From the Desk Remix! – 4 Billion Bits!

The weather summary for today – It rained. It stopped raining. It rained. It stopped raining. It rained . . .

Our brains like to sift things into easy categories.

It makes sense. It is like a type of short hand.

Have you tried to write down notes on a webinar, zoom meeting, or at a live event?

It is practically impossible.

A quick search on an ‘engine’ of your choice and I discover that the brain processes 4 billion bits of information every second, but we are only aware of about 2000 bits.

A quick search of my brain for the weather and it neatly summarises it for me as it rained on and off.

My brain, being sensible, decided I was probably struggling with the few bits of information I was concentrating on and didn’t want to overload me!

If I search the system a little more closely, then I know the sun came out for a few brief periods, and during one of them the light across the blue sky was invigorating. It was also windy, blowing the magnolia tree at the bottom of the garden from the west.

When we are creative it is easy to fall into the ‘summary’ option of what we’ve done.

Stephen King tells us that when we have finished our story or novel, we should shut it away in a drawer and forget about it. After a few days or weeks, get it out and read it. Your ‘summary’ may not have done it justice – for good or bad.

The same works for art or music. Leave a little space and time between you and the work. Come back to it and look beyond the summary.

You notice things. This is important. Revisit the details.

I’m sure you’ve noticed this with movies, or albums (does anybody still listen to whole albums anymore?). I guarentee there is a scene you had forgotten, or a track which you didn’t remember but now think is great.

Creatively this ‘revisit’ is a really important part of our process. Here we learn from ourselves and question why we put those particular marks on the canvas, or included a scene with the protagonist or a minor character.

4 billion bits of information per second.

Creatively, we have more resources at our disposal than we might think!

From the Desk – Remix! – Me Journal, You Journal?

As this month is ending I have been getting my journal set up for October. I have a hybrid BuJo and record/reflections journal which I enter the art, writing, Bible study, podcasts, videos, books, music, which have accompanied me on any given day.

I am not perfect at the forward planning, or the recording of what I have done to be honest, but it is a habit I try to keep to, as much as a reference point than anything else.

I am not fancy and artistic with my journal. It might be soemthing I try in the future, but at the moment it is more of a utilitarian document – a document that I have done things and also a source for future work and projects.

I have kept journals off and on for many years, but the thing which generally breaks down the habit is my handwriting. It has always been poor – after six weeks of being on the same handwriting card in Junior School and having not improved at all, the teacher told me I could move onto the next card out of pity. In A-Level study my History teacher asked me to write in block capitals so he could read my work!

As in most things, I am now trying to be slower and more deliberate with my creativity.

I admire the Japanese crafts people and artists, who seem to instinctively understand this and see it as just as much of the process of producing artefacts and creative pieces as the tools and materials which go into the finished item.

Being more deliberate. This is part of the process in keeping a calendar or a BuJo. You are forced to consider the time you have available and commit to a specific act within a portion of that time.

Consider the act of creativity you intend to do and slow down in the production of it. Each word you write, note you play, or brush stroke you make, is deliberate and not rushed. Each action and decision is purposeful.

My handwriting may still not be as successful as some of the other things I do, but it is benefitting from being more deliberate in its execution.

Be Deliberate and Be Creative!

Herbie.

Some Links to the things I use in my Journal:

  • My Journal is the Paper Republic Grand Voyager XL in Chestnut
  • I usually carry three Moleskine Large Squared Cahier Notebook in the Journal – Daily Planner, Writing Ideas/Planning, Bible Study notes.
  • I use the standard Bullet-Journal method and add in my own codes for recording information e.g. A-artwork, W-writing, R-reading, B-bible study, P-podcasts listened to, etc. You can also use whole pages for notes, or ideas within the daily planner/journal.
  • Pens! A constant trial and error to find something which helps my poor letter forms, but I mainly use a fountain pen – Kaweco Classic Sport – but I bought some 0.35mm Gel Pens for sketching and I have started to use these for writing as well.

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 – Walking with the Wise.

Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.

Proverbs 13:20 NIVUK

In this recent technological era we can gain unparralleled access to the very best people in our field of interest.

Most of them even do Masterclasses to teach you everything they have learnt on their journey.

We are often told in the marketing blurb ‘they have made the mistakes so now you don’t need to’.

According to Proverbs, however, this will not make us wise.

We are instructed to walk with the wise – hō·w·lêḵ – to go along with, keep pace with, to be conversant with.

Rabbi’s like Jesus did not just ‘teach’ in the synagogues, as we might here a preacher in a pulpit, but every footstep, every conversation, every gesture, even the way he ate his meals, would be observed by his disciples and imitated.

