Creating Over Consuming

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In the beginning, be it a line of code each morning, or a short blog post a week, start with the smallest step possible. By Michelle Sun (Software Engineer, Buffer)

Recently, I have found myself scaling down consuming and scaling up on creating. The mobile era has brought to us unparamounted convenience in accessing information. We can read, share, and save content on the go, always connecting, self-documenting.

Since moving to San Francisco, due to the costly iPhone plan, I switched to an Android phone and an AT&T phone plan, which consistently ran out of credit amongst other frustrations. It turns out to be a blessing in disguise; I have massively scaled down my mobile data usage. Using the newly-gained free time for reflection, I am happy that the habit of creating over consuming has begun to bear fruits.

Start With A Small Step

In the beginning, be it a line of code each morning, or a short blog post a week, start with the smallest step possible. Every new habit faces resistance to build up in the beginning. Like flossing, a new habit can be formed with one tooth at a time. When the step is so small that failure is practically impossible, the brain feels rewarded by the accomplishment and that feeds into the virtuous cycle.

Link Consumption With Creation

The constant availability of information can lead to overdose. I find myself filling my waiting time with scrolling of Twitter, Instagram feeds, while absorbing very little portion of the data I received. Since I got into the habit of writing, every time I read an article, I jot down ideas for a next blog post. The same can be applied to ideas for new web app, mobile app ideas. Often, daily frustrations can be turned into good ideas of creation. It is powerful to link consumption with creation; by noting down and actively engaging the information that comes through, consumption becomes much more conscious, which leads me to the next point.

Schedule Offline Time

From commuting to a suboptimal cell phone carrier, I was lucky to have a natural limit of my information diet these days. That, together with being more conscious with what I consume, has done magic to my creative pursuits. Limiting “online time” by going to a cafe that has no WiFi, and schedule that offline time for uninterrupted creation. At first, the lack of access to online resources can be daunting. Soon, you will experience the exhilarating freedom that comes with not checking email every other half hour.

Identifying Itches

In Hong Kong, where I am from, a fun group activity is art jamming, where a group of friends would go and paint, each with an empty canvas and paint with acrylic paint whatever they want. Each time after I go, I find myself noticing different things on the street that would make an awesome painting. Not long after starting on a creative habit, I start to experience that itch. I would notice ideas and experience urges to make an output. It is a tremendous relief every time I get to sit down and write something. It takes experimentation of different medium, some in music, some on the canvas, some in words, or code etc. Regardless of the medium, the reward and satisfaction from creating and shipping to the world trumps any form of consumption.

Discuss And Socialize

Lastly, reach out to people that are doing similar things. While the first few pieces of creation are not going to be of the best quality, you will be surprised how frequently inspiration arrives. Creation begets inspiration. Get together with other creators, discuss topics and experiences and most importantly, enjoy the process of creating.

This post was originally posted at Michelle Sun's blog. About the guest blogger: Michelle Sun is a Software Engineer at Buffer. Prior to that, she attended the inaugural class at Hackbright Academy, which is a women-only programming course in San Francisco. She has held product and data analytics roles in various mobile startups including Bump Technologies. She began her career as a financial analyst at Goldman Sachs, and graduated with an Economics degree from University of Chicago. Follow her on Twitter at @michellelsun.

Women 2.0 readers: What is your creative habit? What are some unexpected learning that surfaces while cultivating your creative habit?