Last week we introduced the concept of “filling the well” to nurture our creativity as individuals and as parents and how to distinguish it from “mindless entertainment” that only drains our time and energy. Since it’s impossible to categorize any particular activity as the more or less desirable kind, I proposed the following guideline:
If we process what we consume and use those ideas for our own creative work, then we are not frittering away our time with entertainment, we are filling our creative well.
I first came across the idea of “produce what you consume” at Project-Based Homeschooling where author and educator Lori Pickert explains why she doesn’t worry about her sons’ screen time:
They don’t just passively consume — they actively produce. They take ownership over ideas and work with them, build with them. They take what interests them, what they enjoy, what they love, and they make something new. – Lori Pickert
We can never know if what we’re experiencing will ultimately prove useful to us. Often we find inspiration in the least expected places, and we won’t produce everything we consume, so for our purposes I’ve simplified the idea to “process what we consume.”
Let’s look at a few examples to see how this idea might help us.
Example 1: Mindless Entertainment
My husband observed that reading “overcoming the odds” stories never inspires him to overcome his own obstacles, they only inspire him to read more “overcoming the odds” stories. For him, such reading is not processed and turned into action, so it is of the less helpful kind.
Example 2: Filling the Well
I love reading homeschooling blogs and learning how other parents shape their family life. I feel inspired to try new things and enjoy my family more, so homeschooling blogs fill my well.
Example 3: Flooded
The internet overwhelms me. There are so many wonderful families out there doing amazing work. There are so many websites and resources that I can’t possibly take advantage of them all. If I spend too much time on homeschooling blogs I don’t enjoy my family more – I feel guilty that I’ll never be able to do all those wonderful things others are doing.
The key difference between example 1 and example 2 is whether I’ve taken the time to process what I’ve read.
A healthy rain replenishes the aquifer that supplies my well, but a flash-flood leaves the well empty.
We need to take time to process what we consume, but what exactly does “processing” look like? Is it possible to judge from the outside if our children are processing or just consuming? We’ll take a closer look at these questions next week.