First things first - check out this video, which answers many of the below questions:
1) So, WTF?
That’s a great question. Create / Consume is an idea I came up with to try to be more productive and aware of my time. Like many others, I’m quite susceptible to losing minutes/hours/days to things like iPhone games, Google reader, and Breaking Bad marathons. And I love all of this stuff, and I believe they all have a place in my life, as they bring me great pleasure. But it’s the moderation of everything that’s tricky, and I’m prone to being pretty lazy. So I like to commit to little experiments like these to sort of force myself to stay on track.
2) Alright, so how’s this “Create / Consume” thing work, exactly?
For the entire month of July 2012, I am going to track every minute of my spare time. Spare time includes any time when I’m not sleeping, eating, being active (exercising) or social, or working at my job. What’s left is time I can spend creating (like writing or performing) or consuming, (browsing the internet, playing on my phone, etc). The point of the experiment is to attempt to create more than I consume over the course of the entire month - something I would never do naturally. I’ll have to be very wary of how I use my free time, and try extra hard to spend time creating when I would otherwise be much more inclined to consume.
There's some more detail in the introductory post on the blog itself.
3) Some of this sounds kind of vague - what counts as creation, and what counts as consumption?
I’m counting creation as any time I’m being productive in a creative realm where I’ve been focusing my attention. So writing counts, as does performing improv, two of biggest creative outputs of the past five years or so. I also recently designed my first card game, so any time I spend working on that counts as creation, as do things like rehearsals and writing group meetings. Conversely, I count consumption as any time I spend engaged in any form of media. Generally speaking, this includes television, movies, video games and time spent on the internet. There are a few exceptions that I’m allowing for in order for things to not get too complicated. I’m not counting music as consumption, since I often have music on in the background while I’m writing, or running (where I actually generate a lot of ideas). And I’m exempting email so long as I’m good about not checking it every five minutes and interrupting my concentration. If you want a full list of what does and doesn't count for me personally, check out this post.
4) “For me personally?” Who else is doing this?
Well, how about you? Are you looking to be more creative? To find a better balance in your life, between how much time you spend slacking off versus being productive? Then I encourage you to join me. You can do the experiment in July along with me, or find your own month to do it in. And obviously you are welcome to tweak the “rules” as you see fit. I personally don’t consider anything I do in my 9-5 job “creative,” but perhaps you do. And maybe you don’t mind watching television or movies so long as you’re spending time with friends (there’s a caveat for this with me and board games). Plus, I think this idea can be expanded up beyond the basic “Create / Consume” concept, into branching iterations.
5) Whoa. “Branching iterations?”
That’s right. Maybe your problem isn’t over-consumption of media. Maybe you spend too much time indoors. Or too little time exercising. Maybe you don’t cook enough. Maybe you need to be more social. There are tons of way for you to spend the month, tracking your spare time, and trying to do more of one thing while doing less of something else. Take on whatever challenge you’d like, and please let me know how it goes.
6) You sound like you’ve given this whole concept a lot of thought. Have you ever done something like this before?
Actually, yes I have. About 4 years ago, I decided to give up video games (my favorite hobby and arguably my #1 vice) for a full year. The idea was to see what I’d do with my spare time. And what I did do was write, read, cook, travel, exercise more. I started a blog called “Paused” and I used it as an online journal for the whole experience, and since then its become my personal site for all kinds of random silliness. Feel free to check it out. I also participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) last year, and thought it was a great experience. I highly encourage anyone who’s interested in writing to try it out for themselves. It’s an intense, but you come out the other side you’re capable of writing a lot more in your spare time than you think you can.
7) Matt Shafeek, you sound really interesting. Could you tell me more about yourself?
That’s very flattering of your say, frequently asked questioner. I’m a NYC native, currently living in Astoria, Queens. I’m a writer who recently got his first piece published, and am now foolishly juggling three blogs, including one about how even Batman fucks up sometimes. I perform long form improv weekly at the Magnet Theater with my improv team Phooka, who you can almost any Thursday night. I also occasionally tell one my stories live on stage.
I love games of all kind. A few years back a friend told me he “wished he loved anything like I loved games,” which I’m opting to treat like high praise. On free nights, when I’m not playing on my Xbox 360, I’m usually meeting with up with some friends for a board game night. I attend the Penny Arcade Convention every year, and right now I’m working on my first card game, which is called “Placebo!” Be forewarned: it’s a little dark. Look for a post about it on my Paused blog sometime in the near future.
Finally, the one benefit of all the media I’ve consumed over the years is that I’m a connoisseur of many great works, and a fan of the creators behind them. Here’s a jumbled list of things I love: Community, David Sedaris, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Mike Biribiglia, Kurt Vonnegut, Breaking Bad, the Portal series, Last Night on Earth, Parks and Recreation, Mad Men, Ben Folds, Radiolab, This American Life, Memento, Avatar: The Last Airbender, the Mass Effect series and anything and everything Batman. This list is by no means all-inclusive.
8) Cool cool cool. One last question: how can I contact you with any other questions, comments or feedback?
In addition to the project Twitter account, you may reach out to me on my personal Twitter @mattshafeek, and you can also post a comment on any post in this blog. Or else, feel free to email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you, and good luck to anyone doing this along with me!