Discard What You Don’t Need.

This is an easy piece of advice to agree with.

Until we open a drawer, or look in a cupboard, or try and find a file on our computers.

There are lots of reasons and theories about how and why we accumulate so much stuff and our parents, spouses or partners, and professionals, telling us to cut down or not buy more to begin with.

The same can be said about our creativity.

We accumulate.

We accumulate attitudes, ideas, ways of doing, which over time can leave us in a mess.

Every now and then we may have a tidy up but how many times do we discard.

The writer Stephen King was stern in his advice to ‘kill your darlings’ – those characters, paragraphs, ideas, which are you need to discard.

It is difficult to determine what we don’t need.

Creatively, surely the more skills and techniques we have the better we become?

Yes and no.

The more skills we have the more versatile we can be, but they can also lock us into a particular way of doing things which maybe limiting.

In art, think of how differing brush strokes created whole new movements such as the Impressionists

In music, think of how discarding notes from a chord helped to produce the deeper and heavier tones of Rock/Metal.

But what do we discard?

Discard whatever is holding you back.

Creatively experiment by removing things.

If, as a writer, you spend ages writing descriptive passages because you find them difficult, then discard them. Be simple and straight to the point. Your reader will help by filling in the gaps.

If, as an artist, you struggle to draw faces then don’t draw them. Most fashion designers don’t. Go further and don’t draw the bodies either.

Discarding isn’t always about getting rid of something.

It is about making space where you can choose to bring something new in.

Replace lines for dots, chords for individual notes. A human character for a non-human character.

And remember you can discard your thoughts.

You don’t need to remind yourself of what you can’t do.

Discard.

Remind yourself of what you can do.

Daily Verse – Overcome.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:21 NIVUK

Short. Simple.

Overcomeniko – the only occurence of this word is here and it means to not be conquered or prevailed against.

We are not to be conquered by kakos – anything bad or harmful.

This could be an external situation or even an internal situation.

We are to stand against any situation, any thought, any action, which is bad and could do us harm.

We are not to be conquered or prevailed against.

How are we to do accomplish that?

By taking action ourselves.

We are not to be passive in our difficulties and troubles, but we are to counter or prevail against this ‘evil’ with ‘good’.

This second instance of ‘overcome’ is present only twice in the New Testament and is linked to the first instance in the verse.

Nika – essentially carries the same meaning of conquering or prevailing over – in this case we prevail against evil with good – agathos – actions and thoughts which benefit rather than harm.

We overcome negative situations by countering them with positive words and actions.

Try it next time you are in a difficult place or frustrated that something isn’t working out for you.

We cannot be passive. We must take action.

We can overcome.

Busy = Lose + Heart.

In Japanese writing the character for ‘busy’ includes the characters for ‘lose’ and ‘heart’.

To be busy is literally to lose heart.

In western society busy has come to mean working hard, becoming successful, going places.

Busy also means stressed, rushed, no time to think.

For creative people ‘busy’ can still mean working in our creative spheres but we could be losing touch with our creativity itself.

We can rush through a chapter in our novels, get another canvas started or finished, blaze through our instrumental practice.

Stuff may get done, but we may have lost our heart connection to it.

Being creative is a whole mind and body action.

It is physical action. It is mental concentration. It is an emotional effort.

Don’t be ‘busy’ or your creativity will suffer.

If you are busy then take a time-out.

Fresh air, coffee, tea, birdsong, a short walk, a shower – whatever you need to do to hit reset.

Remember your heart is in all of your creativity.

The Way After – Day #4

Traditionally, any pilgrimage route began from your front door step.

Today the most common starting point for El Camino de Santiago begins across the Spanish border in the French town of St. Jean Pied de Port.

St. Jean is the historic capital of the Basque Country which encompasses land and communities on both sides of the Pyrenees.

It is also a dramatic start with the route quickly elevating to a total height of 1429m and 14.2km of the total 24.7km for the day involving going uphill.

The beginning of El Camino seems to reinforce the observation that life can unquestionably be difficult.

Challenges abound. It is easy to lose motivation. It is easy to give up.

But how much of the challenge of the first day comes about because of a general lack of preparation?

How much comes down to a sense that walking should be easy, or is easy, or not as difficult as running, so some other such notion.

In the movie The Way, Joost sees a cyclist on the trail and expounds ‘You can do this on a bike? Why did no one tell me?’

Sando originally spoke of completing the Camino on bikes. It would seem easier to have completed the Way pedalling, certainly in terms of time taken. He became convinced that the route had to be walked. The ability to accomplish this inevitably delayed us in our efforts.

Sando’s diagnosis of a brain tumour delayed much that he would have wanted to accomplish.

Those first months were very much like the profile of the first day on ‘the Way’. Tough. Uphill. A struggle. No obvious end in sight. No particular alternate route, which was any easier. 

You simply had to put one foot in front of the other.

Walk the route which many others have done before you and take solace from the fact that they made it to ‘Roncesvalles’.

Sando certainly became aware that there was a wider community of cancer patients and survivors out there and he wanted to be part of that continuing community offering support to others through his experiences.

