Tipping the Scales: How to Spend More Time Creating Than Consuming

Watching Breaking Bad, listening to Van Morrison radio on Spotify, reading the latest Clive Cussler novel (he’s the king of Indiana Jones-esque historical fiction/adventure, in case you were wondering), perusing a MarketingProfs or Content Marketing Institute post, eating buffalo chicken nachos at the Irish pub down the street…these are all examples of content consumption.

Hold up. Buffalo chicken nachos? Content? But of course. Someone cooked the chicken and chopped the jalapenos and combined those ingredients to produce something with tremendous value. Spicy, delicious value. As consumers, we stare in awe at the glistening cheese, we smell the fiery buffalo sauce, we hear the tortilla chips crack and crunch, and we feel the greasy goodness on our fingertips.

Oh yeah, and we eat them. And they’re flippin’ tasty.

Alright, back on track. The point I’m trying to illustrate here is that it’s easy to get addicted to consuming content. And for good reason: There is a ton of content out there. You could easily fill out several lifetimes trying to consume all of the content that’s been created by your favorite authors, musicians, podcasters, chefs, etc. Don’t get me wrong: Consuming content is a good thing. It teaches us, it entertains us, it inspires us. But if we dedicate ALL of our free time to consuming, how are we supposed to get good at creating?

Practicing Creativity Will Make You a Better Content Creator

By cutting consumption and increasing production, we can all become more efficient and prolific content creators. How many of us spend between 75 percent and 100 percent of our free time consuming?  We’re watching YouTube clips, we’re listening to music, we’re ordering pizza, we’re buying a clock made out of driftwood on Etsy. Why aren’t we recording our own videos, or making our own music, or baking pizza from scratch, or learning new skills so we can complete fun projects?

Shamrock Relief Carving Sit Down and Whittle Some

Worried that my brain was slowly eroding into mush, I decided to make a conscious effort to tip the scales…to create more than I consume. In addition to devoting more time to the creative activities I know best (playing music, writing, cooking), I also decided it was important to learn something new: I wanted to add a new category or channel to my creative repertoire. So, one Saturday morning I walked down to the hardware store, bought some woodcarving knives, bought a few blocks of wood, and whittled me something fierce. (And by “whittle me something fierce” I mean I Googled how to do basic relief carving and then carved a shamrock.)

I learned a lot that weekend. For example, I learned that woodcarving is a very precise art that requires extreme concentration and a very, very steady hand. This ties into another lesson I learned: woodcarving knives are sharp. Really sharp.

The finished product isn’t perfect, but that doesn’t matter. I didn’t carve my shamrock to to sell it, or to have it judged by a panel of art critics. I carved it so I could enjoy the process of carving it.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to make some buffalo chicken nachos.

3 Tips for Being Creative This Valentine’s Day

For cupid’s sake, make your Valentine’s Day card from scratch

vdaycardmakingAnyone with five bucks and half a brain can go to the corner store and buy a card. And while giving your valentine a store-bought card is certainly a more thoughtful gesture than not giving a card at all, hand-crafted is definitely the way to go. Hallmark might do a better job of crafting cliche, lovey-dovey Valentine’s prose, but you can certainly do a better job of sharing sentiments (and inside jokes) that only your loved one will fully understand and (ideally) enjoy.


  • Go old school – I’m talkin’ construction paper, glue sticks, glitter, etc. (Just be careful with the scissors.)
  • Go digital – Bust out the Photoshop (or other design program) and create a card. Better yet, create an infographic that provides a visual representation of how much you love your valentine.

It ain’t about the money, honey: play to your strengths

Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be Spend-All-Your-Savings-on-Jewelry-and-Flowers-and-Other-Crap Day. Instead, it can be a day when you show off your skills and give a gift that you’ve created with your own blood, sweat, and beers. Or tears. (Tears optional, beers recommended.)


  • Musician? Write a song about how and when you first met your significant other.
  • Chef? Whisk your valentine away to Paris with a romantic, home-cooked French dinner. (Bon appetit!)
  • Accountant? Ummm, I’ll get back to you.

Give the gift of an amazing memory

Not something that will be kept in a jewelery box, tucked away in a drawer, or thrown away (e.g. flowers). An amazing memory can last a lifetime (and yes, I’m aware that sounds incredibly lame and Hallmark-y). But think about it: If, hypothetically, you’re a dude who gives your girlfriend chocolate and flowers for Valentine’s Day, how unremarkable is that? Years later, will your girlfriend say, “Hey, remember that Valentine’s Day…when you gave me chocolate and flowers? How awesome was that!”? Answer: No, she will not. So instead, think about crafting a moment that you can both revisit years later.


