The Oatmeal recently released a comic about creativity. In a nutshell, it points out that creativity is like breathing. You have to breathe in before you can breathe out. In this analogy, you can’t produce creative content if you don’t also consume creative content. Creativity is an energy, like electricity or heat; in order to use that energy, you have to get it from somewhere. This can come in the form of reading, watching TV or movies, listening to music, looking at visual arts, and many other forms besides. But in consuming the creativity of others, one becomes more able to create works of one’s own.
This is in part because ideas don’t spring fully formed into a creative person’s head. They are reworkings of things these people have seen or heard or felt or experienced. As a friend of mine is fond of saying, ‘Good artists borrow. Great artists steal!‘ Which is a valid, if somewhat flippant, way of saying that consuming the creative works of others is the essential fuel for one’s own creativity.