I have been thinking about Jim Rettew’s comments about the Idea Industry and how treating ideas and inspiration as commodities limits how we can interact with and use those ideas.
The Idea Industry is way bigger than TED. It includes writers like Jonah Lehrer and Malcolm Gladstone, podcasts and, yes, bloggers.
As one of those bloggers, I sometimes wonder what it is I am actually doing when I write for other people to read. Am I just moving ideas around from place to place, pointing to interesting sites that others might find inspiring or, at least, amusing for a short while? Or does my work as a blogger contribute something greater?
We often talk about blogs and books and articles and movies as content, as if it were something physical that resides inside something else. A specific, discrete something with its own properties than can be placed in a vessel, carried somewhere else and then transferred to another vessel. That is the connotation of content. In this model, art is about information transfer.
Blogs and books and articles and movies can be more than just content. Content is information. If blogging is just about information transfer then it is easily done and pretty much anyone can do it.
My best blog posts, the one’s that get comments and get people interested, are the posts that tell stories. Good blog posts share something from personal experience and connect it to the experience of other people. That is what we can do here to add value. We can tell stories. We can tell stories about ourselves, people we know and people we invent. We can tell stories as a way to connect insights to experience.
Come to think of it, this is what great teachers do, too. They move beyond lecture and tell interesting stories to help students make their own insights.
Come to think of it, this is what Jesus and Buddha did. They didn’t lecture or preach a lot. They pretty much went around telling people interesting stories that connected ideas to experience. That’s how major movements get born.
The way we think about what we do determines the value of what we do. If we trap ourselves into the act of creating content, that is all we will ever have to offer. We can offer more of ourselves and help make the best ideas come to life.
We can tell stories.