why we do what we do and use the answers to be awesome at life." A noble goal indeed)

Resisting Temptation

I didn't know this until I was knee deep in my experiment, but studies have shown that the desire for media use is incredibly hard to resist, actually trumping the desire for cigarettes and alcohol, two traditionally highly addictive drugs. It doesn't take a whole lot to really convince any of us that the internet can be very addicting, as can the desire to veg out in the front of the television whenever we're feeling lazy and have some time to kill. It's human nature, and it takes will power to resist the temptation.

What I like about Create / Consume is I can liken it to a diet that allows me to indulge in whatever way I want, so long as I'm being productive overall. I'll spend some time writing during the day, when I first wake up in the morning, and maybe a little during my lunch break or on my commute home - and I can spend my time at home consuming whatever I want. Or if I spend a full day working on something through the night, then the next day I pretty much be as lazy as I want. 

The balance is tricky, and it's certainly not easy to maintain. But being productive is ultimately more rewarding in the long run. I think we all know this, too - we sometimes just need a little push to get us going. On the flip side of things, did you know that under-indulging could actually be the key to happiness?

Learning Self Control / Time Management

It wasn't until I started tracking my time that I became fully aware of how much I consume. Sure, I knew that I listened to a lot of podcasts, and spent more time than I should on facebook. And then of course there's all those games on my iPhone. But man-oh-man was I shocked to see the total staring me right in the face. Nearly 48 hours of my entire week was spent consuming. By comparison, I actually spent less time sleeping that same week (less than 47 hours, though I wasn't tracking it precisely).

According to studies, will power can be improved with small acts of self control every day. I think Create / Consume hands those daily smalls acts to you by keeping you highly aware of your time. It's annoying at first, but it's slowly becoming second hand to start tracking both fields of activity whenever I'm about to start one of them.  And knowing the clock is ticking in either direction while I'm working makes me less inclined to spend more than few minutes browsing the internet when I could be doing something more productive. Conversely, I find that I'm pushing myself to get in a few more hours of creation wherever I can. I'm seeing The Dark Knight Rises tonight, and on top of this blog post, I plan on spending some time drawing Batman while I'm in line waiting to counteract some of of the approximate 3 hour run-time of the film! (Drawing is not really something I do regularly, so this will be a strictly side creation

Working Towards Your Goal

In my last post I briefly mentioned having read that apparently ambitiousness and vagueness were key traits to aim for in trying to be successful with a particular goal. In other words, aiming to start living an overall healthier lifestyle that includes an improved diet and regular exercise might be a better overall diet plan than simply 'lose 50 pounds,' though I can't personally speak to how ambitious or unambitious either of those goals are. (Someone with dieting experience care to chime in?)

Here's my personal example: before C/C, I had a personal goal of eight hours of writing every week. When I was working with that goal, before the experiment started, I missed the mark pretty regularly, and I'd feel like crap every time it happened. What was I doing wrong? Why wasn't I able to make the time? Now since starting the experiment, I've not concentrated on any other goal besides keeping my creation above my consumption - and if you look at my stats and combine writing and blogging each week, I'm currently average close to ten hours a week of writing. Which I literally didn't realize until writing this post. Pretty cool, huh?

I'm setting a bar for myself this month without ever really seeing exactly where it is. I'm aware of the specific times I'm investing in everything, and the statistic I find myself looking at the most is the ratio of creation to consumption over any given day/week/the entire month. All I can ever do to improve that stat is what I'm already doing - create more, consume less. And so that's what I'm always keeping in mind. I'm aware of whenever I'm consuming a lot, and working contrary to my goal, but I don't feel like I ever need to panic because of all the ways I have set up to put things in reverse. The month has so far been anything but stressful.

***

When I first started out with this project I really had no idea how much it would help me. Now I'm fairly convinced I'm going to keep doing it even after the month is up (more on this soon). And I will continue to encourage others who are looking to create more to do it with me. I'm actually selling myself on this whole crazy concept more and more every day I'm doing it! I hope this post has done the same for you.

-Matt

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Day Fifteen Report - Week 2 In Review

Well, would you look at that. I'm almost halfway done! So how'd I do this past week?


