This post started with a tweet by khthoniaa who said:
For people who dislike the term “content creators,” what terms would you prefer we use to describe the collective of creatives who produce audiovisual and written works in these communities?
Count me in the group of people who don’t like being called a content creator.
On one hand, I get it. There was a time when writers wrote, editors edited, and photographers took pictures. Today I write, take pictures, and shoot video. And I edit it all into blog posts, classes, rituals, and other features. I post on Patheos, YouTube, Vimeo, social media, and my own website. All of that is content and I created it – that makes me a content creator.
I present that content to readers and viewers via the internet, through specific websites and applications. These platforms require technical support: programmers and developers. Those people create the containers – I create the content. So “content creator” reflects the division of labor in making a website something people want to visit.
The term is accurate. But I don’t like it.
It’s transactional and soulless. It calls to mind people who slap anything on a website to get clicks. Make it slick enough and sexy enough and you’ll get thousands of followers – maybe millions. Maybe enough that you can make a living doing it. Just give people something to grab their attention and keep them coming back for more.
Who needs substance if your content is good enough? That’s not what I do.
Yes, I create content. But don’t call me a content creator.
I’m a practitioner
A famous quote of indeterminate origin (or perhaps, of multiple origins) says “write what you know.” It’s good advice. But when it comes to something like religion, does anybody really know anything? That’s another topic for another time.
But I know what I do. I know what I believe and why I believe it. I know what’s been meaningful and helpful to me over the years, and I know what’s been harmful. That’s what I write about.
Many years ago I was thinking about a career change and I came across the field of religious studies. That sounded perfect for me. I could use my academic skills to study what people believe and do. I could learn from them, and then write about what I learn.
That idea lasted about a week. For one thing, finding employment as a religious scholar is extremely difficult. There are far more would-be religious scholars than university professorships available, and little opportunity outside academia. But beyond that, I realized I didn’t want to study other people’s religions – I wanted to do my own religion.
The labels I use to categorize my practice (Pagan, polytheist, animist, Druid, etc.) are meaningful, but in this context, what matters most is that I’m a practitioner – I’m someone who does religion. What I write and teach flows from that practice.
It’s not “content” – it’s a sacred tradition.
I’m a priest
A priest is a particular type of practitioner. Each Pagan tradition – ancient or modern – has their own specific definitions and requirements, but in general, a priest serves their Gods, mediates for their Gods, and serves their community.
When I write about Cernunnos, I do so from the perspective of a priest – someone who is sworn to honor and worship Him, and to do His work in this world. Much of my writing about community is from the perspective of a priest… including the necessity of hard, physical work.
I’m happy to write about all this, to the extent that I can. But this is the most sacred, most holy work that I do. This is “content” in the way that paintings in a museum are “wall decorations.”
I’m a teacher
Demonstrate you know a thing or two and it’s not long before people start asking you to teach.
I started teaching classes for Denton CUUPS. I gave presentations at Pagan Pride Days, then at Druid gatherings, and eventually at what was the biggest Pagan stage of them all, Pantheacon. I taught an on-line class to help promote Paganism In Depth and it turned into a series of classes, one of which (Introduction to Pagan Spiritual Practice – A Polytheist Approach) is going on right now (yes, you can still sign up).
Some of these classes or presentations made money for me. Others cost me money (Pantheacon was a very expensive trip). None of them were or are intended to fill a slot or to get clicks or otherwise bring eyeballs to websites. They’re intended to share the thinking and practices that have been helpful to me with those who are interested in learning them.
I’m a writer
I wanted to be a writer all my life. It took me a while to decide to take my thoughts out of my head and put them down on paper, or in a computer. Once I got started I didn’t stop. If I’ve counted correctly, this is the 1953rd blog post on Under the Ancient Oaks. Plus two books. Plus a weekly newsletter.
The past year and half have been bad for blogging. Traffic is down to 2017 levels, and while I’ve never made more than a tiny fraction of minimum wage from the blog, this is on track to be my worst year since 2015. I’m starting to wonder how much time I should put into the blog.
But can assure you of one thing – I’ll stop writing when I’m dead, or very close to it. I’m a writer, and writers write because we can’t not write.
This isn’t “creating content.” This is articulating concepts, making rational arguments, making emotional arguments, sharing experiences, and putting my thoughts out there in public for you and everyone else to consider, ignore, accept, reject, rebut, or whatever you choose to do with them.
Are the words of Emerson and Whitman, of Valiente and Nichols, mere “content”?
Neither are mine.
Neither are the words of anyone else who writes, and thus is a writer.
I’m a photographer
I’ve always had a camera for those “capture your memories” moments we all have, even before modern cell phones put near-professional cameras in everyone’s pocket. I started taking photography seriously when I started blogging. I needed blog illustrations, and copyright restrictions make it much easier to use my own pictures than to try to find someone else’s that I can legally use. Plus I wanted to show Denton CUUPS’ rituals to the world, and low-light photography presents a particular set of challenges.
I’m reluctant to call myself a photographer. I look at the work of my professional photographer friends and I have a hard time putting myself in their class. People like Tesa Morin (who took my author photo – likely the best photograph that will ever be taken of me), Ashley Bryner, London Stokes, and especially Joe Perri, whose vision and skill have me in continuous awe. These folks are artists – I’m a documentarian.
But just as I need not be the equal of Emerson and Whitman to call myself a writer, neither do I have to turn out the kind of work other photographers do to call myself a photographer.
Even the seemingly-random pictures I use for blog illustrations are more than just content. Every one of them is selected and edited to support the ideas and themes of the posts, sometimes in obvious ways, other times in ways that are more subtle and indirect.
And hey – I’ve actually sold a couple of pictures. That makes me a professional photographer.
I’m a videographer
I started the Under the Ancient Oaks video series in 2017 to support the launch of The Path of Paganism. I intended to make it a monthly thing, but it didn’t go over that well so I dropped it. I’ve used a little video in my on-line classes, but I picked it up seriously last year to produce on-line rituals during the time of quarantine.
I’m very much a beginner when it comes to video, even after four years of practice. I’m trying to add more video into the current class on Spiritual Practice – I’ve always been a fan of learning by doing. And while I hope to learn how to make my videos more attractive, mainly I want to make them more effective teaching tools.
I’ve got about 1400 YouTube subscribers. I could have a lot more if I posted regularly. But if I didn’t have anything to say that needed video to say it, that would just be creating content.
I use video when it’s the right tool to convey the message and tell the story I need to tell. And when I do, I’m a videographer.
I’m a devotee of Lugh
I really am a devotee of Lugh. His statue is on my altar and I pray to Him every night.
But all these “I’m a <fill in the blank>” headers remind me of the story of Lugh coming to Tara, where he tells the guard all the skills he has in an effort to gain admittance to the court of King Nuada. And when the guard tells him to go away because “you obviously possess no skill or art we do not already have,” Lugh replies:
“Ah, but do you have any one person who has all these skills?”
I’m no Master of All Arts, but I have some skill with many arts, and I use them to tell the stories of my tradition and to help those who are interested to learn and grow.
Perhaps I should call myself a Lughite? Lughist? Lughian?
Or maybe not.
I understand the desire for a collective term that encompasses all the people who produce books and blogs and YouTube channels and Instagram feeds and such. Maybe someday a suitable term will arise. Until then you can call me a practitioner, a priest, or a teacher. Call me a writer, a photographer, or a videographer. Call me a blogger. Just call me a Druid.
But don’t call me a content creator.