There is a saying that there is more which unites us than divides us.

I am sure that this is true, but to discover this we need to take those first steps outside our front doors.

We need to engage in action and then the ensuing connections with others will come. 

Denmark is reckoned to be one the happiest nation in the world and one of the concepts at the heart of their daily lives is that of clubs or societies, with most people spending three or more evenings a week engaged in specific activities with others.

The first pilgrim guest house in Roncesvalles was built in 1127 and recorded in a poem:

The door opens to all,

To sick and healthy,

Not only to true Catholics

But also to pagans, Jews,

Heretics, the idle and vagabonds.’

El Camino opens the door to us all but do we open our door to all?

What Would You Do With 47% Extra Time?

A study, led by Harvard, claims that an average ‘knowledge’ worker works in a state of distraction for 47% of their time.

Flip this around.

By being more focused they could accomplish the same amount of work in half the time.

Or potentially double their output.

Just because we are ‘creatives’ it doesn’t mean we don’t get distracted, or it doesn’t matter if we are distracted.

So how effectively can you focus?

Remember that multi-tasking is a myth – your brain focuses on each task by rapid switching, so you only ever do one task at a time.

Phone messages. Phone calls. Social Media. Changing the tunes. Not being clear on the task you will execute in a defined period of time. Not being prepared with everything you need for that task.

Any improvement in your habits or discipline, which impact that 47%, will result in a significant improvement.

Professional cycling team Ineos – formally Team Sky – are as famous for their 1% rule as they are their Tour de France victories.

Try and improve everything you do by 1%.

Over time those 1%s add up to something incredible.

  • Prepare properly – have everything you need where you need it.
  • Schedule specific tasks in your calendar and put a time limit on it.
  • Use a timer to keep you on track.
  • Limit the amount of time you need to switch away from your task – if you are hinting for 90mins don’t have a playlist which only lasts 55mins, for example.

You can Log/Record what you do in the time you devote to your creative endeavours, to see how personally bad the problem is for you. Every time you stop doing your intended task make a quick written or voice note.

Review it and do what you can to delete those clear distractions. See how much of that 47% you can gain back.

(The distraction of keeping the log doesn’t count!).

The Daily Verse – Luke 19:10

‘For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’ – NIVUK

Luke 19:10

Have you ever sought something which you thought was lost?

Have you ever felt lost yourself?

Jesus had spotted a man in a tree as he passed through the streets of Jericho and called him by name. The Rabbi invited himself to Zacchaeus’ house for supper and to stay the night.

Many of the people in the crowd which thronged alongside the teacher knew who Zacchaeus was. He was a chief tax collector and a sinner.

Like so many times and in so many places before those same people, who didn’t consider themselves to be sinners, grumbled about Jesus spending time in the company of people who clearly were sinners.

Maybe this teacher and prophet wasn’t the Messiah after all.

During the supper, Zacchaeus announces to Jesus that right there and then he was going to give away half of his goods – possessions and money – to the poor. On top of this, if he had cheated anyone in business then he would repay them four times the amount he took from them.

Jesus’ reaction to this declaration is to proclaim, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.’ Luke 19:9

Jesus is declaring that Zacchaeus is a son of Abraham not just in heritage, but also in faith.

This chief tax collecting sinner had seen Jesus, and responded to his call for food and lodging for the night, but also as the Messiah calling him to repent and enter the coming Kingdom.

To those guests around him, who may or may not have been whispering unkindly at his declaration, Jesus tells them that his purpose was seek and save the lost.

This is an image which we encounter a number of times in the Gospels.

Seeking out the lost and restoring them.

I am sure we have all lost something – I mean ‘misplaced’ something – precious or not so precious. We are sure we know where we left it or where we saw it last, however, it isn’t there now.

Jesus was doing the same. Seeking out the lost and providing a beacon for them to return by.

Zacchaeus climbs a tree to get a glimpse of Jesus. He realises he is missing something and this teacher/prophet passing through the city might just be it.

He started looking and Jesus notice as he passed by.

Just like Nathaniel when Jesus calls the disciples, he calls the little man by his name and invites himself – and his disciples – to stay for the night.

Sometimes the thing(s) we misplace, or lose, are more important than an object.

Sometimes the things we have lost is happiness, courage, love, hope, strength.

When Zacchaeus encounters Jesus he has the hope restored in himself that he can become a changed person and live a different life – in this case an honest life.

He makes his declaration of his intention to change and – importantly – how he will change to Jesus.

Jesus’ response is to give him the affirmation he needs to make this change and declares it to those around them.

Jesus acknowledges Zacchaeus’ faith.

When we have ‘lost’ something and we are struggling to ‘find’ it, follow Zacchaeus’ example.

Respond to Jesus’ call to stay with you.

Make your declaration to Jesus on how you intend to change – you don’t necessarily need to give away half of your possessions!

Then hear Jesus remind you that you are a child of Abraham – by faith we are Abraham’s heirs!

Then use that faith for Jesus is waiting to stay with you.