From the Desk Remix! The One Thing.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the ‘one thing’.

There is so much advice out there telling us to focus on one thing and become a master of it – this is the path of the successful.

There is no shortage of examples to prove this ‘rule’.

But what if your creativity takes you in more than one direction?

What then?

Well, you choose the one thing, obviously . . .

Or do you?

There are a number of examples which spring to mind of creatives who have excelled at more than one thing in their lives.

Whatever happened to that Da Vinci fellow anyway?

I don’t believe multi-creatives are the exceptions.

We are all made to be creative, so we all have the potential to create in any sphere.

We may display a tendency towards a particular creative outlet – writing, art, music – but we shouldn’t be dissuaded from working in more than one field of expression.

Time is an essential part of the process of course and this maybe why we are advised to pursue just one thing.

The more time we spend being creative, the more we learn and acquire new skills.

It is easier to focus time and effort in just one direction.

If, like me, you are drawn in several directions, pursue them all.

Work out where they overlap or intersect. Does one strengthen another? Is one a byproduct of another?

Poetry can become song lyrics. Studying art and artists, informs your images, but also give you a lot of knowledge which can be shared along side your creative output. Music can be inspired from your art or writing.

I am aware I am thinking quite narrowly.

What creative combinations can you come up with?

From the Desk Remix! – Lots of Fish but only One Shark.

I think being creative is often the easiest part.

Generally, I have no shortage of ideas and inspiration, whether it is writing or art.

The problem comes in that they are often like a shoal of fish and I am in the middle of them.

Even sharks find grabbing hold of just one of those fish difficult.

And even if you do grab hold of one, then there are still all of the others whirling around you.

The last few days has been one of those periods where I’ve been lost in the shoal.

What am I doing? What should I be doing? Should I continue with this, or begin anew with that?

There is a lot of advice out there, I think given by people who aren’t in the actual middle of a shoal of fish!

My general way of dealing with the situation is to keep going until you hit a mini-breakdown – I am not recommending this as an actual practise by the way! – then you stop doing everything.

After a couple of days of thinking, reading, searching, prayer, listening to the voices in your head as well as the loud music, the fog begins to clear.

I am listening to Anberlin even whilst writing this.

After a couple of days of thinking, reading, searching, prayer, listening to the voices in your head as well as the loud music, the fog begins to clear.

It is probably more sensible, however, to:

  • take a step back
  • refocus on your priorities for your creative work
  • assess the projects you are currently dealing with
  • choose the one which is the most important/pulls the hardest at your creative muscles
  • set out a clear time frame for completing this one project
  • list, in order, the other projects to be completed if you decide to complete them

Stephen King recommends that, once you have finished your first draft of a novel, you place it in a drawer for at least six weeks, then revisit it, read it, and start editing.

This will work with ideas and inspiration as well.

Keep a notebook and write down all of your inspirations and ideas, but set a day/time when you will revisit the idea, and see what its impact on you is later on. This also stops you (me!) from chasing every fish in ths shoal!

Daily Verse – Three Things on Your To-Do List.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Romans 12:12 NIVUK

We are used to productivity gurus and time-management geniuses giving us the number one rule – have one main thing on your list, have five things, have as many as you can think of but only to the top two, etc. etc.

In this verse, the Apostle Paul puts three things on our to-do list.

Hope. Patience. Prayer.

The same three things every day.

Hope – elpis – to anticipate, to be expectant, to have confidence.

Patience – hupomenó (this is the only occurence) – to endure, to remain, to have fortitude, to persevere.

Prayer – proseuché – to pray, to worship, to be earnest in prayer.

Paul is always quite clever in the way he gives us the ‘big focus’ of our faith but also adds in qualifiers almost without notice.

Not only are we to have Hope, Patience, and Prayer, as central to our days, but we also have rejoicing, affliction, and constancy.

We are to rejoice in our hope – chairó – be glad, cheerful, calmly happy.

We are to be patient in affliction – thlipsis – trouble, burden, under pressure.

We are to be faithful in prayer – proskartereó – to continue, be diligent, to adhere to.

