Don’t Create Content. Move People.

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Content.

It’ all the rage. Entire consultancies are being built around it.

Creating it, distributing it, testing it, optimizing it, placing it, tracking it.

Add in the word marketing and you’ve got not only a service, but a keynote.

Lotta benefits to creating valuable, sticky, viral and engaging content.

But, that word. Content. It almost implies the opposite.

Filler. Something to scatter-spray, like a weapon.

To amass or consume.

What about moving people? Deeply and profoundly?

Where’s the line between creating content, doing the thing you can’t not do, and conspiring to change the world?

Does the way you frame what you’re creating really matter?

Or am I just getting hung up on semantics?

Put another way…

Should you be content with content?

The answer, I think, depends on your end-game.

I wonder if former palliative care nurse, Bronnie Ware, when writing her massively viral essay, Regrets of the Dying, thought, “this is gonna be a killer list post!”

I wonder if, during James Cameron’s 10 year odyssey that demanded he create the very technology needed to birth Avatar, at any point along the way he thought to himself, “it’s going to be soooo worth it, once the world sees the kick-ass ‘content’ we’re creating.”

I wonder if Maya Angelou, crafting Still I Rise, thought, “now this is some seriously poetic content.”

I wonder if, when filming his wildly-popular philosophical fist pump, Existential Bummer, Jason Silva thought, “I need to create some video content that jacks up my view count.”

I wonder whether Kahlil Gibran, when writing the the prosaic lessons on life that would become The Prophet thought, “this content is going to position me as a badass spiritual writer and guarantee stupid money on my next advance.”

I wonder if musician and artist, Amanda Palmer, toiling over her soulful and deeply vulnerable The Art of Asking memoir, thought, “I need to tell the most raw, real stories of my life…in a way that creates the perfect content piece for my marketing funnel.”

I wonder whether Martin Luther King, Jr., when crafting, then delivering his famed “I have a dream” speech, half of which was improv’d, thought “look at how this is landing, this is some seriously good content!”

I wonder whether, when Lisa Congdon began posting her daily collection projects, she was thinking, “art and accountability, blah blah blah, I’m going to create a daily content machine that will build a global following, position me as an artist and launch a beautiful career.”

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Okay, so maybe I don’t really wonder about those things. Maybe I’m just trying to make a point.

What if we stopped thinking about creating content and started thinking about moving people?

…to care.

…to believe.

…to gather.

…to rise up.

…to make.

…to love.

…to give.

…to act.

…to see

…to be.

What if we did it with words, uttered or written.

What if we did it with images, brush strokes or pixels.

What if we did it with sound, with music with movement.

What if we did it with intention that moves beyond the creation of something you label in your mind as “content.”

Because, even though it’s not said or written, your brain invariably adds a word before the word content.

That word is “just.”

As in, “it’s just content.”

It may be important to your goal, but in the end, it’s still just content in your mind.

You’d put in a bunch of minutes or even hours to create it, but would you put in weeks or months, or years?

Would you devote your entire being to the creation of just content?

Would you risk revelation, vulnerability and judgment in the name of just content?

Would you stake the launch of a dream, a venture, a quest or body of work on just content?

Would you want your legacy to be that of just a great content creator?

If your goal is to fill a need, feed the content beast and get the job done, maybe.

If you can truly remove the subliminal “just” from the act of creation when it comes to content, maybe.

But, for most of us…

The words we use to describe the work we seek to create frame the effort we’re willing to invest.

So, here’s my invitation…

Don’t just create content.

Move people.

 

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66 responses

66 responses to “Don’t Create Content. Move People.”

  1. Love this.. implies coming from our souls with passion as opposed to what we think is the right thing that will work for our business…

  2. Karen Wright says:

    Love this, JF! A brilliant call to action, wrapped in enough tongue-in-cheek hilarity to drive the point straight home. One of your best.