  • “Remember that Valentine’s Day…when we drank hot cocoa inside the snow fort you built for me?!”
  • “Remember that Valentine’s Day…when you took me to the aquarium and that penguin kissed me?!”
  • “Remember that Valentine’s Day…when you took me up to the roof of that building and we had a picnic and watched the stars?!”

Boston Irish by the Numbers [infographic]

I was in a pickle: I wanted to create an infographic but didn’t have Photoshop or Illustrator. Fortunately, a graphic designer friend of mine recently pointed me toward infogr.am: a free infographic creation site that – for better or worse – takes design out of the infographic equation and let’s you focus on data and copy. With infogr.am, you simply choose a template, then drag and drop different elements (text, images, graphs, etc.) onto your “canvas.”

The coolest feature of the site has got to be its selection of interactive charts and graphs. For my “Boston Irish by the Numbers” infographic, I created an interactive chart that allows you to view the percentage of residents with Irish heritage in Boston and other communities in the Boston area. (Unfortunately, the screenshot below is static, so you can’t interact with it here!)

You can view the full “Boston Irish by the Numbers” infographic here.

Boston Irish

Team Creativity Exercise: Monster Mash

Here’s a collaborative creative exercise that I recently ran with my company’s content team. As you may have gathered from the gruesome examples below, the exercise requires that participants draw monsters. But more specifically, each participant is assigned to one section of a monster: head, torso, or legs. The final image isn’t revealed until all of the sections have been completed.

Monster Mash 1Monster Mash 2

What you’ll need:

Pens, paper, and at least three participants.

Step 1:

Fold a sheet of paper into thirds (see above examples).

Step 2:

Have the first participant sketch the head of the monster and fold over the paper so no one can see what he or she has drawn.

Step 3:

Have the second participant sketch the torso of the monster and fold over the paper so no one can see what he or she has drawn.

Step 4:

Have the final participant sketch the legs of the monster and unfold the paper to reveal the finished monster.

Rinse & repeat as many times as you’d like!

(FYI: I found this exercise on the iD Tech Camps blog. It’s a great source for creative exercises and inspiration.)

Creativity Exercise: Life Is Like…

“My momma always said, ‘Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.'”

-Forrest Gump

Two words: Terrible. Simile.

The oft-quoted Forrest Gump phrase makes no sense, and here’s why: Boxes of chocolates almost always come with those flavor guide thingies that show you what all the chocolates are. So if you take the two seconds to actually look at the thing, you’ll know EXACTLY what you’re going to get.

If life were really like a box of chocolates, you’d know what you were gonna get.

In his book, A Whack on the Side of the Head, author/inventor Roger von Oech challenges readers to come up with new similes to describe what life is like.

Challenge accepted.

“Life is like a jar of extra crunchy peanut butter. You want to enjoy it, but you never want it to end.”

“Life is like a snowball rolling down a hillside. It keeps picking up new things along the way.”

“Life is like a blind fish in the ocean. Usually there’s open water, but sometimes you hit a coral reef…or get eaten by a shark.”

“Life is like a guitar. The harder it’s played, the sooner the strings break.”

“Life is like drinking a bottle of whiskey. About a quarter of the way through you feel AWESOME. But as you keep going you feel worse and worse. Then you pass out.”

Feel free to contribute your own “Life is like…” similes in the comments section below!

Movember: My Month with a Mustache


“Let the {mustache} be your master. Will you heed the master’s call?”
–Led Zeppelin

The merry month of Movember has come to an end, and my magnificent mustache is now but a stubbly memory. As I reflect upon the four weeks of having a furry upper lip, I recall the many awkward glances, the many insults from my girlfriend, and the many (errrr, handful) of compliments from friends, family members, and perfect strangers.

So why grow a mustache?

Of course, there’s the charity factor. I grew a mustache as part of my company’s Movember team, and together we raised nearly $1,000 for men’s health issues (specifically prostate and testicular cancer initiatives). But in addition to growing our mustaches for a good cause, I think many of us “Mo Bros” grew our staches because, hey: when else would we get the chance to?

The 1970s are long over and mustaches are largely relegated to the realm of cultural faux pas. Movember gave us all a chance to say “screw you” to facial hair norms. And while the end results were – in many cases – frightening, it was still a ton of fun. I even had my mustachioed mug featured on BostInnos homepage. I’ll leave you with that image below: