“Creating means living.” ~Dejan Stojanovic
We live in a consumer culture. We love to eat, drink, and be merry—while binge watching whatever’s trending on Netflix and getting a dopamine hit for every item added to our cart on Amazon Prime.
We love to take it all in—information, entertainment, status updates, news reports, substances, and an endless array of stuff. There’s never a shortage of things we can consume, often to keep our minds distracted and our feelings silenced.
Now don’t get me wrong. I love a good meal, a Jim Beam or two, and an afternoon spent zoned out on my couch, Penn Badgley haunting me hour by hour as his stalking escalates from creepy to criminal.
And I’m all for staying educated and updated, on issues both important and inane. I’ve spent hours obsessively researching all things health-related, and I’m embarrassed to admit that my search history reveals more than a healthy number of celebrity websites, if such a number exists.
I also understand the instinct to shut down for a while. Our minds can get intolerably loud, and sometimes, external demands can be overwhelming. A little disengagement can be a good thing in a world that often requires us to be on.
But there needs to be some kind of balance. If we spend our whole lives ingesting information and scarfing down an assortment of stuff meant to soothe us, we’ll never have the time or space to connect with ourselves and create the things we want to create.
I’m not talking just about artistic expression, though I personally feel more alive when I’m bringing some type of creative vision to life. I’m talking about filling the void inside with our own curiosity, passion, and awe instead of constantly stuffing it with external pleasures.
It may not seem like it in the moment when our shows, social media, or shopping carts beckon, but often the greatest pleasure stems from actively working toward a life that excites us.
What are some things we can create?
1. A mission statement
Many of us go through our days without a sense of purpose. We have no idea what we value or what we stand for. We have no idea what we’re really doing with our lives, or why.
Nothing feels exciting when nothing is fueled by passion or intention.
In order to feel alive, we need to be connected to what matters to us most individually. I’m not talking about a specific career direction, though that could be a part of it. I’m talking about creating a blueprint for how you want to show up in the world so you can be the person you want to be and make decisions that feel right for you.
For example, my current mission statement is:
To live with wonder, courage, compassion, and integrity, prioritizing family, freedom, adventure, and creative expression.
Knowing what I value, I’m better able to decide which opportunities to pursue and accept and which ones to politely decline.
This doesn’t have to be set in stone. Mission statements change over time as we grow and evolve. So write, revisit, and revise, as often you deem necessary.
This is the low-hanging fruit for this list. Yes, art is something you can create! Big shocker! But it clearly has a place here nonetheless.
Especially if you’re tempted to consume to avoid your feelings, why not channel them into a creative project instead? Creativity is not only calming and healing, it’s a journey back to the simplistic joy of childhood—when you had countless Lego castles, doodle-filled pages, and chalk street art masterpieces to show for your time. And the possibilities are endless.
You could color, sketch, paint, sculpt, sew, crochet, knit, make jewelry, build something, or write a poem, short story, or song. You could art journal, scrapbook, create a magazine collage, try origami, or make something with unconventional materials (duct tape, wine corks, doll parts from your childhood).
If you tune into your feelings and curiosity, you’ll find endless inspiration, and if you look around, you’ll find endless materials to use and recycle.
It’s worth noting that quite frequently, consumption fuels creation. I can’t tell you how many scripts I read and films I watched when preparing to write my first screenplay. Every movie helped me learn and sparked ideas for my own story and its execution.
Though it’s also wonderful to enjoy art for the sake of it, there’s something thrilling about consuming with a purpose. Not just to be entertained but also to be inspired—so you can create something personally meaningful to you that will hopefully move and inspire other people to live and a love a little louder.
Little feels more exciting than chiseling a piece of your heart into something beautiful that will endure, while simultaneously motivating other people wake up and live more fully.
3. A medium for self-expression
We live in an exciting time for self-expression. No longer do gatekeepers get to decide whose words deserve a platform. Anyone can start a blog, vlog, or podcast to share their thoughts and views with the world.
The beautiful thing is, it’s not too hard to get started. You don’t need a fancy site or special equipment to get going—though those things are nice to have, and they’re things you could always acquire in time, if you like the medium you choose and decide to see how far you can take it.
With a little googling you can easily find a way to get set up today, for free, so you can move out from the shadows and share what’s in your heart and on your mind.
Not only will you give yourself an opportunity to express your feelings and feel truly seen, you’ll likely also help other people through your honesty and vulnerability. Yes, you.