  3. I can’t say there’s been many posts I’ve read that have gotten me to reconsider my actions; how and what I do. This post here is one that has. I am working on content for a post as we speak. After reading this, I asked myself.. “Will this content, this post I am currency writing, move people”? The answer was no. I’ve scrapped the entire post and content because I’m committed to making a difference, moving people, and not “just” creating content. Eye opener for me – thanks man.

  4. Content as art. That’s really what you’re talking about, right? A lot of the content I create as a ghost writer and blogger is not expected to be art. It’s a commissioned work to fill the reqirements set by my clients. Until they read your post today, Jonathan, I’ll probably just provide what they order. Sad, but true. For myself, however, YES! I want to MOVE PEOPLE!

  5. Joyce Lynn says:

    This is fucking brilliant!! I LOVE this………..so right on!! I’ve always hated that word “content”………….yuk!! Makes me think of reading the ingredients on a cereal box……..like that inspires me. Rock on, brother!! I’m right there with you!!

  6. The Sparkle Fairy says:

    Oh Baby, you know I love it when we get to bring it home! All we have to do it move one person, give them permission to do what he or she is here for and know that THAT, in itself, is enough. Not ratings, not clicks, not anything other than touching their heart and engaging their hands and feet. I love it when you shine.

  7. Sean D'Souza says:

    I like your stuff, Jonathan. 🙂

    I always have.

    I have a postcard I send out: When in doubt, make magic!

  8. Greg Fagen says:

    This reminded me of a recent passage I read….”Most people are running so fast, they miss life. They are in one place physically and another place mentally. You are most effective when you are mentally where you are physically- when you are present in the moment. When you are present in the moment your thinking is clear and focused, decisions come easily, and you move through tasks effortlessly. When you are in the moment you live with grace and ease. When you are totally present in the moment you connect with the now, life is more enjoyable. You can’t change the past or act in the future. The current moment- the eternal right now- is all you have” -Brian P. Moran.

  9. Pat M says:

    Wow – you’ve distilled a truth, that words issued from the heart can truly touch and influence the heart and mind of another (for good or evil).

  10. Josh says:

    I thought this was fantastic and exactly what the world of content creators needs to hear.

    It’s a battle content creators must fight. Do you create the content your soul begs you to create? Or, do you create the content that makes business sense according to some niche research findings?

    Do you take the path where a quick win seems probable?

    Or, do you take the long road where it could take years before the world (or some segment of it) realizes that your content is more than just words and images drenched in ulterior motives–it’s your soul and your attempt at being remembered in a certain light long after you’re physically gone.

  11. Jane M says:

    Hmmm, I’ve never thought of my content as “just” content before.

    Usually, while I’m writing I ask myself “Is this inspiring content?” I’m not convinced that the semantics matter so much, as long as the end goal is, just as you say, to move people.

  12. teresa triglia says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and providing us with food for thought – making us a bit wiser, more conscious about how our contribution affects others. It is easy to get lost in objectives, but wise souls such as you reach out and shed light on what is truly of value stimulating a change for the better. Thank you again.

  13. LOVE LOVE LOVE this….

    I love your content Jonathan!

  14. Powerful message, thank you for putting out there!

    I don’t know this for sure or to be the truth, but I feel that by making this conscious shift of moving people it will have an impact on our daily, simple actions towards others; offering your seat to a stranger in a bus, opening the door for a woman with a baby carriage…Furthermore, we open ourselves to being moved by people we never would imagine could have a positive impact in our lives. Sharing our experience can have a profound impact in moving others.

  15. Melissa Ng says:

    The demand for just content (and concern for # of clicks, tweets, shares, comments) has been a lot louder than it has in the past, hasn’t it? Too often, I’ve gotten stuck in my biz because I’d get caught up in need to just “push out content.” The consequence? I would lose touch with what I was creating…I would fall in and out of love with my art because my thoughts would be swept up in all the “shoulds” of creating content in quantity rather than for heart, meaning, and quality.