Paul’s to-do list isn’t one to be ticked off and consigned to the ‘completed’ archive or filing cabinet of diaries, it remains our priority everyday. We may not tick the items off everyday, but we still have the chance to do it the following day.

So rejoice in the hope of our lives with God.

Be patient in difficult and troublesome times.

Be faithful in our Prayers to God and he will lead us in both hope and difficulty.

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.

The ‘Chicken and the Egg’ Guide for Creatives?

It is a common catchphrase – which came first, the chicken or the egg? – which appears to have a simple answer, either way, until you come to justify it.

Apparently, it was Plutarch which first posed the question in the 1st Century AD, addressing the problems of origin and first cause. Aristotle, writing four centturies earlier wouldn’t even have considered the question as he believed there was no true origin.

By the close of the Sixteenth Century the Christian world didn’t even consider the dilema as God made, or created, everything. By the Twentieth Century Evolutionary Biologists decided the answer had to be the ‘Egg’ as they calculated that the first hard shelled egg – not laid in water – couldn’t have happened until about 312 Million years ago.

So what has 2000-312,000,000 year old debate have to do with creativity?

To answer the much more pressing question of whether I am procrastinating or not!

If the egg = researching for searching for the creative impulse and chicken = actually doing the creative thing, then you are looking at the problem as I am.

I am new to art and, although I have always loved looking at art and watched lots of documentaries on art movements and artists, I am acutely aware of the lack of reference points and natural triggers I possess when I come to do the creative action.

So I research. A lot.

The it struck me, this morning as I glanced at my still empty sketchbook pages for the day, that most of the time I had for the action of creativity was in fact being taken up by the research to obtain the creative triggers, to then be creative.

So which comes first?

Creative Action?

Or Creative Thought?

Ironically, as a writer I would definitely tick the box of Creative Action. I usually start with the thinnest sliver of a starting point – maybe a few words or a person walking or entering a building – then I write. As I write the Creative Thought occurs and I get the next scene or chapter developing in my head.

As an artist the process is definitely the reverse.

Perhaps it is because there are more elements to taking action? What type of surface, what type of meduim, brushes or palette knives, sketch an outline or simply apply the paint?

In general though, how does your creativity arrive?

If you are a person of faith, or an evolutionary biologist, then you maybe decisively fall on one side or the other of the debate. Or perhaps you give the answer of certitude ‘well, it depends . . . ‘

I appear to have a foot in both camps.

My faith make me certain that the chicken came first, and if it turns out the egg was created before the chicken, then the whole creation thing happened anyway, so the principle is still proven.

I beleive that creativity comes from the Creator.

So my creative thinking process is, as I have begun to suspect, an elaborate means of procrastination.

But taking time to think and research has definitely furnished me with many creative ideas and actions!

However, if I fill in the time sheet of thought versus action, then the beginning of the Bible would go like this:

In the beginning, God took five and a half days to do research then realised it was almost the Day of Rest, so he decided to do a final bit of research and then wrote in his planner to definitely create something first thing on Sunday!

(Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath – just in case you were wondering.)

So, maybe you are like me and you are certain you’re pretty sure you know which comes first?!

Then again both options are creative, so what does it matter?

Or maybe this brings us onto another age old debate?

If a tree falls in a wood with no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?

Or, are you only being creative if there is an end product to prove it?

Go and be creatively thoughtful or creatively creative, and I will join you.

What’s New in September?

A new month. The summer is over.

Autumn may be beginning but this month is also a time for beginnings.

In the UK, September is the start of the new academic year.

New uniforms, new teachers, moving up age grades.

New knowledge and skills being learnt.

I decided to start a few new things out of a like-minded habit.

You may have noticed a couple of additional pages on the website?

First, there is Bible Reading Plans.

I’ve used the app YouVersion for a longtime now – it is awesome. There are so many translations in so many languages available, as well as a good deal of audio accompaniments, plus reading plans and prayer guides. The app allows you to join together as a community and share verses and notes.

On the Bible Reading Plans page I will put up the latest plan I am working through, and if you connect with me on the app then you can read my notes and share yours with me.

Second, there is Art Study – Weekly.

