4 Steps To Become A Curator Of Inspiration

Curator of Inspiration: It’s not a job title – it’s a role.  It’s something you do, regardless of your official position in the organization.  I’ve written earlier about the Pastor as a Curator of Inspiration; this is just one of many hats a pastor gets to wear.  However, it’s a fun hat, and it’s a hat that I think I know a few things about.

I’m quite surprised at how the idea of the Curator of Inspiration has resonated with many readers of the “Ministry in the Age of Design” article (the section is a deeper re-work of the earlier blog post).  Because of this positive response, I thought I’d flesh out the concept a little more, with a few steps on how to become a curator of inspiration.

Build a Collection

library

Jay Walker Library of the History of Human Imagination
Photo by Aaron Tang, used under a Creative Commons License

A curator actually takes care of something.  Museum curators are entrusted with a collection of artifacts.  Corporate Historians are entrusted with stories and archives.  If you would be a curator of inspiration, you must begin with a collection.   I’ve written about tools I use for developing a collector mentality before.

The basic idea here is that in building your collection you become an expert, a maven.  In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell talks about three types of people who spread cultural ideas: the salespeople, the connectors, and the mavens.  Mavens, Gladwell suggests, obsess about their chosen area of interest whether it is getting deals, finding good restaurants, choosing the right wine, selecting the most interesting entertainment, etc.  They know the best.  They also love to share their interests with others.  They like to be helpers in the marketplace.  They are not obnoxious or show-offs.  They help people who are genuinely interested in their help.

Pay Attention

The way to make your collection useful is to pay attention to what is going on around you.  What are people talking about?  What are the concerns that you hear again and again?  What are common themes that you see cropping up across news stories?

Yet paying attention is very hard to do.  Usually we are too wrapped up in our own little monologues to truly pay attention and consider what is happening around us.  The disciplines of prayer, solitude, journaling, and quiet contemplation can help us still the rollercoaster of our minds long enough to start learning how to pay attention to what is around us.

I’ve written a few posts that might helps us slow down the freight train of the mind – these might be of help in enabling us to pay attention:

Share Your Collection

The point of the collection is not to horde, but to share and share generously.  However we must share intelligently as well.  It is not enough to simply throw things from your collection out into the world to see what sticks.

The insight you glean from paying attention should help you make connections with what is in your collection.  It might be helpful to periodically review parts of what is in your collection to keep it fresh.  Remember, the more you use your collection, the better you will know it.

Share purposely.  Add value to the conversation.  What in your collection offers insight, offers a fresh perspective, challenges assumptions, or simply offers a moment of delight in the midst of an otherwise dreary landscape?  What do you have that speaks to the moment?  Who is your audience?  What might they expect?

Iterate

The only way to learn what is helpful is to put stuff out there.  See what kind of feedback you receive – what kind of response comes your way.  Then pay attention and learn.  As people respond to your curation of inspiration, you will invariably come across fresh material for your collection, you will discover new insights from paying attention, and you will try to share different things.  Keep learning, keep sharing, keep listening.

David Bayles and Ted Orland tell a wonderful little story about this in their must-read book Art and Fear.  It’s about a ceramics teacher who divided class into two groups – those on the left would be graded on the quantity of the work they produced, those on the right solely on the quality of the work.  The second group only had to produce one pot, but it had to be perfect to get an A.

“Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged:  the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity.  It seems that while the quantity group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.”  (29)

Above all, be patient.  It takes time for you to find your audience.  It takes time to find the people who understand what it is you are curating and who are interested in being a part of the conversation.    Take comfort in the fact that you are not alone.  You have something to share.

I hope that encourages you would be Curators of Inspiration.  Let me know what you think.

RS

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