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.


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!


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.


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.


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!]


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.


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:



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.