No input, no output

I don’t know about you but off-late, I’ve been feeling a whole lot ickier when someone mentions “content creation.” And I could almost die if they ask how I create content on a daily basis! I don’t! I share my observations through writing, speaking (including my podcast), and curating topics that interest me. Period.

Yes, I know, it sounds oversimplified but it is what it is. But then most “content creation” concerns are around getting it out (or simply “creating” henceforth) there on a consistent basis. Some feel they aren’t inspired enough to write. Or worse, don’t have the time! While I feel both are legit reasons, there’s a whole lot that you as an artist or a creative can do to put your work out.

Some of which include:

  • Start taking things again — not drugs, booze, or other harmful chemicals, but read, re-read, watch movies, listen to interviews, podcasts or audiobooks, get talking with interesting people, travel, visit art galleries, museums, theatre, or pop in that favourite CD (cueing up your Apple Music playlist is just fine) of yours or perhaps experiment with something new. The idea is to consume something that fuels your desire.

“Most artists are brought to their vocation when their own nascent gifts are awakened by the work of a master.”

“That is to say, most artists are converted to art by art itself.”

Lewis Hyde, The Gift
  • Always remember Strummer’s Law:

The iconic Joe Strummer wasn’t just a musician and actor but also a philosopher who deeply understood how creativity works. Here’s a description of what eventually became the Strummer’s Law:

“Meaning, we’re going to hear a band, we’re going to go to a museum, or we’re going to go hang out with some writer that we admire. We’re going to get some input, because if we don’t, then we have nothing. It’s a circle. It’s a respiratory thing.”

“When I studied with Nicholas Ray he was always telling us, “If you want to make films, watch a lot of films, but don’t just watch films, go take a walk, look at the sky, read a book about meteorology, look at the design of people’s shoes.”

Joe Strummer (proudly stolen from Austin Kleon)
  • Try dumpster diving

Oh, I don’t mean that literally. The idea is to check out the shoddiest works of art you can. You know the ones that are labelled “garbage,” “crummy,” or “trashy” by the critics, contemporaries, or the public. Such works might jumpstart your creativity as you begin to see the shortcomings and how you can make it better. Or perhaps, you get inspired to recycle and reuse it for something fresh that’s far better than the original!

“Every piece of art I’ve ever made was because I saw bad and could do better, or saw great and needed to catch up.”

John T. Unger

And that’s essentially it! Most problems of output are related to the quality of input. So, instead of obsessing and over analyzing the reasons why your input isn’t up to the mark (or your existential crises) try sitting your butt down and do the work. And there’s a lot to be done if you wish to keep pace with all that’s to consume. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how creative you can get with that kind of self-imposed pressure.


1. If you liked this post, check out Austin Kleon’s site for ideas on creativity and more. You can start with the following posts: No input, no output, Off the road and back at it, Input and output, and Problems of output are problems of input

By Sunil Nair

Nurturing leaders of tomorrow.

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