This week, I had 17 hours and 25 minutes of creation over 11 hours and 22 minutes of consumption. That's 61% over 39%, an improvement over last weeks' 57% to 43% ratio. Not bad, but if you look at last week's stats, you'll realize this is mostly due to cutting my consumption in half overall. My creation was down as well, but not as much. Clearly it's much easier to curtail a negative action than it is to consistently replace it with a positive action. Still, unlike last week, I worked a full week at my day job, and I managed to impress myself with my ability to resist temptation from my old friend the internet. I wasn't quite able to spend every free minute creating something, but I was more productive at work, which is something the graphs aren't tracking.


I managed to get a lot more writing done this past week, which is great. Sadly, I don't have much to share with you here at the moment. I came up with a horror movie idea at work one day, and spent my lunch break recording a video explaining the plot and the idea behind it (this is all the "misc." you see for the first time on the chart). I was actually about to upload it onto the blog, but I showed it to a friend first - a fellow writer - and she was so in love with the idea that she told me to hold off on sharing it for now in case we want to actually follow up and write the script for it together. That's a flattering response if I've ever heard one.


I didn't have any Louie or Breaking Bad marathons this past week, which certainly helped on the consumption side. Just a few episodes of Game of Thrones with friends. My consumption could have been below 10 hours for the week, which would have been really impressive to me, but after a four hour writing session yesterday, and no other plans for the night, I opted to turn on my Xbox and play a game on it for the first time in a while (the game was The Walking Dead adventure game by the way, and it's pretty great - I played through the entire first episode and immediately downloaded the next one). 

I think breaks are important, as are rewards for a hard day's work. That's why my goal will never be a consumption of zero - it's neither realistic, nor is it a valuable benchmark in my opinion.

Finally, let's go back and look at the full month overall, with both weeks (plus an episode of Mad Men from this morning) added up:


I'm still maintaining a nice healthy lead overall. If I can do as well with curbing consumption as I have this past week, the experiment will be a guaranteed success. Combine that with a solid push towards creating more than I perhaps feel normally inclined to (and a few less naps perhaps, something I've noticed I'll do as a 'legal' form creation-avoidance), and I'll be thoroughly satisfied.

So that's the update. Thanks again for reading. Those of you who have joined me, how is the experiment going for you so far? Did you know that, according to research on the topic, the two values you should keep in mind when trying to achieve your goals are the ambitiousness (aim high) and the vagueness (don't focus on a number) of what you're aiming for. Do you think Creation / Consume falls under those two categories? I'm inclined to think so, but this is my baby, so I'll be the first to admit there may be a bias at play.

-Matt

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Create / Consume: The Game!

So I'm designig a card game at the moment. It's called "Placebo," and I think it's going to be a lot of fun. As a lifelong gamer, I'm really excited to be making an fleshed out, fully realized and fully playable game. Sadly, I can't really share the concept or the gameplay with the world just yet. So instead, I figured I would come up with some new games based on Create / Consume that I'm happy to share with the world right here and now. Let me know what you guys think!

I know what you're thinking: if my game design skills are anything like my box art design skills, then obviously you're in for a crazy good time. Also, as a side note, there's something so vaguely inappropriate about the "ok" symbol, no?
Idea #1: "Kindergarten"

This is something of a party game that I think would work nicely with larger or smaller groups. The concept is that players are competing for the best creation that everyone works on just during the game. All kinds of artistic materials should be made available to allow for maximum options for the group. This includes pens, pencils, paper, paints, clay/Play Doh and maybe even musical instruments if possible. Everyone can be formed into random teams or can all fend for themselves if they're feeling ornery.

The suggestion for creation can come from a random passage chosen word(s) from a book or a magazine. Players should all be given the same time limit to come up with their creation - anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes seems the most practical, but feel free to play a 60 second or weekend long version of this game. Anything "creative" goes - write a poem, or a play to be acted out. Make a parody of "Call me maybe" called "Maul me Katie?" which sounds really awful. Anyway, once time is up, individual players or groups will present their creations and a secret vote is cast. The player(s) with the highest ranked creation wins! The game can be played in multiple rounds if people feel like extending the experience.

I called this one 'Kindergarten' because I feel like this is something that would be assigned to young children, but there's honestly no reason why adults shouldn't get a kick out of this. A lot of people don't feel necessarily "creative," so I suppose that could be a factor. If so, you can remove the competitive element entirely, making it more like show and tell, another childhood experience. Or you could find more competitive friends and consider idea #2...

