Recently, I read a book about parenting that had a sample schedule for a newborn. The schedule offered “playtime” suggestions, including: Read to your baby. Sing songs. Allow the baby watch you sew, play piano, or bake bread. I realized that the book had been written more than two decades ago, because it didn’t suggest “scroll Instagram.”
At first, I thought the suggestions were cute, if not a bit old-fashioned. How many moms (or dads, for that matter) are baking bread? How many of us sit at a piano and sing? And lord knows, I have no business holding a needle and thread. But the more I pondered the suggestions, the more I realized how few opportunities I get in my day to simply create.
Instead, I spend a lot of my time consuming. I go to coffee shops and order food to eat that someone else prepared. I watch television. I listen to podcasts. I scroll through the news. And social media. I scroll and scroll. And scroll. Most of the time, I am a consumer.
For much of human history, culture encouraged and life necessitated creativity. Elite classes were tutored in painting, music, singing and sewing. Even the poorest Americans cooked their own food, built their own furniture, hung their own laundry out to dry. Kids built forts and created little universes in their imaginations while playing House or Store or School. Creativity is a practice in leadership. Now, we look for others to follow, simultaneously envying and imitating their success.
I have no prescriptions for this problem. It is simply an observation that has stuck with me, and that I’ve shared with others. What if we spent more time in our day creating? Here are some possibilities, to add to your routine:
- Bake something to give to the neighbors
- Pull out an instrument you used to play, or learn to play one
- Write something that you don’t share
- Take photographs on a real camera, instead of on your phone. Print them out.
- Read a book (preferably a paper one).* (I call this creativity, because it requires imagination, rather than simple consumption. And since reading is a creative endeavor, I imagine that’s why reading rates have gone down. Consuming is easier)
- Rearrange the furniture in your house
- Create a new game to play with your spouse
- Tell a story that you invent, rather than reading from a children’s book
What if we paused before consuming? What if we spent more of our day creating? What would you do?