In the previous article of this series, we talked about the importance of balancing your creative input and output. In this article, we’re just looking at the input, and then discussing the importance of balancing it.
Do you have the discipline to balance your creative diet?
This is the content and art that has stood the test of time. They’ve transcended their time and have become cultural pillars that multitudes of people have been influenced and entertained by.
They’re important to have a place in your diet because they have contributed to society’s collective subconscious. Having a background in the classics will serve you in these ways:
- You will have a quality benchmark for your own creativity.
- You will know what the expectations for your brand of creativity are.
- You will be able identify the patterns of what make your creative ability great and twist them to reflect your own ideas.
But you don’t have to like the classics. You don’t even have to consume all of them. But you do need to be aware of them and their influence. These are like the vegetables and fruits of your diet. You don’t have to eat every single one of them. But you need to keep them in your diet to make sure you’re consuming with a high level of nutrients.
Consuming what’s hot is risky business. It hasn’t had the opportunity to stand the test of time, so the content in this category will be a mixed back of high and low quality. You’re not always going to know if the content here will live on or die short.
There are very specific lessons to learn with this content. You have the chance to learn what attracts people to the new and shinny thing.
- How was it presented to its audience?
- How did they target their key demographic?
- What trend wave is it riding?
Knowing these details will help you find your audience and effectively attract them to what you have to offer.
Because you can’t always tell whether or not “What’s hot” will become part of “The Classics” from the preview material (or, sometimes, even after the first consumption), you have the chance to compare “What’s hot” with “The Classics” and analyze what is keeping it from becoming a classic.
Not everything that’s made is meant to become a classic. In fact, there’s reasons why a creator would purposefully avoid it. But this practice will still help you hone your own skills.
Just For You
There’s a 3rd category I like to call “Just For You.” This is the content that you love. It speaks directly to you and resonates with your soul. These are the books, movies, albums, etc. that you consume over and over and over. It’s like comfort food.
They can be classics, they can be what’s hot, or anything in between. How much it’s appreciated in society has very little relevance to whether or not it belongs in this category. What’s important is that you appreciate it.
These are good for you because all of this content will help make up your creative voice.
On the other hand, spending too much time with this content and not enough with anything outside of your ideals can lead to negative feedback loops as you take in the bad ideas of these creators as well as the good. You will begin to see the bad ideas and habits as features instead of bugs. Everyone is susceptible to this.
But in the right amounts, you’ll be able to pick apart these “personal classics” and see something new with every re-consumption. This is because you will be subconsciously (or consciously) comparing it to what you’ve consumed since the last time you visited the material.
The Empty Calories
There’s a lot of empty calories out there, and they come in many forms: pointless listicle articles, memes, Youtube videos, terrible TV shows, and the waterfall of junk that comes from many of your favorite social networks.
Junk food content can ruin your creative diet by shortening your attention span and distracting you from your primary objectives. This content serves to addict you to low or zero quality data.
If you give your mind the quick, bottom-of-the-barrel fix too often, you will stifle your creative mind.
When you’re jonesing for your data fix, reconsider going to Instagram, Facebook or Snapchat (and, depending on your addiction level, maybe it’s time to delete those apps from your phone all together). Instead, seek out high quality content. Consider reading a book or a great magazine. Possibly watch a classic film or listen to that new hot album.
And here’s a news flash: You can even buy and download all of these to your phone now (and at wonderfully low prices). There’s almost no excuse to not consume something better than whatever your “feed” spits up at you.
Striking The Right Balance
Just like balancing how much you consume with what you produce, this can’t be prescriptive. When it comes down to it, it’s up to you to find the balance that works.
But I can give you a few action steps to get you started:
1. Find a few classics that you’re interested in studying and place them in your consumption queue.
2. Scan the “what’s hot” lists or top 100 lists and begin adding some of them to your queue.
3. Take your favorites and add them to your queue.
4. After consuming one, give a lot of thought about whether or not you connected with it and why, what it’s similar to, and what could have been done to make it better.
5. And these thoughts to the notebook we started in pt 1 of the series.
What About You?
I hope you found this helpful. If so, please share this with someone who might need it.
Do you have a creative diet?
How do you keep your creative consumption balanced?
Let me know in the comments below!