Idea #2: "The Inevitable C/C Drinking Game"

FYI: Designing this game would win you my game.
This is basically 'Idea #1' with alcohol/prizes. In the drinking version of this game, once the first round is over (and in this version, rounds should be kept fairly short), and voting has occurred, the losers must drink (and/or eat their creation, if you want to be particularly punitive). The winner gets a time penalty on his/her creation next round to keep things interesting. The good news: as the rounds progress, creations will invariably grow more and more interesting! The bad news: it may be hard to keep people interested in playing this version of the game very long.

As an added incentive, the ultimate winner of the game gets first dibs on selection of movie/game/tv show or restaurant/food that night or the next time the group is together. Or else, the winner simply doesn't get forced to drink. This version of the game is much less like Kindergarten, but it very fulfills both the "Create" and "Consume" portion of the game's title.

Idea #3: "The Biggest Creator"

Yeah Bernie!!
This is more of a straight competition than a "game" per se, but I figure Create / Consume could easily be something similar to a weight loss competition people have with their co-workers, spouses or sometimes with strangers on national television. The idea would be that a group of people - as few as two, or as many as are interested - agree on a month that they will be participating in a local Create / Consume Challenge. The terms are set up - what counts as creations, what counts as consumptions - and the terms for victory can be either maintaining the best ratio of creations to consumptions, or simply a high enough creation time for the month, regardless of consumption. One of the tracking methods I've mentioned on this blog can be used, but obviously it rely on participants to be honest about their times. Showing off creations at the end of the month could ensure players don't simply avoid consumption for the entire month, though this can also be considered a valid strategy if all players agree to it. And the prize? Well, I figure each player can put in a set amount of money - say, $50 - $100 - ensuring a heated competition among everyone for pretty sweet payoff. Remember to find some honest people to play with - they haven't invented a scale for media consumption yet!

[The preceding came from a random thought I had and decided to flesh out during my lunch break at work yesterday, rather than simply playing with my phone or browsing the internet. Let's see how many more of these I can come up with this month!]

-Matt

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Day Eight Report - First Week Breakdown

One week down, three and change to go.

I'm happy to announce I've ended the first week of Create / Consume on target for my goal. Not only that, but it wasn't a torturous experience at all, and I was still able to spend plenty of time enjoying myself.

Let's look at the stats, shall we?


22 hours and 22 minutes of creation to 16 hours and 40 minutes of consumption. That's a 57% to 43% ratio for the week, in favor of creation. If you compare that to my control week from before C/C started, that's a fairly big improvement. The ratio was even better before two days ago, when I decided to indulge in a 4 and a half hour marathon of Louie S2 with a friend. That was some high quality consumption my friends. Well worth the hit I took on my numbers for the week.

Let's take a look at my creation log for the week:


Not a lot of surprises for me in what I wound up choosing to work on. I got my usual 8 hours of writing in (if you count blogging along with straight up writing), along with my two performances (improv and a storytelling show) of the week. I managed to finish an entire book on memoir writing and publishing over the course of the week (that's the research bar you see), and I honestly can't remember the last time I finished a book in such a short span of time. And lastly, I worked on the card game I'm designing for a fair chunk of time. Both that and the book I read served as good 'small chunk' creations whenever I had a smaller window of time or was simply not in the mood to do any writing.

Next week I plan on upping my writing significantly if possible. I'm going to use whatever free time I can to work on some revisions of some pieces I've written first drafts of that have since been gathering dust.

And lastly, let's look at consumptions:


The 8 hours and 33 minutes of television seen here taking up half the graph is about 1/3 of a season of Breaking Bad and about 3/4 of a season of Louie. All deliberate choices I chose to partake in after several hours of work (and including, as I mentioned before, one full night indulgence).

Other than about a half hour of Mario Kart Wii that I played with a friend, the other three hours is time spent playing my addictive iPhone games - specifically the ones that taunt me with reminding me it's my turn to play (Words/Scramble with Friends, Hero Academy, Draw Something). If I was in a pinch, I would just remove these games for the month to remove the temptation entirely. Three hours over the course of the week, spread out in 10 minute chunks is probably still a little high for my liking, but I recognize that this is definitely still cutting back significantly. And my internet time is waaaaayyyyyy down compared to week's past, but I'm also sure I can do better. I'll aim to cut back even further next week - perhaps aiming to limit consumption to under 10 hours total for the entire week. 

