Content Creation vs. Curation: Finding the Right Balance

As of late for me: too much reblogging, retweeting, and link sharing, not enough time writing and posting other types of original content.

Man is it easy to reblog, retweet, or share a link on any number of social networks. What’s not so easy is creating the content that gets reblogged, retweeted and shared. It’s not that it’s super hard, but it certainly takes more than the click of a button.

I’ve been thinking about this lately because of how I am spending my own time in front of my computer. The balance seems off. Too much reblogging and link sharing, not enough time writing and posting other types of original content. I’d like to get a better handle on the ideal balance between content creation and curation.

My gut answer to this is:
80% content creation.
20% curation of content by others.

Here’s how I would breakdown what really goes on:
80% curation of content by others.
20% content creation (on a good day).

I totally want to share and curate the content of others. I get the important role it plays in being a part of the digital conversation. I love discovering cool stuff online and then telling other people about it. I do get fulfillment from that. But not as much as I get when I actually create something of my own.

I can break this down by showcasing a couple of scenarios:

An ideal Saturday morning:
What I would like to happen: I wake up early, like 7:30 — the morning is fucking mine. I’ve got hours before the household gets going. I make some coffee, cut up some fresh farmers’ market fruit and eat it, fire up the computer, and immediately start tapping away at the keys. I only stop to refill my cup with coffee. About an hour in, I log into tumblr and post a photo, and reblog a few cool posts that are flowing through my dashboard from the many tumblr bloggers I follow. Then I log into twitter, reply to a few tweets, share a couple of links, and then close it up. This tweeting and tumbling and checking out various links takes about 20 minutes. But now it’s back to my doc-in-progress. I commence writing for another half-hour or so. I feel fucking great. I throw on my running gear, put on my headphones, head out the door, and run like the fucking wind. This day is mine, and it has just barely begun. Go. Go. Go.

A far-from-ideal Saturday morning:
I wake up at 8:30. I am pissed that I didn’t get up earlier, but lie there for another twenty minutes instead of rolling out of bed immediately. I have half a mind to just go back to sleep, because I’m exhausted, but after about two seconds of closing my eyes I realize this is just totally not going to happen. My jaw clenches down even tighter than it was already clenching. I finally crawl my way out of bed and a hint of a smile does streak itself across my bloated face as I begin to look forward to making that first cup of coffee, only to realize that there is no fucking coffee in the house. Fuck! I mean, Fuck! I throw on some clothes and walk to a nearby cafe looking like I haven’t slept in a week, and also, just got violently knocked off a bike. I decide to pick up a bagel even though I am off bread. Actually, I pick up two bagels (one for me, and another for me). I get back to the apartment and the cat is freaking out because he is hungry but thinks he is starving. I go to feed him and thank God there is one can left but fuck, I have to add “get cat food” to the list of things to do today. I go and fire up the computer. I want to get some writing done, so I immediately open up NYTimes.com. Then Slate.com. This leads me to google one of the writers, who has a twitter account, which links to her blog, which I go and check out, which leads me to some other sites based on this post she wrote that have nothing to do with the original article that initially caught my attention, and all of the sudden a half-hour has gone by. I tweet the link to that Slate story. I retweet a few tweets that are rolling along on my Twitter feed. I log into Tumblr. Whoa. Who took this cool picture of these flames in the desert? I reblog this shit and go check out more of the photographer’s work. Turns out he has a flickr account. I’m looking at this guy’s photos and the next thing I know I’m jumping around and looking at all kinds of photos taken by I don’t even know who. I recall that I’ve been meaning to post photos from my trip to India from back in February. Shit. Another half-hour is gone. I haven’t written a thing. I throw open an empty doc screen, and a wave of disgust washes over me. I write a few sentences, realize it is going nowhere. Staring at the terribleness is making things worse, so I throw open Tumblr and reblog a few more posts. Finally, I post one of my own photos. Of a sandwich I ate the day before. It was just okay. The picture is who cares. I don’t even know why I posted it. I realize I am hungry, even though I ate a bagel. Make that two bagels. I close down the computer and head into the kitchen, and start looking to see if I even have what I need to make a sandwich — any kind of sandwich will do at this point. As I am staring into the cupboard and realizing that there’s no God damn bread anywhere to be found, I think to myself, I didn’t get jack shit done. And the day is half gone. I think about going for a run, but flip on the TV instead. Nothing is on, but I don’t turn it off. I just sit there and click through the channels.

Obviously, I’d like to experience the ideal scenario more often than not, so here are some things I’m doing to help strike a better curation vs creation balance:

  • Casually logging how I am spending my time in front of the computer, so I can get some better clarity of just how much time I actually spend curating vs. creating.
  • Setting some loose parameters on how many retweets, reblogs and link shares I’ll do on any given day. I don’t want to get too rigid here, but by establishing some guideposts on the numbers, I keep the amount of time I’m spending on this type of activity in check.
  • Setting word count goals — at least 500 words a day. If I accomplish this, I can set aside my concerns about spending too much time on curating and not enough on creating.
  • Another goal: at least one solid blog post a week. This used to be so easy — I was writing lengthy blog posts daily, if not more than once a day. I know what happened, and I don’t know what happened. I should probably write about it and try to figure it out. Maybe it will be a blog post. Because I have to write one a week now.
  • Being strict about keeping only one window open on my desktop when it’s time to write, going so far as to turn off the internet connection when I can’t help myself from popping over to some news site or amazon.com or imdb or who knows what I really don’t need to looking up right at that moment but find myself doing it anyway.
  • Also, I make a point of firing up the computer at appointed times with a very specific agenda. On Sunday mornings, for example, I wake up and write (and only write) for an hour. Once the hour is up, I head out for a run.
  • This sounds silly to actually note, but I use a reward system as well. Here’s an example: on Sundays, I reward myself with a jelly donut(s) if I’ve gotten up early, had a good writing session, and been able to get out and come back from a run before 11:30 a.m.

Overall, I don’t want to get too rigid in how I strike this balance. If I create a workplan that is too hardline, I’ll end up ignoring it. But I do know that I want tip the balance so that I am spending more of my time creating. This post is actually a good start, though of course now I’ll go spend some time curating around this subject. Let the battle for an ideal balance between content creation and curation begin.