The Balance Between Creative Input & Creative Output

by ChristinaPilkington on August 28, 2014 · 0 comments

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I love to read. Actually saying I love to read doesn’t accurately describe it. It’s actually more of an obsession.

To give you an idea of how much I love to read: I set my Goodreads Challenge Goal this year to read 125 books. I’m actually one book ahead of target now at 82 books read so far this year.

My favorite genre is fantasy, but I’m a pretty eclectic reader. When I’m not in the mood to read fiction, I’m usually grabbing a book about writing or the business of writing because, as I’m sure you might have guessed, my second love it writing.

The problem with my two passions is that my first passion, reading, requires little creative effort on my part. 

Reading challenging books is not always easy and definitely not a passive act. A good reader is constantly visualizing, imagining, and linking things they’re reading to prior knowledge. I’ve been open to many new ways of thinking and introduced to so many creative worlds and ideas through books.


Writing on the other hand is hard. Ultimately, though, its more rewarding. Having a completed essay or story in front of me has a much higher payoff than finishing the last chapter of a great book.

So if writing ultimately brings me greater reward, why do I find so many excuses to put it off and often reach for a book to read instead? Why do I fool myself into thinking that I just need to read one more book on the craft of writing before working on my own novel?


Creativity is hard work!!!!!!!  Anything worth having in life involves hard work.

 Here’s a short list of things I’ve accomplished in my life that required  A LOT of hard work:

-giving birth to twins. That pretty much speaks for itself, right?

-planning for an almost three week trip to Europe. Months of hard work for an unforgettable experience.

-losing 35 pounds, maintaining a three days a week HIT program pretty regularly for almost two years now. My reward?  Being in even better shape now than when I was in my late teens

It’s true that to achieve great things you need to make greatness a priority. You need to give it time, attention and hard work.

But hard work is HARD!!!!!

It’s so much easier in the moment to do things that are easy and that brings an immediate reward. It takes a level of maturity to understand that the things that are necessary but are mundane, boring or even downright difficult will bring deeper and longer lasting satisfaction in the end. 

So is it possible to achieve a balance between creative input vs creative output?  Can you make sure that short term creative thrills are balanced with the hard work of daily dedication towards the creation of a meaningful project?

 Here are a few tips that have helped me in my quest to achieve this balance:

 1) Use creative consumption to fuel your creative projects or to increase your skills. Sometimes when I read a fantasy book, I take notes. I’ll outline a book as I read it and look at how the author builds his characters and constructs his scenes. I’ll watch Youtube videos of lectures by my favorite authors.

Think of ways to deliberately study those people you admire as you consume their art. Let your mind become actively engaged with how these people you admire create their art.

 2) Get yourself into a habit of creativity. No matter how I like to be spontaneous in my life, if I don’t build certain habits and routines into my life, I just won’t accomplish anything.

Lately I’ve been creating the routine of writing a half hour each day/seven days a week. For example, with this essay, I put on the timer for 30 minutes and I wound up writing the first draft of this almost 1,000 word essay in just over a half hour.

It may not seem that much but even a half hour a day adds up if you do it consistently. Maybe you can only fit in 10 minutes a day.  Or one hour three times a week. That’s ok. The key is consistency.

For me that consistency also means I try to write at the same time each day. For me this happens right after I eat lunch. If I’m out with the kids during that time, then I do this as soon as I come home or as close to that time as possible.

You’ll train your body and mind to expect to work creatively at this time each day. It’s the same way with exercising. I find it much easier to exercise if I do it around the same time each day.

3) Actively practice your creativity through creative exercises. Professional musicians still practice scales. Golfers still try to perfect their swings. Direct practice in your area of creativity- practice that is separate from the creative project you are working on- is essential to becoming a master of what you do.

If you’re a writer, set aside time to to specifically work on constructing better sentences. Invest in books on writing exercises. If you’re an artist, set aside time to develop and perfect new drawing techniques. If you love to sew, push yourself to learn advanced skills. Keep learning and practicing.


* In the month of September, I’ll be doing a series of essay about how to help your kids (and yourself! ) develop and expand the habit of creativity. 


Photo Credit: winifredxoxo


How do you find balance between consuming creativity and producing creative works?

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