I might also try to play around with some miscellaneous creations this week to mix things up. I'll let you all know how that goes.

Thanks for reading.

-Matt

Friday, July 6, 2012

Day Six Report - A Crossover Plug

Create / Consume is plugging along just fine. I'm still maintaining an overall 2-1 ratio with creation over consumption so far, though I'm planning on watching a full night of season 2 of Louie on DVD with a friend tonight, so that balance is about to be thrown a bit off. I'll have the full first week update sometime on Monday.

In the meantime, care to see something I've been working on? I've written a handful of Onion-style pieces on my personal blog "Paused" (which started off with my first life project, taking a year off from video games). The latest one came from the controversy I've read about recently regarding the hypersexuality of women in comic books. I figured if the actual creators weren't going to justify it, I'd just go ahead and justify it for them.

Here's a sneak peak to convince you to click over - an image of Wonder Woman performing a breast exam that I've co-opted for my fake news story:

The full story can be found here:

http://iampaused.blogspot.com/2012/07/onion-wedges-new-crossover-comic-book.html

Enjoy!

-Matt

Monday, July 2, 2012

Day One Report

One day down, thirty more to go!

Care to see how my first day went? Let's check the stats, courtesy of the Eternity App for the iPhone.

I'm beaming with pie-chart pride.
I started keeping track as of 12:00pm on midnight Sunday. Naturally, as soon as my friends heard me shout: "Create / Consume has begun!" they begin attempting to force me to consume against my will. Alcohol may have been a factor here, but also my so-called "friends" really just seem to enjoy messing with me in general. So various (obviously irresistiblevideos of animals fighting each other started me off on the wrong foot, and killed the dream of wanting to never go into "the red" consumption-wise. But once I woke up the next day, I got back on track and had the kind of day that the project was intended to produce...

This app is really addictive if you love stats like me.
...right after I watched an episode of Breaking Bad. And then went onto the AV Club to read a breakdown of the episode (the icing on the cake whenever I watch a show that I love). After I did all that stuff, I figured I had dug a deep enough hole that would motivate me to fill it up. I spent a solid two hours during the day working on a storytelling set for the open house storytelling mixer my improv theater has tonight, and later, after running a few errands, taking a nap and having dinner with my mom (who asked me how the project was going - thanks for taking an interest, mom!) I put another few hours into working on the card game I've been designing for the past few months, currently in it's 3rd draft.

So far, this project can mostly be called "Create / Watch Breaking Bad"
That's pretty much the long and the short of it. So what changed immediately? Well, other than a single NY Times article and the aforementioned AV Club analyses, I spent zero time on the internet yesterday. And only ten minutes playing games, as a break during my writing. And that right there was what allowed me to allot just about two minutes of creation for every minute of consumption yesterday. Maybe I could have created just as much while still consuming far more - but then I'm sure I wouldn't have gotten as many errands done, nor would I have been able to take that sweet sweet nap.

It's not easy to remember to clock all the creation/consumption actions I've highlighted for the month, but the more I do it, the more natural it seems to start/stop the clock whenever I'm doing any of these things. I have a feeling at the end of the month, in addition to the work I complete, I'll have a nice little list of consumptions I know I clearly must love, given the price I pay for every minute I spend with them.



-Matt

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Less Than Twenty Four Hours Left! Some Last Minute Hopes & Fears

Create / Consume begins for me tomorrow. I'm definitely feeling a combination of excitement and anxiety. Why is that? Well it comes from knowing that I'm about to embark on an incredibly difficult challenge that I'm sure to struggle with. But I also know that once it's over, I'll come out the other side with a strong sense of accomplishment and hopefully some hard-won new routines like the ones I got when I quit playing video games for a year.

I'd like to share with you the jumbled mess of hopes and fears running through my head right now:

FEAR: I fail to maintain a proper Create / Consume balance, leaning far too heavily on consumption and causing an insurmountable imbalance.

