What Do You Create?

This video has really got me thinking about what it means to be a creator – why we create, what we’re doing when we create, how dangerous it is to be a passive audience.

This video (particularly the part starting around 1:40) raised some thoughts in my mind about the ethics of creativity. I want to share a few of these ideas that aren’t explicit in Kaufman’s words, but ought to be considered by people who create. We all create, even if you don’t do it professionally as a musician, designer, writer, editor, artist, engineer, etc. More importantly, we all consume (almost constantly) that which has been created. Think about the ubiquity of TV, music, movies, Twitter, Facebook, and billboards. We can consume passively or actively, critically. If we allow ourselves to be a passive audience, our thoughts and values are shaped, and decisions are made by others on our behalf. I’d wager that the majority of the Western world consumes art and media passively.

What does this mean for you as a creator? It means you are responsible for representing truth, goodness, honor, and value to your audience. I’m reminded of Kanye West’s song “Champion” where he says, in reference to Lauryn Hill’s retirement from music:

“I wish her heart still was in rhyming. ‘Cause who the kids gon’ listen to? I guess me if it isn’t you.”

In case any of you aren’t familiar with with Lauryn or Kanye, he’s saying that the world lost a positive moral influence when Lauryn Hill quit making music, and now they’re left with him – by his own admission, a terrible role model.

So I think we as creators ought to answer two questions for ourselves:

  1. If I don’t create, who is creating the content that is being passively consumed?
  2. What am I representing to the world through my creation? Put another way: What am I presenting as good, honorable, just, valuable, or righteous?
As Kaufman says in the video, “the stuff we put into the world can serve a better purpose.” What stuff are you putting into the world? What purpose does it serve?
“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
– Philippians 4:8

I must give credit to the creators of this video. The audio is an excerpt from a lecture given by screenwriter, Charlie Kaufman. If you haven’t seen any of his films, immediately check out Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The video was captured and edited by Eliot Rausch.