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Producing, consuming, and why both matter

I’ve been sicker than I’ve been in a long time this past week—and unfortunately, it’s during our tail end of France and our not-quite-enough-time in Italy, of all places. I’ve missed seeing some stuff, I’ve seen some beautiful early spring days transpire from my bedroom window, and Kyle, the dear thing, has spent much of his awake days as the hunter-gatherer of the family.

I also haven’t been working much, because my head throbs when I think beyond my basic survival skill tactics. My inbox is overflowing, I’ve had to cancel a few podcast recordings (I know, I miss it, too), and what started as a decent beginning to my book writing has been shelved for the time being. Even writing blog posts has been a challenge.

This one, for instance. I’ve had several post topics in queue, but they’ve just been a bit much to handle. Kyle tossed out a few ideas, but all of them have just been a bit…think-y for me right now.

So? I’m just resting.

Normally, if I have any downtime, I spend it reading—I’ve got a long nighstand list of books on my list, and well, they don’t read themselves. I’ve read around ten so far in 2015, so when I’m under the weather, it’s tempting to rest my body while keeping my mind active, plowing through the rest of my list.

Cup of coffee

But alas, reading has just been too much this past week. And so? I’ve been doing stuff like this:

• Listening to the audiobook of Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan.

• Listening to the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast.

• Watching episodes of Gilmore Girls.

• Watching SpaceCamp (really).

• Watching my body weight in Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon clips.

Deep stuff, in other words. And you know what? It’s done my soul good. I don’t feel one ounce of guilt about vegging, letting my brain eat a bit of sweet, and letting laughter work its medicinal laughter on my body. I’ve needed lightheartedness in my life.

I find that we tend to be in one of two different phases in life: we’re either producers or consumers. There’s some blending of both, of course, but on the whole, we either lean towards producing for our world, or we lean towards consuming our world.

Every now and then I do both, but it’s not often. Most of the time, I produce. Whether it’s my work (blog posts, books), family provisions (meals, schooling, parental support), or generally being a good member of society (answering email, keeping up with friends, texting with extended family), I do an awful lot of producing. I rarely make time for consuming.

reading on train

This has changed a bit since the start of this year, making more time for reading blogs I love and tackling aforementioned book list. But I don’t sprinkle it throughout my regular weekday as much as I like. I tend to be all (produce) or nothing (consume).

As I pull out of the plague and get back to my healthy ways this week, I’m actually looking forward to producing again—back at my book writing, friend corresponding, and general responsible adult-ing. But I want to enjoy a bit of consuming each day, too. All or nothing isn’t as enjoyable.

In fact, I’d argue that whatever I produce is typically better when I sprinkle a bit of good-for-me consuming on top. There’s evidence to back up our innate need for downtime—which means there’s zero need to feel guilty about enjoying it.

How about you—would you say you’re more in a season of consuming or producing right now? Do you prefer an all-or-nothing approach, or are you better than me at sprinkling in a bit of consuming in the midst of your producing?

Reading Time:

3 minutes





  1. Heather

    Hope you feel better soon Tsh, I am a great believer in rest when we are ill rather than ploughing on, if at all possible!
    Great theme to muse on, I shared it with my 11 yr old who has just been introduced to the idea of producers and consumers through the George Bernard Shaw quote: You have no more right to consume happiness without producing it than to consume wealth without producing it.
    My book of quotations has proved to be a wonderful resource for copywork and good conversation!
    Heather in London

    • Kate

      Great quote! And deeply true.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Fascinating quote, Heather! Thank you for sharing it.

    • Lori

      Hi Heather, I love quotes. May I ask what book of quotes you like? TIA. I love the Shaw quote!

  2. Kate

    Rest and “vegging” are two of the few positives of illness – we all get a pass when we’re under the weather.

    For the most part, I balance producing and consuming on a daily basis by producing most of the day until dinner, with rest periods tucked in here and there and then consuming (reading, sometimes TV/You-Tube, blogs) in the evening with my family and on my own. I’m a much happier human when I get to take mental breaks throughout the day.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Me too, Kate. Me too.

  3. Marina

    Consuming and producing… getting little bit tired, I have to admit 🙂

  4. Breanne

    I’m a much better producer when I spend some time consuming each day. Reading a fun fiction, watching Netflix or just drinking a cup of tea while staring out the window.
    We’re smothered in snow in Nova Scotia and it’s demoralizing this late in the year, I’m doing a lot more consuming during this season and knowing that I’ll be much more ready to produce as winter ends.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Yes, I find that there are sometimes whole seasons of producing and consuming, too. Hope your revel in the tail-end bit of your consuming, Breanne. 😉

  5. Sarah Westphal

    Loved this post Tsh and hope you are able to enjoy the last of your Italy stay.
    I find that I fall prey to “all or nothing” and moderation isn’t second nature–yet I love it when I manage it!

