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.

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.

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.

Daily Verse – No Weapon.

no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord , and this is their vindication from me,” declares the Lord.

Isaiah 54:17 NIVUK

This verse starts with danger and a promise – no weapon!

The Hebrew word for weapon is keli and it occurs 39 times in the Old Testament. Apart from this instance it is generally translated as article or vessel, in the other occurences.

It is, however, often associated with something an armour bearer may carry, or possibly a bag, or even a made instrument. The link to ‘weapon’ is easy to see, but I think it is misleading.

Keli comes from the word Kalah which indicates something prepared; it could even be furniture or a jewel.

The Lord promises that nothing ‘forged’ or man-made will prevail – tsalach – go over, be profitable – against you.

No scheme or evil intent will prevail, nor will any lies or accusations.

With the second part of the sentence it is easier to see that the word ‘weapon’ muddys the meaning.

Our vindication – tsedaqah – justice or righteousness – a word which only occurs here and twice in Ezekiel – comes from the Lord.

The Lord has our backs. He proves, or provides, justice and righteousness on our behalf.

Whatever your difficulty or trouble, pray to the Lord and know we are right before his eyes and he will help us prove that.

Daily Verse – Struggle.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Ephesians 6:12 NIVUK

In this verse the Apostle Paul is teaching, and reminding, believers that our world and lives are more complicated than we think.

Before becoming believers we were purely physical beings and existed in a world of physical situations and challenges.

Now, as believers, we have had the spiritual connection, which Adam and Eve originally possessed, put back into place through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

This spiritual ‘refit’ brings us to a new life but a life which also has it’s own unique set of circumstances.

When I read through this verse this morning I got stuck on the ‘struggle’.

The Greek word used is palé and occurs only in this verse in the whole of the New Testament.

Translated mostly as ‘struggle’ it derives from the word ‘pallo’ which means wrestling or to wrestle.

Often our struggles are very much like a wrestling match. We are in the grip of an issue or problem and we are trying to pull away or overpower the ‘thing’.

I am reminded again of the story of Jacob wrestling the Angel of the Lord, mentioned in yesterday’s Daily Verse.

Jacob saw and understood our lives/world is much more complicated than we often care to consider.

We can struggle creatively as well.

Creativity is a mental and physical experience.

Even creatives who are not believers will refer to their practice as often being a spiritual process.

Recognising and making connection with the spiritual can still mean we struggle or wrestle – with doubts, with processes, with realising that physical form of the mental idea.

If we wrestle like Jacob we will become stronger in our spiritual lives and creative practices.

Daily Verse – Nothing Returns Empty.

so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:11 NIVUK

The word of the Lord never returns empty.

I’ve always thought of this verse and the return of the doves to Noah’s Ark in the same way. The doves returned with the olive branch indicating that the flood was receding and dry land was present again.

Likewise God’s words return with a sign of something better or changed.

God’s word always impacts us and others.

Isaiah speaks out loud God’s message – God’s word will not return empty – rê·qām – in vain, without cause, or void.

It will accomplish – tsalach – cause, effect, be profitable, be good – what God pleases and it will accomplish – asah – advance or become – the purpose for which He sent it.

Our words go out, but do we think about how they might return?

It is obvious from many sources that many people don’t think about what they say, or only focus on what it achieves for themselves.

We should always be careful and considered in what we say – a lesson I am often reminded I need to still learn!

Creatively, it is similar. We should consider what our creative output says to others and expect a return sign.

Words and actions.

Nothing returns empty.

Daily Verse – Receive, Find, Open.

For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

Matthew 7:8 NIVUK

The wording of this verse is interesting.

We have ‘everyone’ who asks, but then ‘the one’ who seeks, and ‘the one’ who knocks.

The Gospel writer Matthew appears to be drawing a distinction in people’s actions – lots of people ask, but only ones go through to the next levels.

It is easy to ask for things. Many of our prayers can sound suspiciously like our Christmas present list or a list of jobs for others to do.

Asking can be incredibly passive.

However, to seek and to knock requires us to act.