This is obviously the worst-case scenario. I try my best to create whenever I can, but I slip and give in to temptation more often than I should. If my consumption remains consistently higher than my creations, even by just a little, I will fail the challenge. Should this happen, well, it will certainly still be a learning experience. And maybe I'd try again and redouble my efforts come August.

HOPE: I come out of the month with some work I'm genuinely proud of.

I've started a lot of projects. I've got dozens of first drafts of things. But lack of persistence has kept me from returning to a lot of my work and really polishing it. If things go well, I'll be able to develop a laser focus to improve upon a good portion of my material that I'll be proud to show the world some day.

FEAR: I'll be miserable the entire time, leading to some crappy creations and anxious, guilt-ridden consumption.

This is another big one. Forcing myself to write or otherwise create when I'm not in the mood is obviously a recipe for uninspired work. And if I have to sit with an ever-judging clock ticking higher and higher in the background every time I allow myself to consume things, I'm obviously going to enjoy myself far less that I was before. The best solution I've come up with so far is embrace a lot of the neutral activities I have set up during the month - social time, exercise, and things I've put off for many months, like going through old boxes and cleaning up my apartment. Additionally, I have other "creations," such as the books I purchased on memoir-writing and game design (two fields I'm focused on), that will allow me to generate some creation time without taxing my brain as much.

HOPE: Once the month is over, I'll naturally live a mostly balanced Create/ Consume life on my own.

How's that for a dream? They say you break a bad habit in as little as 21 days. I've committed myself to 31. If I can train myself to naturally wake up and start writing regularly (as opposed to opening my gmail or turning on my iPhone), and generally spend less of my downtime being unproductive, then even if i end the month one the wrong side of creation and consumption, I'll still consider the project a success. Of course, this is currently just wishful-thinking. When I finished "Paused" and allowed myself playing video games again, I kept writing but after losing my job and wound up clocking in a record-breaking number of hours playing video games again. It's very easy to slide back to old habits, so I'll need to continue being diligent, and not allow myself a "victory month" of massive consumption, as tempting as that will be.

FEAR: I'll cheat or find ways to work around the rules of the challenge.

I'm pretty disciplined when it comes to this kind of stuff (I accidentally clinked on a link during my year off from games and freaked out and quickly closed my browser when I found out I was suddenly playing a flash game) but I've never set the bar this high before. There's a reason people hire trainers when they trying to be serious about working out at the gym. It's just way too easy to blow it off. I can totally see myself saying: "I'm just gonna tweet a blog post real quick," and find myself checking my twitter feed or facebook without clocking it. I haven't gone a day without looking at my google reader while I'm at work - how will I function with my fix? How will I fight so many temptations on a daily basis? And what if I decide to spend the month not consuming but just hanging out with friends constantly, avoiding any real creations while working within my own rules? I honestly have no answer to this other than A) lying to myself and those who are following me seems much worse than simply failing, so I'll always keep that in mind and B) I can only assume my friends will eventually get sick of me, and hopefully a nagging guilt will always get me back on track.

HOPE: This will be something I do every year, and I'm able to encourage many others to do it with me.

For better or for worse, these kinds of life experiments / gimmicks work wonders for me, mostly because I find discipline much easier when there are actual stakes at play. In other words, when I can make kind of a game out it. My friends make fun of me about this the time, but I've found a way to lean in to this particular quirk. If the month goes well for me and I don't hate every single second of it, I can see it becoming something I do every year, or perhaps even more. I also genuinely hope to get others interested in the project, and for word to spread through stories from myself and from others doing the experiment. It would honestly be a dream come true if just one person told me Create / Consume changed their life in a positive way.

***

That's everything on my mind at the moment, though I'm sure other things will come up that I haven't even thought of. As I finish this post, the project starts for me in a little over six hours. I'm as mentally prepared as I'm ever going to be. So on that note, I'm going to go now and enjoy my last remaining hours of guilt-free consumption time, which will actually mostly be spent on a neutral activity, spending time hanging out with friends. I wish any of you joining me tomorrow the best of luck, and remember to keep me posted on your progress as I will here on this blog. I won't be doing daily updates, but I'll probably be posting a lot in general this coming week.

-Matt

Monday, June 25, 2012

Are Mini/Side Creations Worth Counting?