  6. Holly

    Yes, I hope you continue to feel better quickly! 🙂

    I think right now I am in the consume mode, working my way back to the producing side. Creativity is something that keeps ideas coming along, but actually putting them into practice is another thing. . . So generally I weave between the two, looking for inspiration and actually trying/painting/making something.

  7. Cat Watson

    This has been on my mind lately. I tend towards feeling guilty because I don’t feel like I produce enough, but I never thought of caring for my three little ones as producing, I guess I just viewed it as “that’s what I do” and I never have enough time/energy leftover to really produce, which is writing in my world. But it makes sense that the former is a form of producing, and it does take a lot of time and energy. I do find that when I allow myself to consume, I’m better able to produce creatively. I mean it makes sense right? If you are constantly giving giving giving, you’ll run out of “stuff” eventually. Anyhow, great post:) And Jimmy Fallon clips suck me in too, they are the best!

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      I absolutely think parenting falls in the producing category, Cat! In the best possible way. (I actually enjoy producing more than consuming.) 🙂

    • Sarah M.

      I’m a writer too, with two children to care for, and I feel pretty beat up after I read about how “I should be writing every day”, etc. It occurred to me this week that having small children truly makes me exempt from those “rules” and that there will be a day when it honestly will be easier, and that that’s not just an excuse that I cling to. In the meantime, I’ll write when I can and I’m trying not to allow myself to be beset by guilt the rest of the time. 🙂

      • Tsh Oxenreider

        A good plan, Sarah. (I don’t write every day.)

  8. Sarah

    I have to force myself to sit down and consume, though I feel like I’m getting better at it. At bedtime I’ll usually read a book, and on Sundays I peruse through a few bloggers’ weekend links (including yours), which I call my “magazines” 🙂 It still takes me several nights to get through a movie, though, since I still have this innate sense of “I’m wasting my time!” lurking in the back of my brain 🙂 I hope you feel 100% soon!

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Thanks, Sarah!

  9. Anthea

    Tsh, this post was a good reminder for me to take time to do both consuming and producing during the day. I tend to be all or nothing when it comes to producing, so that when I get tired out, I bomb all the way to the bottom. Then I feel completely exhausted and have a hard time getting motivated again. Thanks for the great thoughts that I can work into my life.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      I’m the same way, Anthea.

  10. Miriam B.

    Right now, I am in a season of consuming as it relates to my personal life. I have been pretty heavily invested in work and graduate school these past few weeks and so, when I have down time, I have been reading fiction and watching “The Office.”

  11. Dana

    For so many years while I taught elementary school I was mainly a producer. I did read because that was my one escape. I was definitely an over producer and when I retired in June 2013 It took me 8 months to recover. For those 8 months I was a consumer…I read tons of books, took lots of naps and spent many days just sitting on my porch and listening to the birds and watching the clouds and explored blogs and websites. I was not productive in the least…. Finally I was ready to emerge and begin my next round of producing, but it is balanced with consuming. I am in a writing group and working on my novel, I am taking art classes and producing paintings and collages. I am preparing to launch a blog soon and I am also still reading a lot, plus taking classes online. The balance is wonderful.

    I do think our bodies know when we need to recalibrate and just take over sometimes when we need the rest.

    Hope you are better soon and can enjoy your adventures!

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Sounds like you’re in a good season, Dana! Congrats on your retirement, and may your next season of producing be sprinkled with lots of healthy consuming! 😉

  12. Caroline Starr Rose

    I can’t produce without consuming. Love this idea, Tsh. Feel better soon!!

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Thanks, Caroline! (And I can’t wait to “consume” your new book soon!)

  13. Laura S

    I soooo want to be producing right now, but I have to consume. I like how you’ve thought of these two as seasons. I can see that. I work almost full time, am 6 months pregnant, and have a toddler. I don’t feel guilty for consuming right now (naps, lounging, etc.). I know it’s what I need. But my brain wants to nest and produce! Such an internal dilemma, between my brain and body.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      It does feel like a brain vs. body thing sometimes, doesn’t it?

