We have so many ways to learn new things. We can watch Youtube videos to learn how to fix our cars. We can watch cooking shows to improve our culinary techniques. Watching other people being creative can be stimulating or calming. But is it actually enriching? At what point should we stop watching and start doing?
I was challenged by a recent Hidden Brain episode (Close Enough: The Lure of Living Through Others) to consider the time I spend watching other people do things. I love to have The Great British Baking Show streaming while I cook in my kitchen. I must confess that I haven’t expanded my use of flavors in baking much, despite having watched every episode at least twice.
I’m also a devotee of several home renovation programs. There is something seductive about watching an ugly building be transformed into a spectacular dwelling in about an hour. Without the actual drama of having to work with contractors and subs. Without the actual dust and debris of renovations. I’ve done all that before.
When does watching get in the way of doing?
The classic example of watching is the PBS painter Bob Ross. While nursing babies and soothing fretful toddlers, it was comforting to watch Ross effortlessly create shadowed mountains and happy trees. When I took my first painting class, I was shocked to discover how difficult painting actually can be.
This is the problem with watching — it lets us off the hook from actually trying something. Being a rank amateur as an adult is a humbling experience. But it is absolutely necessary if we are to develop new creative skills.
I’ve decided to consider before turning on the latest Netflix how-to program whether I am wanting to learn something new. Or I really need some distraction from the stresses of life. Or whether my viewing is getting in the way of my doing.
What do you think?