Comfort those closest, entertain the rest.

Curators, not Critics

Like a lot of people my age, I had a blog in the late nineties, early two-thousands. And like most blogs, it was hosted by Blogger. For a long time, Blogger was the premiere blogging platform. It was, like most blogging services at the time, basically a word processor that published to the web. Yes, you could upload pictures and the like - but blogging was mainly concerned with the written word. Blogger was a point-of-view distribution machine.

Most bloggers, in the absence of any real mission statement or editorial control, eventually evolved into either chroniclers of their own mundanity or cultural critics. Blogs were largely either a place to find out what someone had for lunch or what they hated about the latest TV show/movie/album/political personality/cultural movement of their choice.

A decade and change later, Blogger has gone the way of all flesh. And in it’s stead, the blogging platform of choice seems to be Tumblr. And while Tumblr certainly has all the word processing power that Blogger had, it has other abilities as well. The thing Tumblr does best is give it’s users a way to grab content from throughout the web, be it links, images, music, videos, animated gifs, or quotes, and showcase it.

Using Tumblr, most bloggers, lacking any real mission statement or editorial control, eventually evolve towards re-posting content that they love. Gathering bits from television, websites, and books and broadcasting them to their friends.

Blogger created critics.

Tumblr creates curators.

Okay, so that’s an oversimplification. A platform does not a blogger make. But when I squint I see two paradigms at work - and the distinction between the two is important, I think.

Thoughtful, well-intentioned critiques are a rare and valuable thing and needed. A critique is like a gun, though - it’s worth can often be overshadowed by it’s potential for harm.

Curation, though, is a force for good. Curation says, “Here’s what I love and I want to share it with you!” Curation says, “This is good and worth knowing.”

Bad critiques are, at their heart, subtractive. They discourage expression. They make you scared to try. Curation inspires.

When I first saw Tumblr, I mistook it for lazy. I thought instead of creating their own content, people were just regurgitating others. And in some cases, that’s probably true. But bless that holy regurgitation. Because when we vomit what we love out into the world, it inspires those out there seeking inspiration. Thanks to Tumblr I have encountered art, and poems, and movies I never would have seen otherwise. And all of it fuels the divine engine inside of me that wants to make stuff; that wants to create.

This is an essay about blogging - but not really.

Be a curator. Not a critic.

I would begin with the understanding that God has left the world unfinished, and so, in Genesis chapter 1, this creation poem is about trees that are created to have the ability to create more trees. So, to me an authentic spirituality begins with the premise that we co-create the world with God. The world is not done, and that all of action is essentially rooted in creativity. Any way in which you contribute to the ongoing creation of the world you are in fact, in some form or another being creative and so then I think the question from there becomes “what is art?” By Rob Bell

…make your art. Do the stuff that only you can do. The urge, starting out, is to copy. And that’s not a bad thing. Most of us only find our own voices after we’ve sounded like a lot of other people. But the one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can. By Neil Gaiman: Keynote Address 2012 | The University of the Arts

There are too many people that come up with a story almost as a defense mechanism, a survival mechanism; a very simple story where they’re the hero, and they get it set, and that’s in their head for the rest of their lives and then they don’t learn anything. By Conan O’Brien

This is the extraordinary thing about creativity: If just you keep your mind resting against the subject in a friendly but persistent way, sooner or later you will get a reward from your unconscious. By John Cleese

Dead Letter Office

Today I created a new folder on my desktop:

In the United States Postal Service, the Dead Letter Office is where undeliverable mail goes. For R.E.M. The Dead Letter Office was an album of B-Sides and rarities. On my desktop, The Dead Letter Office is where never-to-be-seen projects go to die.

My job at Crossroads is largely creative communication - take our given topic for the week and brainstorm about some funny, unusual, interesting way to supplement what our teachers are talking about. I create a lot of videos to this end.

This week we’re talking about relationships and how important it is to own your part of a problem. My idea was to do a Sesame Street style human/puppet interaction. As a kid we learn a lot about relationships from puppets - so maybe it would be funny to create a Sesame Street style video, aimed at an adult audience; surly puppets, adult reactions, that kind of thing.

So, I wrote a script, shot it, and started editing.

Somewhere around the first rough cut it became obvious that it just didn’t work.

The script was okay. The acting by my buddy Caleb was spot on. The pacing worked okay, I think. There was something when you put it all together, though, that just didn’t work. I showed it to someone else. They were very polite and positive about the piece - but agreed that something in it just didn’t hang together right.

So, we pulled it.

It was hard at first because I kept wondering - could I keep tweaking this thing until it got to where it needed to be? Maybe. But maybe not, and then you end up showing something that isn’t very good and doesn’t do the job it’s supposed to do - and let me tell you, having something you made bomb in front of 2,000 people is not a fun way to spend your morning.

So, in the folder it goes. I’m not sure why I’m keeping it. Partly, I think, because it was a lot of work and I just don’t want to delete it yet. Partly because I want to look at it some more and figure out how I could have made it work. And partly because a folder full of never to be seen projects is a good reminder that everybody sucks sometimes. The way you stop sucking is by continuing to do the work. The more you work, the better you get.

As a closing note, beside all the work I put into it, I really hate putting it down because it contained a scene where a puppet throws a bunch of action figures in a blender, and I really really liked filming that.

I’ve posted this bit of advice from Ira Glass before - but seeing it done up in kinetic typography made me want to put it up again. These are great words for anyone who works in a creative field and is trying to do good work.

Everything Is A Remix

I was excited to see this morning that part 4 of Everything is a Remix was up. Maybe it’s been out for a while and I just missed it - either way, if you are in any way involved in the act of creating, whether it’s music, film, software, or whatever - you need to watch these videos. Make the time! If you aren’t a creator, they are still entertaining and insightful, so I recommend them to just about anyone.