  14. Debra W

    Such good stuff, Tsh. Ya, I think I went through so many seasons of producing (just getting stuff done all the time) and I lost myself in the process. The Upstream course helped me to reorient myself and remind myself of what I enjoy and how that really does help me produce better. Such a great point you made there. If we don’t take time to consume, what place are we producing from? Gotta have both.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Oh, I’m so glad Upstream helped in that department! That’s helpful feedback for me as I look to future updates. 🙂

  15. Jess Townes

    I hope you feel a whole lot better in the days to come Tsh. I tend to fall in cycles like you described, all producing or all consuming, and also like you, I produce more than I consume. I like the language you chose to describe this though, it feels more graceful than the language I use, in which I describe my time of consumption as “crash and burn”….because I’ve produced myself ragged. I’ve been working on this over the past few months, setting aside regular time to read, listen, or even just watch a show on Netflix (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt at the moment). Thanks for sharing your perspective on this!

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has been so much fun! I’ve only seen two episodes, but I can’t wait to see the rest.

  16. Tara Schiller

    I have to admit, this post was such a breathe of fresh air for me today. I don’t know why exactly. Maybe it was the personable way it was presented (as opposed to being phrased as “5 steps to finding balance”) or your vulnerable honesty, but I loved it! I think I’ll savor it for a minute before returning to my work. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.


    • Tsh Oxenreider

      I’m so glad, Tara. On a related note, that’s the angle we’re working toward here on AoS—much more storytelling about our own personal experience, as opposed to a 5 Steps to Your Best Life kind of stuff. 😉

  17. Peggy

    Such an interesting idea, that we vacillate between producing and consuming. I definitely am in a producing mode right now…but it sounds like you’ve earned your rest!

  18. Laura

    I hope you feel better soon! I had strep throat a few weeks ago, and I found that after a few days, not only was I feeling better physically, but mentally too! It’s so important to rest sometimes.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Not always, but sometimes I feel like getting sick is your body’s way of telling you to sllllllow dowwwwwn. 🙂

  19. Natalie

    This year was going to be the “winter” of my life- I planned on vegging out a lot, enjoying the finer things in life, and relaxing, after I was laid off from my job back in November. Our family has booked its first overseas trip to Europe for end of May- 5 weeks of wonderful, slow travel through the Netherlands, France and Croatia. But a few things have changed the past couple of weeks, and all of a sudden a business opportunity has opened up and my life is feeling more like spring right now! 🙂

    So, Im in consumption mode with snippets of production in the not-too-distant-future 🙂

  20. Devi

    I’m home with two kids under 3.5, so I feel like I’m producing all the long day long and also trying to write on top of that and live in a culture (Sweden) that is unfamiliar to me even after almost two years here. So all that to say, all of those things – cultural adjustment especially – require a lot of producing even if most of it is “unseen” or unquantifiable. For years I felt guilty about the time I took watching Ellen clips on youtube or now Jimmy Fallon’s lip syncs as well during the boys’ haps, but the truth is it was just helping me veg and get my emotional energy back via laughter.. It’s a good thing.. and it’s necessary.

  21. Katherine Willis Pershey

    I’m realizing that I not only need a balance of producing and consuming; I also need at least some of my consumption to be “free”. I realize that I have to be really careful how many book reviews I take on, and how many projects I have going that require specific research/reading. I feel almost claustrophobic when I look at my “to-read” list and realize that it’s almost entirely things I *have* to read. Even book club – which I love! – starts to feel oppressive. Last week I furtively read the newest Liane Moriarty novel and it made me so happy, after weeks of reading books I “had” to read.

    Thanks for this, Tsh. And I hope you’re on the mend!!

  22. Gabriella

    Hope you are feeling better. You are quite right about this – I feel like I am either producing or worrying about not producing enough! I need to stop fussing about the to do list sometimes! I do, however find time to read, and film/TV watching is often coupled with needlework.

  23. Lori

    Feel better Tsh! It is hard to find that balance, but getting yourself feeling better will help! 🙂
    The universe is saying slow down a bit maybe?

  24. Anna

    I’ve never thought about it in those terms producing/consuming, but it makes sense. I tend to spend much more time “producing,” and I used to feel guilty if I wasn’t being productive. I have improved, but it is still a struggle to find balance!

  25. Abigail Brunner

    So glad I’m not the only one that needs whole days or seasons of consuming to get my body back on track. i try to balance both, but with my work schedule it is usually one or the other. There can be so much needless guilt about “too much” of one or the other. I love the idea of listening to the season you’re in to know what you need, and then not worrying about the rest. 🙂

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