I was sitting in my favorite spot at my local coffee shop. It’s a small table for two, catty-cornered next to the barista’s counter. I like it because everyone passes in front of my table for their drinks. Nobody notices me in my dark corner as they walk up to the counter with their eyes fixed on their order. Talk about ideal people watching! Actually, it is just as much eavesdropping as it is watching. I love to hear what people have to say, or in some cases what they don’t have to say. Being in a trendy coffee shop, there is a common theme I hear among my fellow guests. Everyone is working on some sort of project; and the biggest complaint or excuse I hear from people is that they don’t have time to start or finish.
I understand this problem. I can relate completely. For years I had twenty-plus projects piling up in folders and boxes. Each started off with incredible potential. My initial excitement saw most of these projects off to a healthy start. Then other things got in the way or robbed my time. Eventually each project would sit on my desk for a week until it was moved to a folder and then stuffed in a box. I would forget about it for months until I had time to work on it again. The problem was that whenever I returned to a project it was never looked at with the same enthusiasm. I knew how much work needed to be done, and I knew how little time I had to dedicate to the project. This very thing happened when I first started on my book, The King’s Elite. My best work is done during long spans of time that has gone uninterrupted. When I first started writing The King’s Elite, I never had this kind of time… or so I thought.
I remember the day I had the idea for my story. It came to me on my way to school. I was so excited that I could hardly pay attention during class. On the back of my early childhood development notes I scribbled character’s names and a general plot. When my school day was over I rushed home and wrote out the first chapter of my book. Every free moment I had I put into the book. This lasted a little over a week. Then I found myself back into my old pattern of pushing my work aside and despairing that it would never be completed. Then I had an epiphany. I can’t remember when, where or even how it was triggered. It might have been while I was watching someone order a venti sized drink while I sat in my corner. Whenever it was, the epiphany forever changed the way I view and manage my time.
We are not called to be consumers.
That was it- I am not called to be a consumer. It made perfect sense the moment it came to me. God has equipped each of us with skills and tastes. Our minds are geared to create, build and improve. I am called to be engaged in the construction of something, but I can’t do that if I am too busy consuming someone else’s work all of the time. I didn’t have time to write and be creative because I was too busy consuming video games, T.V., card games, books, magazines, smart phone apps, social media and movies. I had myself fooled into believing that I was producing more than consuming. Not only did this lifestyle rob me of my time, it also thwarted my view of place in this world. Too much of my day was about my comfort and entertainment.
God then revealed to me my sin. There’s nothing wrong with the items I enjoyed. I will go as far as saying there wasn’t anything wrong with the amount of time I spent with said items as that can vary. The sin was their level of importance to me. There is a time to consume, but I believe now (and this might be where I lose some readers) that there should be a need behind each consumption. Just as we consume food for replenishment. If we eat moderate portions and pick healthy foods we will remain healthy. On the other hand, if we eat junk and unreasonable portions we will get sick. I believe the same can be said about consuming entertainment. I will never argue against watching a movie to zone out and relax. However, I always run my entertainment through a quick filter. Is this junk food? Is this too large of a serving? Is there something to gain from it?
This filter helped me manage my time. Just by asking myself throughout my day before I consumed an app or a movie, God opened my eyes to how much I consumed. There were some challenges to overcome at first. God helped me out. As I turned down more, my consumerist appetite shrunk. My time became more precious and as a result it became more available. Not only did this free up more time for writing, it has helped prime my mind for creativity. So much of writing is listening to the world around you. Instead of popping out my smartphone every time I had a free moment I talked to a stranger, or eavesdropped on a couple’s conversation.
I observed different tones and voices that aided me in developing realistic characters. More importantly, I am more engaged in the world (a producer) rather than being a part of it (a consumer). As you can see this can apply to more than just creativity.
You can tell when a piece of creative work, whether it is a song, story, or painting, was done by a consumer or producer. A consumer’s work is uninspired and unoriginal. It brings nothing new. It is a reproduction. A producer brings something new to the table, or at least delivers something familiar in a new way.
My epiphany was a God thing. Only He has the power to change someone’s life in such a short amount of time. I still look for ways for me to consume less. Not only has it made me more productive, but now there is a rich flavor I didn’t taste before in the things I now enjoy.
Now go produce something, whatever it may be. Thanks for reading and God bless.