Leave it to Americans to juxtapose Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Start with a day when we acknowledge our non-material blessings and the joy of community, and follow it up with millions giving their credit cards a pre-dawn workout for what will likely distract them from everything they were expressing such gratitude for just one day prior.
As a creativity coach, this is a topic that is especially dear to my heart. My work revolves around supporting others in creating, rather than just consuming. A certain level of consumption is, of course, necessary, but have you considered how your level of material consumption can affect your creative output?
Let me count the ways…
1. Buying a lot of stuff can create stress around money.
If you’re a writer, artist or budding entrepreneur who wants to spend more of your life engaged in creative projects that thrill you, having credit card debt hanging over your head is a sure-fire way to squeeze the enthusiasm out of any task that is not likely to be income-producing. That’s not a good kind of pressure to put on your creative work.
2. Many of the most popular holiday purchases are items that can squander precious time.
Let’s face it…most of the things people are purchasing during this spending season will either not get used much at all or will turn into time sucks. Time spent downloading apps for your new Kindle Fire is time you’re not creating.
3. High material consumption reinforces our desire for immediate gratification.
In our creative work, patience is critical. It may take years of practice to develop the skill to make good on your best creative ideas. And while there’s an initial excitement when beginning a creative project, persistence is required to see it through to completion.
By seeking satisfaction in the quick thrill of a new toy, it’s easy to lose sight of all that we gain by working deliberately, staying the course for an extended time, and savoring the process along the way.
4. Consumerism feeds the Comparison Monster.
One of the most powerful creativity killers is comparing your work to the work of others. So often, the sensitive creative spirit will see what others are doing and feel they come up short or that their ideas have already been done. It’s easy to grow discouraged and procrastinate or quit.
To keep your creative flame burning, it’s best to disengage from the comparison game as much as possible. Buying the latest gadgets and following trends can draw you in to that feeling of competition and not measuring up.
5. Having more material resources available can lead to reduced innovation.
Years ago, at a Pampered Chef party, I was amazed at all the different tools that have been invented for very specific food preparation tasks. You can buy a mushroom slicer, spaghetti stirrer, avocado peeler or mango wedger. Hello? Have they never heard of a knife, fork or spoon?
The more resources we have available, the less we need to problem-solve. Necessity is the mother of invention because it’s only when something is missing or lacking that we need to innovate and create something new. If our every whim is easily satisfied with something we just bought at Target, the capacity to develop new ideas can diminish.
6. Having a lot of material possessions can encourage perpetual busyness, which can distract you from the observation and reflection creativity requires.
At a recent doctor visit, if I’d had a smartphone, I would have been using it to work while I waited for the doctor. Instead, I overcame my boredom by taking mental notes about dialogue snippets and sensory details of the experience that I can use in my writing.
Having nothing to do but watch and wonder about the world around you can be just what the Muse ordered.
6 1/2. Material belongings can shield us from the inspiration of our shadow side.
This is really a variation on #6 and the idea that our toys distract us from our inner thoughts. In this case, they allow us to disengage from feelings like guilt, anger, sadness and resentment, emotions that, while uncomfortable, can inspire great works of art. How many songs would be left on your MP3 player if I asked you to delete all the songs about unrequited love?
A Challenge for You
I’m not suggesting you have to live like a monk in order to fulfill your creative intentions. But your creative practice will benefit from more mindfulness about your consumption habits.
This holiday season, take a stand in favor of lower consumption and more creativity in your gift-giving practice.
When making a purchase for yourself or others, ask, “How will this support the journey to a more creative and fulfilling life?”
Some pro-creativity gift ideas:
- Buy gifts that encourage creativity in the user, like art supplies or writing tools.
- Give the gift of a creative class.
- Make a homemade gifts. If you don’t think this will fly in your circles, think of at least one person you think would appreciate it and do it for them.
- Give a ticket or coupon for an outing to a museum, play or other performance.
- Support an artist and do your holiday shopping at places like Etsy.
- Join the Simplify the Holidays Challenge sponsored by the Center for a New American Dream.
Other Angles on Consumerism
Be sure to visit the bloggers who are joining me in writing on this topic today:
Carole Jane Treggett, Merry Debt-Free Holidays: How to Spend Less and Create More Meaning and Value This Year
And here’s a related post by Amy Clover: The 4 Commitments: Avoid Holiday Overload
What kinds of impacts does material consumption have on your creative practice ?
What ideas do you have for promoting creativity in your gift giving this year?
Do you sell a product or service that helps others live a more creative and fulfilling life? Feel free to leave a link to your site so we can send you some business!