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.

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 – Gladness and Singing.

Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.

Psalms 100:2 NIVUK

The Hebrew word translated here as ‘worship’ – ‘iḇ·ḏū – is more correctly ‘to serve’ – to be linked together in a close bond.

We are to be bonded to serve God with gladness – bə·śim·ḥāh – with pleasure, rejoicing, joyfulness.

King David was a singer and musician, so it is natural that he wrote that we should sing – bir·nā·nāh a joyful voice – to the Lord but I think we can bring to God any of our gifts.

All of our creativity can be offered in joy and service.

When you paint, when you write, when you dance or, like David, when you sing and create music, think of it all as praise and service to God.

Whatever we bring to the Lord let us do it with gladness.

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!

Discard.

Having expectations and an overall aim are widely believed to be useful for success.

Some suggest that to be truly successful you have to break everything down into stages and specific blocks of thought and action.

Many people do achieve what they set out to using this style of methodology.

Sometimes, however, we are not clear or honest enough in our criteria.

I want to paint a cathedral is perhaps only part of our thinking, and maybe it should read I want to paint a cathedral just like Monet did.

When the image doesn’t look like we wanted it to, then we feel a sense of disappointment and doubt our abilities as a creative.

This type of thinking can affect every creative no matter what the medium.

So what can we do?

Discard.

Search through those drawers and cupboards of expectations, find them out hidden at the very back, and recycle them, or if they are plain broken then take a trip to the skip.

Discard what is not useful or helpful, no matter how long we have held onto it.

When we approach any creative endeavour we need to know the direction of our journey, but let go of the way markers we think we must count before arriving at the destination.

Like a pilgrimage, the Way should alter us.

The experience, spiritual and physical, of the journey will effect and influence us, and this will be seen in our creativity.

Monet was changed by the light. He realised that it couldn’t be captured in one painting, so he chased it. across a number of canvases, switching from one to another as the light moved.

Monet started out painting a cathedral. He finished painting light, which happened to have a cathedral in it.

Imagine if the French painter had only produced one canvas of the building in the way he thought it should look originally?

Discard your assumptions and expectations, and learn from the process, tools, and the materials you are using, how the image should finally look.

Like home and business experts advise us, take time each month to declutter and discard (or recycle) our things and our environment.

As a creative person, a major part of this should be our expectations in the realising of our final pieces.

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.