I create, therefore I am

Why I find creating something important and how that feeling is confirmed by science.
Robert Roose
Door Robert Roose

I create, therefore I am

In daily life, I notice how easy it is to fall into a consumer mindset. Watching television, reading books, or listening to a podcast can take up a large part of my day. At the end of such a day, I feel unsatisfied because I haven't created anything.

Creating is Meaningful

Why do I always need to feel useful and be engaged in the creation process? That is the question I constantly ask myself.

When I (usually reluctantly) find myself on a camping trip, I am amazed by the people sitting in front of their tents, gazing at the horizon. On one hand, I admire these people because I would probably only reach that state of peace after several meditation retreats, but on the other hand, I think: do something! This is a waste of time.

In his book 'Morele Ambitie,' Rutger Bregman mentions the example of Matthieu Ricard. This Parisian decided to give up his career in molecular genetics at the age of twenty-six to become a monk. After about 60,000 hours of meditation, he was examined, and an MRI scan revealed that he must be the happiest man on earth. The part of the brain responsible for negative thoughts was deactivated. You might think this is wonderful, but as Bregman rightly argues:

"So, he spent 60,000 hours, or 7,500 working days, or thirty full-time working years in his own head. Thirty years in which he did nothing for others, thirty years in which he did not lift a finger to improve the world. Is that really so commendable?"

Will the things I create save the world? Probably not. Are the things I create useful to someone else? Maybe. I am certain though, that no one benefits from me just consuming.

Creating Reduces Stress

And I am probably not so focused on creating only as a sense of duty towards the world. In the article 'Create More Than You Consume if You Want to Worry Less and Feel More Fulfilled,' author Omar Itani cites a study showing that a 45-minute session of creative activity, regardless of your level, has stress-reducing effects. A day in which I have created something has been less stressful.

Creating Extends Your Life

In his book 'The Comfort Crisis,' Michael Easter writes that most people are stuck in a rut. Day in and day out, we do the same things. This makes life seem like a series of identical days.

"New situations kill the mental clutter. In newness we’re forced into presence and focus. This is because we can’t anticipate what to expect and how to respond, breaking the trance that leads to life in fast forward. Newness can even slow down our sense of time. This explains why time seemed slower when we were kids. Everything was new then and we were constantly learning."

When I create something, it challenges me to try new things. For example, I have to learn what an EQ is and how to use it when making music. The creative process pushes me to constantly do and learn new things. This way, I feel like every day is not the same, and my perception of time is different because not all days are alike.

Not Creating is Important Too

As satisfying as I find creating something, it is necessary for me to take a break occasionally to recharge. In her book 'Aandacht,' Gloria Mark cites several studies that have proven that taking breaks, and not being engaged in creation, is essential:

"You can’t draw on your cognitive resources all day long, just as you can’t lift weights all day long. Ideally, you should take regular breaks and set aside all those devices to recharge yourself. Additionally, you have the ability to switch attention states and can try to take advantage of that urge to achieve balance and replenish your cognitive resources through repetitive, mindless, or even boring activities."

The balance between creating and consuming is necessary, and I have noticed that I feel best on days when I have created a lot.

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