creation

Avoid the Trap of Consuming Everything Before You Start Creating

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How much research do you do for your coursework?

Do you power through and consume as much stuff as possible before getting on with the creation bit?

The more you can create out of what you consume, the more validation you give to consuming content. You won’t use all of it, but there comes a time when you stop looking.

But what if the search doesn’t seem to end?

The more you consume without creating anything from it, the more worrying the situation gets. Snacking on information without an end in sight.

Munch, munch, munch. One book here, another paper there, and a final web search just for luck. Maybe I’ll check the library one more time.

And maybe another time after that…

And it goes on.

When you consume far more than you create, you face a bottleneck at best. The reality is likely worse.

Words like “perfectionism” and “procrastination” start to rear their ugly heads.

Consuming without getting anything valuable out of the process is wasteful. It happens to all of us on occasion, but it shouldn’t be a standard part of your research process.

And you can easily fall into that consumption trap. So watch out.

It feels productive to find lots to read in the library and online, but it merely gets in the way when you’re not using that content for your work.

Keep an eye on why you’re still researching. There are times when you need to look at far more than you’ll refer to, because you’re looking for inspiration or perspective. Or perhaps you’re considering several arguments before you put your own stamp on proceedings.

But make sure you’re not still consuming ALL THE THINGS simply because:

  • You’re scared to start creating;
  • You think you need to cover every possible angle that exists (hint: you don’t);
  • You’re putting off the next stage of your work;
  • You need to find a better research process to work with.

Reasons like those above aren’t good enough to keep you looking for more. Work with what you’ve got, or improve your process so it’s not so time-consuming.

You may have to be brutally honest with yourself. It’s not easy to admit, especially when you are afraid to start.

But when the pressure gets too much, remember that you can always start off without doing any in-depth research at all.

Work with what you’ve got. So long as you’ve had some input from lectures, seminars, set texts, and so on, you should have enough to get started.

And writing your own thoughts and ideas on the page is much better than staring at a blank screen. Or, worse, not even reaching the blank screen stage because you’re busy feeling overwhelmed by how much information is already out there.

When you do your research, go in with the aim of creating something soon. No need to get hold of all the research materials and quotations before you start your own creation.

Banish those bottlenecks. Find a flow that doesn’t involve all the writing at the very end of the process.

A drip-feed of research helps a lot of the information stay at the top of your mind. That, in turn, will get you engaging (and referring) to more of that research.

The more you practice this flow, the more you will create out of what you have consumed.

Recognise Your Actions With Ricky Gervais, a Six Year Old, and Yourself

“You should bring something into the world that wasn’t in the world before. It doesn’t matter what that is. It doesn’t matter if it’s a table or a film or gardening – everyone should create. You should do something, then sit back and say, “I did that.'” – Ricky Gervais

Ricky Gervais is on to something here. His comment makes me think of helping children to shine. A childlike imagination helps bring all sorts of things into the world that weren’t there before.

There’s no need to say ‘well done’ and ‘very good’ and ‘you’re so clever’ at everything a child does. Recognising what they did is enough.

“I see you have built that all by yourself.”
“So, you’ve drawn a picture of a bear.”
“Thank you for putting all the books back on the shelf.”

It’s that simple.

You should recognise your own actions too. Take the time to focus deeply on what you’ve done. It adds more meaning to what’s there. If you can’t appreciate your own creations, why create them in the first place? Enjoy them, learn from them, explore them more deeply. All you need to better engage with your actions is to step back and recognise them.

You can take that appreciation to whole new levels. Like when Bianca Giaever took what a six year old said and turned it into a short film. No heaping on the praise. Simply offering a visual representation of a little girl’s thoughts. Creating. Recognising. Appreciating. It’s all there.

There are some gems from the six year old advice too:

“You should just say ‘OK. I’m fine.’ I usually let it go. I just think of something that I really like to do and just think of something else until the nervous has gone out of me.”

And:

“Scared is scared of all the things you like.”

It’s all worth remembering.

Kids are awesome. They don’t need telling that all the time. Just recognise what they do and appreciate what happens along the way.

And that should go for everyone, by the way. Not just kids.

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