If you think your voice doesn’t matter, consider this: a blog can reach only one person, and yet be the one thing that saves or changes that person’s life. You never know who you’ll help or inspire by finding the courage to speak up.
At the end of it all, when we look back on our lives, we won’t take a mental inventory of the dollars we earned, followers we gained, or items we checked off our to-do list. What we’ll see is a mélange of moments—times when we loved, connected, got outside our comfort zone, and engaged with the world with wonder and enthusiasm.
These moments generally don’t just fall into our laps. We have to actively create them. And sometimes that means stepping outside the realm of our routine and actually doing the type of things we daydream about.
There’s a scene in the movie Stepmom (spoiler alert!) where Susan Sarandon’s character, Jackie, knows her cancer is getting worse and her time with her family is limited. So she does something out of character and beautifully touching: She wakes her daughter Anna in the middle of the night and takes her horseback riding, in the snow.
Anna says she’ll never forget this moment, and how could she? She’s nestled close to her dying mother, on a horse, in nature—when the night’s at its most peaceful and she’s usually asleep and unable to see it. Together they feel completely present and alive in this magical moment of connection and awe.
We can all create these kinds of moments. We can create magic for ourselves, someone else, or both, if we’re willing to prioritize it and put in the effort.
I suspect a lot of us feel pretty discontent with our lives. Perhaps Thoreau conveyed it best when he wrote “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”
Most of us merely survive and think of thriving as a luxury unavailable to the majority. I’m not going to lie; it’s easier for some to thrive than others. Some of us are born into more ideal circumstances, and some get more advantages.
But perhaps the problem isn’t just that not everyone gets the same chances, but also that not everyone takes the same chances.
If we settle into a pit of discontentment and do the same things every day, nothing will ever change.
The only way to make our lives any better is to find and seize opportunities instead of waiting for them to come to us.
Make the call. Send the email. Sign up for the course. If you can’t afford it, research scholarships or free or cheap alternatives. Do something to create a new possibility for your life, whether it pertains to your work, your hobbies, or your relationships.
Then the next purchase you make might be something you need for this exciting new path, not something you want because you’re miserably unhappy with the status quo of your unfulfilling life.
6. New connections
We live in an increasingly disconnected world. We spend more time holding devices than hands and look into more screens than eyes, as the Dulce Ruby quote suggests. This is such a lonely way to live. But it doesn’t have to be like this. Not if we prioritize forming and maintaining relationships.
Of course this isn’t easy. It can be challenging to pull ourselves away from our usual indulgences, get outside our little bubble of comfort, and get present in the world beyond our own door. But it’s oh so worth it.
One day last year I was a feeling a little down about my limited social circle where I live near LA. I’ve moved a lot, I travel a lot, and I work from home; and I haven’t done a great job prioritizing relationships where I live.
As I was scrolling through my Facebook feed on this afternoon, trying to distract myself from the sadness in my heart, I decided to do something different; so I navigated to a group for Highly Sensitive People, that contributor Bryn Bamber had actually recommended in a post about sensitivity, and introduced myself, asking if anyone lived near LA.
Several people responded, including one who’s become a great friend—someone I can relate to on a deep personal level. Someone who gets me, who I get back. And not only did I make a new soul connection, I also opened myself up to new possibilities: because of her, I began volunteering at a nearby community theater, where I hope to volunteer again in the future.
It can feel awkward to initiate conversation with someone new. Or at least it feels that way for me. But as Frank told Don in The Green Book, “The world is full of lonely people afraid to make the first move.” Make the first move. You just might change two lives.
In the words of Ferris Bueller, life goes by pretty quickly. Friendships evolve or fade, jobs run their course, kids grow up—and before you know it, we’re looking back at our years, either feeling proud of everything we created or wondering how and why we squandered our time.
I don’t know about you, but I want to prioritize the things that truly matter to me and fill my hours with purposeful actions that fill my heart with peace, passion, and excitement.
I want to make beautiful things, share empowering ideas, and collect more moments of awe than there are grains of sand on the beach.
I also want balance.
I want abundant movie marathons, occasional retail therapy sessions, and Sunday morning mimosas.
I want trashy magazines in the tub, an endless rotation of used true crime books, and a full Netflix queue that seems to scream, “I know what you like, Lori. I get you.”
But I want to consume those things intentionally. Not to avoid or escape anything, but just because they’re fun.
I think that’s a reasonable goal for all of us. To be a little more intentional, a lot more engaged, and in the end, far more excited about the lives we’re living.