    Thank you for the reminder to share what moves us and others.

  16. Josh says:

    This is so damn sexy JF, thanks for sharing.

    “Where’s the line between creating content, doing the thing you can’t not do, and conspiring to change the world?”

    Moving People is just way more sexy. Oh yes! 😉

  17. Pascale says:

    funily enough I’ve been trying to craft a freebie as an incentive for people to join my list for months. Finally had THe idea that felt right. A little MP3 to help people start their day. i’ve sent it to a few friends who are my cohortes for my biz and they say it was perfect timing, exactly what they needed this morning. This made me happy. I may not gain more subscribers but it’s ok, my little MP3 has boosted 2 gorgeous creative ladies today to face challenge in their biz and that’s enough for me today.
    Thanks for putting things back in perspective and out of the rat-race…

  18. Alice Bandy says:

    This post is why you shine so brightly in the clouded sky and why I follow you instead of the other thousand trying to speak into the void. Keeping it real Jonathan, even when the stakes are high. If we can’t do real things and make a real difference, what’s the point? I love your sensibilities but admire you most for your courage. So inspiring. And I just keep saying: thank you.

  19. You have moved me with this post Jonathan! Inspiring others has always been my goal and I admit I have sometimes been embarrassed about this. The focus on creating content is so pervasive that sometimes you feel like an odd ball for wanting to move others and it can be tempting to conform. Thank you for affirming and validating this worldview. I feel inspired and en”courage”d to continue on the authentic and vulnerable path. Much love love love!

  20. Ritika says:

    Loved it… Totally moved me!
    Completely echo your sentiments.

  21. Ian Robinson says:

    Powerful stuff. I agree too that the word content leads it’s self to mediocrity.

  22. Graham Caswell says:

    The word content in this context has always made me retch. It could be a case of semantic acclimatization but I don’t think so. The internet is versatile and discipline agnostic in what it can present to people and new forms and forums of expression have resulted. Words, images, sound and two way communication are all on one platform. Those people most removed from the possibilities an meaning of expression over the internet took a calculated and indiscriminate look at monetizing the medium. They didn’t want to miss a trick in the search for whatever will glue eyeballs to the screen. So they used the most indiscriminate word to cast the widest net. “Content” and everything caught in it appears equal in value. So now we have branded curators of “content” that package it for us. (“Brands” closely follows as a word of dubious value.) Like internet cultural fission these two words have resulted in the monumentally powerful and vacuous term “Branded Content” Mission accomplished.
    Graham Caswell
    art director, designer, writer at MADEcreative

    (Love the ethos and path of GLP)

  23. You’re absolutely right that when we read the word “content,” we comprehend the word “filler.” Ever since I first understood that there was something called “content marketing,” I’ve thought, “and who do they think they’re kidding?” “Content” seemed to be synonymous with time-wasting. Trouble is, “content” is such a GREAT word. It’s the perfect word for what I’m really looking for when I’m on-line, and for what I hope to provide. CONTENT. Rich with meaning and relevance. And CREATOR. What a sin to diminish a proud, exceptional word like that! Creator – the emphasis is on the process. Time well spent.

    A worthy goal – to put the content back in content. Then we can be content that our legacy is that of great content creators.

  24. Bill Valand says:

    Thank you Jonathan for going beyond content and inspiring us to transcend too..

  25. Joe says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    I was just thinking about this the other day. A friend of mine told me that the key to becoming successful nowadays is to create “NEW CONTENT”. And I couldn’t understand why I rolled my eyes at him. Thanks to your post…now I do. Your timing is excellent.

    Joe.
    Los Angeles, CA.

  26. Jim Vickers says:

    Jonathan, again you get to the heart of the matter. The only reason why any content can be viewed as great is if the was created by someone for a great reason, a great purpose. Great purpose is at the foundation of all Greatness.