I was talking with some friends last night about Create / Consume and I jokingly mentioned that I'd be picking up an Etch-A-Sketch to have on me at all times so that I could invest a few quick minutes into something if I was low on 'Creation time' for the day and wasn't necessarily in the mood (or didn't have a nice chunk of time set aside) for doing any writing, which is my likely go-to for creative output next month.
Jesus. I couldn't even draw the circle surrounding the Presidential seal with this thing.
My friend Dan laughed at the idea and quickly said: "that'd be a real waste of time, wouldn't it?" And at the time I shrugged, but since then I've been thinking about the idea of mini/side creations - things like doodles, iPhone camera pictures and the like - things that under the letter of the law count as "artistic creations" that are not exactly works of art with any real passion behind them. Should they count as highly as anything else? Is creation time still creation time, no matter what is being created?

When I initially ironing out the details for Create / Consume, I had a few items that fell under the area of '1/2  consumption,' like watching tv or playing video games with friends (since it was somewhat social). I also had items that counted as '1/2 creation,' like rehearsals and classes (since we were just learning and not technically creating anything to be presented). In the end I decided to just draw a hard line in the sand and count everything as all or nothing, if for no other reason than I didn't want to have to deal with a lot of annoying math all month.

So I'm not really interested idea that some creation counts less than other kinds of creation (this is me personally - like I've stressed in the past, everyone has their own priorities with this project). Especially since I'd like to be open to the idea of discovery over the course of July. Maybe after drawing ten crappy doodles of Batman, I rediscover the love for drawing I haven't had since I was a child. Maybe after taking a few barely-artistic shots of the view outside my bedroom window I'll discover a newfound love for photography. Who knows what thirty days of semi-forced artistic expression can do to a man.

Still, I also don't want the month to be about me finding clever ways to avoid doing the things I know deserve my focus. If I spend the same (or less than) eight hours a week writing as I did before, and the rest of my free time making a Play-Doh village featuring miniature models of all my enemies that I will eventually stomp into oblivion, well...actually that sounds pretty awesome. Bad example. Point is, I definitely want to focus the majority of my attention on my writing, my performances, and the game I'm designing, so those things should and will get priority.

My friend Karen actually came up with a great suggestion, which is allowing for "creative exploration" each day, but putting a cap - say an hour - on it so that ultimately I still have a focus. I actually think it's a great compromise (and no real increase in math, just time awareness). And that mean the Etch-A-Sketch is still on the table. Now, if only I was able to draw something better than this: 

That's PRESIDENT Squiggle-Mess to you, friendo.
What do you guys think? Should Create / Consumers have a focus with what they want to create? Or let their imagination flow...even if that means lots of time spent carving their name into windows on the subway?

-Matt

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Breaking Down My Control Week

A few weeks ago, in anticipation of Create / Consume, I decided to run a 'control' week where I kept track of how I spent my time. Over the course of these seven days, I deliberately did not adjust my behavior at all. Rather, I just kept careful track of my time from the moment I woke up until the moment I went to sleep, specifically tracking any instances of what I would eventually be counting as "creation" and "consumption." Here's how the week broke down:


That's 44 hours and 38 minutes of consumption, which absolutely crushes my 17 hours and 43 minutes of creation. Now mind you, this was not a particularly bad week for me. In fact, I daresay it was what I normally call a good week. I wrote for more than 8 hours, I had improv practice, a show, and a meeting with my writing group. But I also spent a ton of time surfing the web (at home and at my job), and I very much kept up with all my iPhone games. And clearly by the end of that long week, I felt entitled to a nice relaxing day, which meant bouncing around between my Xbox, TV and computer during most every spare moment.

I recommend that anyone who is planning on attempting Create / Consume run a test week like this (or just a few days, since we're now at less than a week until the project officially begins!) to both become aware of your creation and consumption habits and to get into the habit of keeping track of your time. It will definitely take a while to get used to pulling out your iPhone (or a stop watch, if you're kicking it old school) whenever you're about to do anything that falls under either category. The very act of tracking may adjust your scores too - as you can see it did on my first day when I opted to mostly do things that weren't being tracked all (exercising, napping, hanging out with friends). Finally, it's actually kind of fun to see the results if you're any kind of stat geek like me.