For everyone who asks – aiteó – a word which only occurs here and once more in Luke’s Gospel, they ask, beg, crave, desire, but they will – lambanó – receive or take.

But, the one who seeks – zéteó – desires, endeavours, seeks after in a sense of worship, finds – heuriskó – gets or obtains what they are seeking spiritually.

And, the one who knocks – krouó – literally knocks at a door, has the door – anoigó – opened for them.

The knocking and the door appears a bit of anti-climax after asking and receiving, followed by seeking and obtaining.

However, if you jump forward in Matthew’s Gospel to Chapter 25, you gain an insight into the what the door is which will be opened to you.

The parable of the ten virigins, as it is often known, uses the tradition of the bridegroom and his party arriving to escort the bride and the bridesmaids to the wedding feast as a comparison to expecting the Kingdom of God.

Due to the complexity of the various parts of the wedding traditions, the timing of the bridegroom’s arrival isn’t a set time. The role of the bridesmaids is to wait and announce his arrival to the bride.

However, in this instance some of the bridesmaids decide not to wait any longer and go inside, and are thus late to accompany the bridegroom. When they arrive at the wedding banquet, the door is already closed to them and won’t be opened.

Everyone ‘asks’ about the Kingdom of God and they are given responses, but too many of them will not wait, as some of the bridesmaids didn’t, then the ‘one’ – the few – who seek and continue to watch for the Lord enter the wedding banquet – the Kingdom – when the door is opened for them.

Asks-seeks-knocks is a three part action, which then leads to receiving, finding, and opening.

Receive the knowledge of God, seek to understand it, and then act to enter into the Kingdom.

Daily Verse – Every Thing

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

2 Peter 1:3 NIVUK

We are given everything we need . . . let’s stop right here and start on the shopping list of all our wants and desires!

Western society has embraced an attitude of ‘I want it all and I want it now’ philosophy, and you can even here this message being preached from pulpits.

The Apostle Peter thankfully qualifies this ‘everything’ for us as what we need for a godly life.

The Greek word translated as everything is pas – every and all manner. In terms of time it has an attached meaning of daily, calling immediately to mind the Lord’s Prayer where we are to pray for ‘our daily bread’- the here and now of our food needs.

Godly life – is eusebeia and zóé – godliness/holiness/piety and life in a literal and figurative sense.

Roll up your ‘desire’ list and through it into the rubbish bin.

Be assured, however, that we will be given everything we need to follow Christ and God in a manner after the Gospel message.

Everything we need comes from our knowledge of him.

The word for ‘knowledge’ – epignósis – only occurs here and in Ephesians 4:13 and is better translated as acknowledgement, or recognition.

Our acknowledgement of him – God – allows us to enjoy his divine power which provides us with everything we need to continue to learn, grow, and impact others, to the best we can.

This passage doesn’t necessarily mean we have everything in advance, but we will have what we need at just the right moment for us.

As we grow in the Lord, we are given every thing to continue in that growth.

Daily Verse – Inwardly Renewed

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

2 Corinthians 4:16 NIVUK

In this verse the Apostle Paul draws attention to the difference between our physical and spiritual presence.

Outwardly we are ‘wasting away’ – we are wearing down or out, our bodies follow the natural process of aging and weaken.

One of the key characteristics I appreciate about Paul is that he is direct and straight with his audience and us.

He doesn’t pull any punches in his assessment of us but, likewise, he then takes us to the other end of the scale, and both can be difficult to digest or come to terms with.

Inwardly – esó – that which is within, the presence of God through the Holy Spirit, is being renewed – anakainoó.

This is the only occurrence of anakainoó in the New Testament, and probably the best way to understand it is with the word ‘renovate’.

Whilst the exterior of us maybe be getting a little more aged and weather worn, inside – the spiritual connection with God – is being renovated – improved, updated, tidied up – day by day!

When times are tough, or our circumstances wear us down, remember that God is always with us and whilst we maybe focused on the outward situation, we are being renovated – adapted, changed, improved – on the inside to match the difficulty.