A teacher’s wisdom was the sum of every part of them, physical, spiritual, and thought.

Literally, walking in the footsteps of those wiser than ourselves in our field of interest, creativity, spiritually, or our work, will help us to become yeḥ·kām – to be wise in word, action, or thoughts. This word only occurs three times in the Old Testament, with all of them occuring in Proverbs.

I am not suggesting that we ignore every bit of wisdom which isn’t given to us in person – as much as I might like it, I cannot take a walk with Claude Monet if I want to paint ponds – but we should perhaps make more of an effort to form relationships/friendships – mentors – where we can experience their gifts in proximity.

Find a mentor/teacher and howlek them!

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.

Daily Verse – 1 Peter 3:15

https://www.instagram.com/p/CNUkBuwrD4P/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

The word which jumps out in this verse, when you read the Greek Interlinear version, is that ‘answer’ is written as ‘defence’.

We are to always be ready to give a defence of the hope we have in Christ.

The word for ‘defence’ in Greek is apologian and only occurs in the New Testament 3 times: 2 Corinthians 7:11, Philippians 1:16, and here in 1 Peter 3:15.

According to Strong’s definition, the word means to give an answer for oneself, to be a clearing of self, or a defense.

The religious hierarchy was very anti the 1st Century Church – remember its actions had led to the leader of The Way – Jesus – being crucified. Saul of Tarsus had led the Judaic witch-hunt of the post-Resurrection followers.

As the Word of God spread out into the Gentile communities there were many other debates and challenges to this new faith. The Book of Acts provides sufficient examples of Paul having to defend his faith.

We are still being challenged to ‘defend’ our faith.

Sometimes this is in the face of violence and persecution, but for most of us it is in the form of the unbelief of those around us and a society which is increasingly humanistic in tone.

Peter challenges us to have our ‘defence’ for our faith in the hope of Christ.

What is your apologian?

What is it in your life, day in and day out, which convinces you to be a follower of The Way of our Lord Jesus Christ?

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?

The Way After – Day #2

https://youtu.be/t99KH0TR-J4

I hadn’t heard this Queen song for a long time until today.

When it first was released it was so incredibly poignant and obviously reflected Freddie Mercury’s own life.

When I was younger a friend’s elder sister was a massive Queen fan so I had heard about the rumours of his diagnosis with Aids long before it hit the music press and made national headlines.

For me the song is typically Queen in style, but the sense of introspection in the lyrics is humbling.

Sando never appeared to be a big fan of Queen but he certainly embodied the sentiment of the title, before and after his brain tumour diagnosis.

Life is never easy for anyone and there are undoubtedly periods of frustration and annoyance for many different reasons.

He always seemed to express his immediate sense of frustration, with a frown and forthright dialogue, then straighten up his tall frame, fix his often impish smile, and carry on.

I was – probably still am – much more of the the opposite – I have an immediate sense of anger and then simply carry on being angry.

In Sando’s presence, it was far easier to be persuaded to lose the anger, and that together we could, and would, just carry on.

His passing leaves us feeling alone and with that it is easy to ‘stay’ angry, to be lost in the selfish realisation that we have to carry on by ourselves now.

As the words of the chorus say:

Inside my heart is breaking

My makeup may be flaking

But this is when our memory of Sando must come to the fore, and remember that his . . .

. . . smile, still, stays on

The Way After – Day #1

Yo soy el camino, la verdad y la vida.

Sando loved his languages, and foremost was Spanish.

I was never sure whether the food and wine were the ‘bonus’ to his linguistic talent, or simply necessary to access the wine and the food!

When he spoke Spanish he became more animated than usual.

I would joke that he probably was just reciting some song lyrics by Julio Iglesias which he had learnt by heart.

I think he probably saw himself more as the son than the father, the youthful Enrique rather than the senior Julio.

I am the Way, the truth and the life.

Early Christians were known as followers of the way.

The ‘way’ was a direction, a movement.

The institution of religion can seem the very opposite.

Solid but stood still.

Jesus and his followers were always on the move.

Pilgrimage was, and is, faith on the move.

Yet the churches and cathedrals stand waiting for those on the way.

Sando seemed to be both.

His was tall and well dressed. 

He spoke in more refined English tones and loved cricket. 

He was taught in boarding school and also taught in boarding school.

Yet he never stood still.

(Despite my own belief that five day test cricket was nothing more than standing still.)

He moved, like the way.

We met each other, and we met others along the way.

Many pilgrims who have walked El Camino de Santiago realise that the journey begins but never ends.

Attending the final Pilgrim’s Mass in Santiago de Compostella is simply a milestone on the way.