Back in 2001, sociologist Paul H. Ray and psychologist Sherry Ruth Anderson wrote a book titled The Cultural Creatives: how 50 Million People are Changing the World. They described a new class of people working in emerging creative fields who were also socially evolving along with their creative expression. That trend continues to grow across the world as more and more people find themselves freed from mind numbing repetitive work and are driven by the desire and opportunity to become content creators.
The digital media world pervades our lives. It has created many channels and mediums of expression that need high quality content to drive people’s interest towards them. The people who create the writing, pictures, video and audio for mass consumption are those content creators. They are creating music, songs, movies, documentaries, TED talks, dramatic series, tutorials, cooking shows, advice, guidance, coaching, manuals, art, all manner of creative material.
Ever more complex technologies provide the tools for their work. Social media provides a means of transmission. And these content creators hunger to “go viral.” These amazing smart phones in our pockets are packed with features that permit anyone, anywhere, anytime to be able to whip out their phone and capture an unusual event on video that can then get posted and re-posted until it has looped around the globe tens of thousands of times. I took a picture of the outside of a restaurant in Rome that has been viewed almost a million times!
I didn’t realize it at first, but I am a content creator already. Each week I’m creating a sermon with the goal of providing inspiration, comfort, challenge, intellectual, sensory, and emotional stimulation and catharsis, and maybe, if all goes well, helps people grow and develop in their lives. Historically this was done with interpretation of sacred text in the Protestant tradition. Before that it was done with the performance of rituals, pipe organs and prayer. Today whole new areas of creative expression are opening to transform hearts and lives.
I enjoy working with video, audio, and pictures, creatively edited together, to move people. The digital editing tools I can get for free (or low cost) give me all kinds of creative freedom to express myself. I regularly edit audio using computer software for our Sunday morning meditation. I break up inspirational talks I download from websites into 10-minute chunks to provide inspiration for meditation practice. And I’d love to have more time to be creative with music and art. I could learn to compose songs using software tools. I can use Photoshop to transform photographs into works of art combining two interests of mine.
And the tools for writing continue to expand. I loved spell checking and grammar suggestions to improve my writing using word processors. Google is my research assistant to locate references. It can also help me with rhymes if I’m writing poetry. And ChatGPT is available to give me some prompts for creative writing. Not that I’d want it to write for me, mind you … just give me some ideas.
Ideas are the challenge for content creators. Almost all of us have either heard about or experienced writer’s block. I sat down with a blank sheet to outline what I wanted to say about the vast topic of creativity and had to pause and wait for the muse to begin to guide my words.
And if that flow doesn’t start, there can be a lot of anxiety as I have a deadline to meet – Windows goes out on Thursday, and I need my submissions in well before that.
Creatives have found many ways to respond to this need to crank out original work. Some folks have rituals that help. Philomena liked to go to Starbucks for a cup of coffee and sit in the swirling currents of humanity in a comfy chair as she crafted her poems. Others like a special pen they write with. Some enjoy a walk outside in nature to get the creative juices flowing. One technique I enjoy for poetry is taking 10 random words as prompts to stimulate my creativity.
The most reliable source of creative thought for me is dwelling in the silence of meditation. I don’t intentionally sit down and try to make anything happen. I just hold the space for something to appear. Some of my best sermons just arise out of the silence of watching my breath come in and out. It is as if there is a dark river flowing through my mind and ideas appear like bubbles rising to the surface and popping out ideas. There is nothing I’m in control of, but I do stock the river with information that might be helpful in the creative process. The associations are more spontaneous.
When I started out in ministry, I worried that I would run out of ideas or things to say on Sunday morning. I’d keep a journal of ideas that popped into my head to build up a reserve. I still do that but over the years I’ve found ideas are abundant and there is no need to hoard them. There is a constant stream in plain sight if I can just be attuned to it to the present moment.
The process of how intuition operates is endlessly fascinating to me. We are all part of a grand evolutionary process that has been going on since the beginning of time and probably will continue billions of years from now. What a gift to have consciousness of that process and be able to bring that process to life.
May we all discover how to find our way to drink deeply from that creative stream and become content creators in the service and celebration of life.