With this I am going to choose an art work each week and over the course of the seven days I will write any thoughts, feelings, insights, I have regarding the piece.

Primarily, this is to force me to be slower in considering other works of art and using them to be more informed in my own artistic endeavours.

Over on on my Instagram account @herbiecreative I will be sharing 30 days of my sketchbook – warts and all!

I am not a trained artist and I will be attempting to use lots of different mediums to create and learn new techniques.

It is going to be a busy September, but I hope there is something amongst this which will make a connection with you as well as inspire you.

God Bless You!

Herbie.

Line Up Your Shoes.

It is traditional when entering a Japanese home to take off your shoes and place them together, neatly, inside the hallway. These shoes should also be pointing out of the building, prepared and ready for your outward journey.

Creative types come in all shapes and sizes – like people really,

There is a romantic notion of creative genius being messy and chaotic but creating beauty out of it.

For some of us that might be true – messy and chaotic at the very least.

Others may be ordered and organised.

I have no judgement on either type, but I will confess that I can easily slip into one but prefer being the other – you can decide which.

One of the traditional ways of craftspeople and artists in Japan I admire the most is their focus on their tools and the process of creating.

For them, their tools are an extention of their movements and the process is part of the creativity.

Preparation and tool placement is very much like the chef’s mise en place.

Every thought and movement you make in the process of your creativity, helps to form the final piece.

Wasted movements take away from the creativity.

Searching for a brush you know is somewhere in a drawer, running out of a tube of paint in the process of application, trying to find the piece of paper you wrote that chord progression on in the footwell of your car, all interrupt and divert.

Organisation my not be a ‘creative’ word, but preparation and making the process as smooth as possible will have a fantastic impact upon your creativity.

Like lining up your shoes for the next journey, line up your tools for the process of creating.

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.

Creative Mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the new mantra covering a lot of areas from simple meditation to a mental health checklist.

Some meditation and mindfulness techniques exhort you to think of ‘nothing’.

Hit the eco-setting, dim the screen, go to a blank screen rather than screensaver.

If you are a creative then this is probably impossible.

If you have managed it, I would argue that it may not benefit you.

Being creative is who you are and not a menu-setting.

Imagine asking a dancer not to move their body whilst you play a piece of music – they would probably cause you of being cruel.

Whether you are a writer, musician, or artist, you are tuned to be creative.

It is how you respond to your environment. It is how you communicate. It is you.

So, rather than emptying your mind, sit for a short period and reflect upon your creativity.

What are you happy about in your output? What are you finding difficult? What are you being drawn to which is new?

Afterwards, write down the strongest thought which came to you.

Pursue it.

Be creative with it.

Create.

Creativity Update.

I have taken once again to writing my reflections upon a verse of the Bible each week day. As always I write what I most need to hear and do. I am conscious of more focus on individual words in this phase of writing than before. Then the whole verse was in consideration. Now it is one word. One detail. I try to find the right expression of that word. Possibly using many more words than I need.

I had intended to finish one of my novels during this April Camp of NaNoWriMo. It stood at just over 75,000 words. By day two I completely lost the compulsion to continue. I don’t think this was due to hesitancy or doubt on my part. My focus had shifted.

Since I first summoned the courage to place artistic Apple Pencil upon iPad paper on 24th Jan of this year, I have now produced over 400 pieces of art. Many will be consigned to the dusty storage boxes of the iCloud, but I have begun to share some of them via Instagram. More courage. At times I am overwhelmed by how little I know about art and a deplorable lack of skills, in a way that I am not with writing. Despite this I am trying to fill the gaps.

As with the Daily Verse I am captured by a single detail. It may be a specific colour or combination of colours. It may be a pattern or shape. I am studying other artists and their works. I am watching YouTube videos and events online from galleries. You must watch ‘The Eye of the Storm‘ about Scottish artist James Morrison. (The link may only work if you are in the UK – sorry!)

Each image I make has become like an act of meditation. I relax. I have no anticipation of the final result. I try to be aware of God as a draw or paint. The emblem of three trees and the cross are repeated motifs.

I will try and share more, more regularly.