  27. Marcy says:

    Yes! I’m so sick of reading about creating content to drive traffic. Sounds like a very clinical far removed way of talking to people. I try as hard as I can to write heart felt articles that go with my artwork. It’s more than communicating ideas but giving a little piece of me.

  28. deborah says:

    I’m moved.

  29. […] Don’t Create Content. Move People. from Jonathan […]

  30. Monica says:

    As always….you are spot on. Thanks for such an inspiring post. I’m so grateful for you being so real and telling it as it is.

  31. Erica says:

    Interesting meditation. It’s funny how we can take a word that once meant “substance” and turn it into something vacuous and insubstantial.

    “Content” is whatever our work contains. No more, and no less. Be it inspiration or information, it is the thing we are known for and the essence of what we create. We use the word “content” so much that I think we forget: it is not a thing that can be pursued on its own. “Content” without meaning does not exist. You may have words, or a blog post, or a video, but I don’t think that you truly have content without a purpose, a desire to move people, or an effort to educate and inspire them.

    To me, it’s never “just” content…the question is whether my work has “real” content, or whether it’s simply fluff.

  32. Anastasia says:

    This is really quite a liberating thought! How many people (especially bloggers and SEO experts) advise to create “regular content” to keep up your “ranking” and “visibility”… This kind of advice only puts pressure on inexperienced writers, artists and entrepreneurs to push out stuff that is not necessarily of any value but “just content”. And it’s quite an easy trap to fall into, I know I have!

    I wonder what could be the check-point questions we could ask ourselves before sharing something small like a blog post or an Instagram photo. Austin Kleon’s advice is to always ask: Who cares? And if we can’t answer honestly “I do!” then perhaps it is not worth sharing with others either.

  33. Josh Langley says:

    Two words… shit yeah. Thanks.
    You’ve summed up what i’ve been grappling with. It’s all much clearer now.

    i have two philosophies now.

    1. Make people feel important.
    2. Move and inspire people.

  34. Jonathan,

    This is the best piece I’ve read in the last two years, bar none.

    You reframed the meaning of “content” forecer. I see the world with new eyes.

    Thank you for thinking it. Above that, thank you for sharing it.

  35. Kristine says:

    Thank you so much for your meaningful post. I loved all of the examples. xo

  36. Thanks for this. I reposted everything on my Facebook page. Good stuff!

  37. […] Fields on content, where he suggested we should stop filling our blogs/ads/lives with ”just content” and instead aim at moving people. I loved that way of thinking! It made me think of a way of […]

  38. […] – As I was writing this post, I read Jonathan Field’s latest post Don’t Create Content. Move People. If you’re interested in this topic, it’s definitely worth a […]

  39. I love this. It gets me out of my head. Takes me higher. I feel less overwhelm. That’s where I was before reading this…feeling great about the future of my “content creation”.

  40. Dangerous Christian says:

    Very challenging post, Jonathan. As a photographer, I’m starting to ask that question when I capture images: “Am I just creating an image (content), or will this move people?”

    Too often, we see artwork that either caters to the “masses” or something so cut and dry, it’s boring. I need to create something from the heart that could move others and touch them too.

    Thanks for sharing!

  41. Salas says:

    You’ve moved me man

  42. Bang on, Jonathan. If only all the authors writing “top-10 and top-50 easy tips” would read this. MOST content these days is just an exercise aimed at higher search rankings, and its all too evident.

  43. Ashok says:

    Beautifully put! One more worth to recommend post from you.
    Essentially what you suggest here ‘’move people’’ allows the creator to distance himself from the fear of creation and focus on origin/connections.

    I wonder, is this essentially true only for the creation process (since most of your quotes are from literary works)? or can also be bent for process engagement.

  44. […] great post by Jonathan Fields illustrates this point. His post, “Don’t Create Content. Move People” is smart and spot on. Jonathan […]

  45. […] : And another BEBH inspired article, shared by Rach herself: Don’t create content, move people. […]

  46. Keena says:

    Brilliant!

    I am so sick of content for the sake of content.