By the way - the app I used to track my time was called Eternity (technically it was the free version, Eternity Lite, though I liked it enough to buy the full version and all it's functionality for July). It lets you track multiple activities and it logs your total time while you're stopping and starting the clock over and over during the day. There's reports available too that I didn't use and would likely compile a better spreadsheet than I did before. You can break down the categories into more than just "create" and "consume" and really track how much of everything you're doing. Cool stuff.

Like I said a little further up, Create / Consume starts in less than a week! And it looks like a fair number of you will be joining me, so I'm super stoked. I'm going to go spend some time enjoying my last week of guilt-free consumption for a while while also continuing to spread the word and also coming up with some clever alternative creation ideas to keep me busy next month when I'm not in the mood to write, perform, or work on designing my card game. Those of you doing it with me - how do you plan on spending your last week preparing for this ambitious undertaking?

-Matt

Monday, June 18, 2012

An Animated Feature For Your Viewing Pleasure

Still wondering how this whole Create / Consume thing works? Too lazy to use your eyes for reading? Perhaps this video will help set things straight:


I hope you enjoyed that, if for nothing else than to see me in a tutu. And also sculpting an ice T-Rex.

One last update: I've got a Facebook page set up for the project now too. Subscribe to it, like it, and help spread the word. Thanks!

http://www.facebook.com/CreateSlashConsume

-Matt

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Master List - Breaking Down Creations and Consumptions

I spent a fair amount of time thinking about what I want to count as "creation" and what I wanting to count as "consumption." For those of you interested in my thought process behind everything, here's the full list I've come up with so far. I'll update this if I make any changes before July 1st:

Creation
Writing - blog post, short story, working on my novel, etc.
Performing - improv or live storytelling set
Working on "Placebo" - a card game I created and am currently playtesting
Research on Writing/Performing/Game Design - with books, or online
Improv Practice - generally once a week for two hours
Writing Group Meeting - similarly once a week for two hours
Classes - any kind of writing or performance class I'm currently enrolled in

Consumption
Television
Video Games - Xbox, Wii, iPhone, any electronic game
Movies
Internet - Everything that is not email or some kind of research
Books - Again, anything considered leisure and not research
Newspapers / Magazines
Podcasts - I subscribe to way too many of these. 'Cause they're free!

Neutral Activities
My Day Job
Socializing with Friends & Family / Dating
Cooking / Eating
Exercising

Gray Area Items / Exceptions
Music
Board Games with Friends
Email / IM

The gray area items are the ones that gave me the most trouble, since it's pretty easy to label them all under the blanket of consumption. But after careful deliberation, I've decided to count them as an exception. Unlike every other form of media, I am actually able to focus and work while listening to music, so I'm not counting that. I play board games once a week with friends, and I've decided to label that as socializing time, not consumption. I'm also exempting them because unlike movies and TV shows, I actually couldn't play/experience them alone. Technically I guess I should say: I would no longer play them alone, since I actually did play boards games alone a very long time ago when I was young, desperate and unnaturally obsessed with Monopoly.

Email was the trickiest category, as I have been guilty of checking my email far too often as an excuse to not work. But I write and receive many important emails as part of my daily life, so I didn't feel right penalizing myself for something I can't really choose to avoid entirely. So I'm going to do my best to limiting myself to a handful of email checks per day, and if I stick to it, then it remains an exception. If I find myself replacing lost internet time with time spent instant messaging and looking through every little shred of data from emails from all the game and comedy sites I'm subscribed to, I'll adjust accordingly.

There are situations that I know are going to be tricky with this experiment once I start tracking my time. I come up with lots of ideas at random times, when I'm out running, when I'm dozing off/waking up, while I'm in the kitchen, and especially while I'm in the shower. Should I start the clock whenever I let my mind wander? It's tempting, but I think I'm going to only specifically count "creation" time when I've got my notepad (or iPhone) out and I'm actively writing down my thoughts. It's just easier to track this way. Conversely, if I've got nothing in particular to work on at the moment, I can sit down at my desk (or wherever I am) with just a pad and a pen and regardless of how many ideas I'm generating at that moment (I could wind up just doodling pictures of ninjas fighting dinosaurs) I'll still count that time as creation.

What do you guys think? Did I miss anything? Should I have not counted something the way I did?

And if you have your own list, let's see it! Post it in the comments.

-Matt