Nothing is a Waste of Time, Except Doing Nothing: From Consuming to Creating

 

Nothing you ever read or watch or listen to is a waste of time.

That was the seldom-spoken personal philosophy I lived by as a literature and history student in my undergraduate years – and probably before university too. I was a voracious reader and viewer from an early age; I would constantly devour a book or film of almost any kind. It’s common sense really that you always take something – learn something – from everything you expose yourself to. It’s never a waste of time.

'Broken clock' by Thomas Hawk.jpg
Broken Clock by Thomas Hawk (CC BY-NC 2.0)

I still hold to that, but the maxim’s now expanded to include nothing you ever make is a waste of time either. Consuming and creating texts often go hand-in-hand, and the rise of terms like ‘viewser’ and ‘prosumer’ signal a blurring of the two. But ‘consuming’ in the conventional sense is not creating, and the process of actually making media – from a tweet to a blog to a video – offers innumerable lessons that simply can’t be learnt by the distant, passive observer.

Amidst reading and watching I wrote a lot of stories and poems, and my passion for making videos started as early as Year 10, when my brother and I would escape oral presentations by making short films together and screening them in class. Well over a decade would pass before I made a single video after Year 12, but I have no doubt that many of the lessons from which I’ve benefited so much came from those early years when we played around with our school library’s huge camera and sat up all night with two VCRs to edit the amateur footage we’d shot.

Admittedly editing is still often the most arduous and time-consuming stage of filmmaking, but when compared with today’s accessible programs, editing back then was immensely painful and imperfect. We’d shoot some very long takes just to make things manageable, and there would inevitably be a number of bloopers to edit out no matter how carefully we’d plan, script, and rehearse. On the other hand, being creative with media can bring rewards that could never have been predicted. You might unearth a new idea or way of doing things that ends up enhancing the original concept – or something might just happen that you simply can’t leave out of the final product, as we discovered in the video below:

Most of the time, unplanned footage can’t be used – at least not in the way in which you intended – but it’s still there, waiting for the day that you really need it. Such footage can be repurposed to make a point for which it might not have been designed, but for which it’s very well suited. I see this kind of thing from time to time exemplified in the work of students who not only make media, but also share it – highlighting the #LearnByDoing mantra that all media students should live by…

The key point here is the more you make, the more you learn. But the bonus element of all this is that you also build a constantly-growing databank of material that you can draw on in future – whether this is in a few weeks, or several years down the track. In other words, the more active you are, the better resourced you are for what you might need to get done. If you’ve been busy making things all along, that activity will (possibly without you even knowing) inform your later activity – sometimes indirectly; sometimes directly, like finding a Vine made four months ago that articulates a point you’re trying to make…

Beyond being a more engaging means of communicating an idea providing words alone, another fundamental aspect of creativity is – it’s fun! That in itself is not a point to be glossed over. As Danielle Teychenne said when I first made a video with her in 2015:

People say you can’t have fun when you’re learning because you’re not taking it seriously. But you absolutely can have fun!

The perpetual value of media-making I’ve been talking about here is also related to the crucial concept of recyclability, which I made a video about earlier this year. So in continuing the trend in this blog of using media I made long ago without any idea of the value it would later have, here’s a video I made earlier, which is made up of some other videos I’d made earlier… Dizzy yet?

To return to the point with which I started, hopefully the above examples – spanning seventeen years in total – have persuaded you that nothing is ever a waste of time…

Except doing nothing.

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