    I hope the world see this post! 🙂

  47. joanna says:

    Bloggers everywhere need to read this.
    We don’t need more content and we don’t need any more filler.
    The alternative is simple: is your heart and soul in it, or are you looking to get something out of it for yourself?

  48. LOVE! An important read 🙂 sometimes we get so worried about how IT will land, whether it will be successful or not, whether it will bring income or not… that we become a powerful attractive vortex for the exact opposite experience…

  49. […] Jonathan Fields: Don’t Create Content. Move People. […]

  50. […] Don’t Create Content – Move People – from Jonathen Fields.  Calling our blog writing “content” makes it sound like filler.  Why not try moving people instead? […]

  51. […] at Jonathan Fields’ recent on post onwhat you should do instead of creating content. Most of the paragraphs don’t extend more than a single […]

  52. Nikki says:

    Well, if your goal was to move people, it worked.

    Reading (and watching) with tears streaming down my face.

    Thank you, Jonathan.

    And YES. Yes. Yes.

  53. […] Lloyd and Jonathan Fields have a beef with content.  Businesses are paying people on the cheap to write lots of blog posts. […]

  54. Mitko says:

    Nice, this post somehow reminded me for Derek Halpern, but it’s a bit more bonding. Great work!

  55. […] Jonathan Fields – Don’t create content. Move people another post that hits on an idea that is so simple but yet I feel so few writers take into consideration. So many people I know feel that “they have to” churn out content, “gotta get it out” when I feel that quality is much more important that quantity! […]

  56. […] Don’t Create Content, Create Meaning  […]

  57. […] to. That is the purpose of the content you produce and create. Serial entrepreneur Jonathan Fields makes a compelling case for why your content should move people. It’s not enough to be content with your […]

  58. Devin says:

    Entertaining, and insightful blog Jonathan,
    I found your blog in a directory of personal development blogs, I enjoy the content, and really like reading the comments. You inspire me.

  59. Shashank says:

    A very cool blog. I love your designing ad the content too. Reached your blog through some other blog, its a long chain, as I am researching a article on ‘Blogging’ so been all over the place visiting tons of new blogs in last few days.

    Really good point, about writing in a way that moves people. I’m doing a segment on ‘How to write content for your blog’ and this post has made me rethink about how I want to present my segment. Inspiring blog. Keep up the good work.

  60. Allison C says:

    I love this post. Writing is one of my outlets to relieve stress or anxiety, but I rarely write just to write, or put words on a piece of paper. When creating something, there should always be a purpose in it. We shouldn’t just create blogs, videos, or songs for the sole purpose of creating, but rather to inspire, teach, inform, or care for someone or something.

  61. Chiara says:

    I LOVED this post, thank you for sharing. At a point where I am changing everything I do in my blogging in business and desire to share my own insights into living with long term illness, this was perfect.
    Follow the desire to write fully, truthfully, honestly and open, without focusing on the outcome of it being fame or fortune.
    Write wholly and from the heart and to move the reader and assist them on their journey and you shall be surrounded in abundance.
    Chiara. Breathe Eat Love

  62. […] want my life to reflect my values, and in order to do that, I have to remind myself that I need to live those values.  I sometimes forget that, in order to do this, I have to refill my own cup, give myself time. The […]

  63. Hey Jonathan, this is the first post I’ve read of yours and I loved it! I believe we were created to create, given senses to take in the world and gifts to share it with others. And ultimately, as you mentioned, we we are called to make the world better and to move and inspire people.

    When I write or create, I want to wrap words or images around the world I see through my eyes and use those to encourage or challenge those that are placed in my path. There are plenty of words on the internet these days, but often they have little value. Thanks for the challenge to remember why we write and for whom.

  64. Down from your site to your style of writing, its just amazing. Its all about passion i believe and when the passion is there, we would be able to break away from the norms. Thanks Jonathan for sharing. As a new blog owner, i will be looking up to you for direction and inspiration.