Consumption is Key

In my experience, the best way to bust through writer’s block (or any block in creativity) is to consume more and more things. Now, I don’t mean “consume” like “spend money on a bunch of stuff or buy the newest gadget”, I am a minimalist after all. What I mean is, when the brain hits a roadblock it is usually good to explore new intellectual avenues and build some new neural networks. We live in the most amazing time in human history, the wealth of knowledge at our fingertips for free would take a thousand lifetimes to even begin to peruse. That information can help push us past our limits and help us discover new answers to our questions.

Consumption leads to creation. Just like the food we eat turns into fuel for our activities, the experiences we have turn into the things we create. And, like food and exercise, the more diverse and rounded our experiences are, the healthier and stronger the things we create will become. The body needs more than just one type of food and one type of exercise to be great and art needs more than just one perspective and one tool to be great.

Personally, I have a few “go to” services when my brain is stuck. Sometimes those services make intuitive sense. For example, maybe I’ll go to the library and pick up a book about writing (“On Writing” by Stephen King is my favorite) or I’ll check out a course on creative writing at Coursera.com.

Not all of the stuff I consume is based purely on writing, but they help my writing just the same. I’m working on improving my math skills through Khan Academy, which can help with logic and problem solving. I meditate using the Headspace app, which brings me a calmer mind and helps with focus (okay, I technically pay for this app but there are free options). Or maybe I read a book about Buddhism or business or psychology or some science fiction or philosophy or astronomy or pagan rituals to give me a new perspective on the human experience and how to communicate (or take Coursera courses about these things). Also, music and tv can help encourage new mental pathways and perspectives and, of course, video games (though, I find video games and tv/movies are the most dangerous sources of motivation because I can easily form an unhealthy relationship with them). I also enjoy looking into creating things in all the arts…. painting, dancing, cooking, drawing, etc can all make you a better writer because they round you out more as a person, they give you new adventures and perspectives.

There is, as always, a danger that consuming materials will start to become the goal instead of the act of creating. That risk is present with all things, that we will use consumption as an excuse to not create… but nobody ever said thriving in life would be easy. Ease and comfort do not lead to creation.

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Podcasts!

When you spend 4-6 hours a day cycling you have a lot of time to listen to stuff… or, I guess, a lot of time to be stuck in your own head. I certainly spend some time without earbuds in, but most of those hours I am listening to music via Spotify, books via Audible, or podcasts via Podbean. Podcasts are my current favorite and I thought I’d share what is currently bouncing around my speakers. In no particular order…

Practice of the Practice: This is one of the newest additions to my lineup. PotP is a podcast about the inner workings of running your own private therapy practice. I am still considering therapy as a future career field and I’ve found this to be incredibly informative.

On No Ross and Carrie: Currently my favorite podcast. Ross and Carrie investigate claims of the supernatural, paranormal, and fringe science. They personally get involved in cults, try out “alternative medicine”, and join religions. They’ve joined the Mormon church, Scientology, tried cleanses, tarot cards, and a whole mess of other things. They are funny and scientific and it has really inspired me to explore more religious practices myself.

TEDTalks: A bunch of these are available on Podbean. The quality varies but I find the Science and Medicine category to be pretty solid. My only real complaint is that they are videos instead of audio, which means you can’t shift away from the screen without pausing it and it sucks up a bunch of memory.

The Tim Ferriss Show: The podcast for Ferriss, the author of the “4-Hour Work Week” (one of the most influential books I’ve ever read) covers people who are the best in their field. Chess prodigies, neuroscientists, adventurers, fire fighters… every angle of maximizing human potential is explored. It is rare that I am not incredibly fascinated or inspired by the subject and interviewee. Ferriss is also a strong Stoic who published “The Tao of Seneca” on Audible.

Waking Up with Sam Harris: The podcast by the (controversial?) atheist and neuroscientist is similar to Ferriss’ podcast. It doesn’t come out nearly as often but I do enjoy them when they come out.

The Joe Rogan Experience: Man, Rogan is kind of an asshole sometimes and he is wrong on a lot of stuff but he gets into some fascinating conversations with incredible guests. Because Rogan is so prolific (he comes out with a 3ish hour podcast several times a week) I usually just download the ones with guests that I know of or subjects I’m interested in.

My Brother, My Brother, and Me: This is an advice show for the modern era and the flagship podcast for the McElroy brothers. They are freaking hilarious and I have had to pull my bike over several times while listening to them because I am laughing so hard that I’m crying and I can’t see the road. If you love comedy podcasts give this one a try… it can take an episode or two to get a feeling for the three guys and their contribution to the show.

Getting Curious with Johnathan Van Ness: Another new podcast to my list. Van Ness is an infinitely curious guy who investigates the random subjects that crosses his mind. His excitement during interviews can’t be contained, and it provides a comedic effect. The show is only about thirty minutes, which is a nice break from the other podcasts which can run over an hour. Some of the subjects he has covered includes menstrual cups, what was the first Christmas really like, what is gender identity, and who were the Romanavs?

Bunker Buddies: This is a McElroy podcast put on by Travis and his friend Andie. They discuss various end of the world scenarios and survival situations such as surviving a zombie apocalypse or surviving an airplane crash. Part funny and part informative.

Sex Nerd Sandra: Probably the most informative podcast about sex subjects that I’ve ever listened to. Sandra spends an hour or so interviewing experts on specific sexual subjects including swinging, anal sex, and asexuality. She is a fantastic sex educator who also puts on online classes weekly.

The Adventure Zone: This is the first McElroy production that I was introduced to. The McElroy brothers play D&D with their dad. It is a nerdy kind of funny and I anxiously await each new episode of this more than any other podcast.

The Isaac Morehouse Show: Morehouse is an entrepreneur and freedom advocate who explores what it means to be free in today’s world. There is often a particular focus on education and entrepreneurship, but it can get downright philosophical in the best possible way. I’ve found this podcast to be the most personally rewarding to listen to and it inspires creativity.

Sawbones: The final McElroy production that I listen to. In this show Justin and his wife Sydnee (a medical doctor) explore the wacky, crazy, and sometimes disturbing, world of medical history. They walk you through the relatively logical Greek/Roman era to the batshit crazy dark era to the enlightenment into modern times. It is the one Anna and I listen to the most together.

 

If you have any podcast recommendations feel free to send them my way and I’ll check them out.