Originality Doesn’t Matter | January Series no. 6

I don’t know if there is a single word in the artist community more misunderstood than: originality. Often, artists (or budding-artists) have great ideas, but they toss them away because they tell themselves: “Oh no, there’s no way I can create that. It’s already been done before.

To which I would say: so freaking what?

 

Debunking the Idea that Your Work Must be Original
– because the simple truth is: your work can’t be original

Let’s just clear something up: nothing is original. Everything has already been done before. Every question has been asked. Humans are still making the same mistakes they made in 1857 (if you think that date isn’t intentional, think again). We’re still repeating history because we can’t seem to get our freaking act together and learn.

So if you are searching for the ONE GREAT IDEA that has never been made in the history of the universe: stop wasting your time. That one, great, original idea? – it doesn’t exist.

But. If by some luck, you did find that ONE GREAT IDEA, you’d still be wasting your time. Because no one is going to care about your idea. Here’s why:

Nobody cares if your work is original, they only care if it speaks. People don’t care if things been done before because they want what’s relatable, human, and known. They want to feel less alone, so they go to art expecting it to pat them on the shoulder and whisper in their ear, “Me too. Me too. Me too.

When people look at a sunset painting, they do not think about how many other sunset paintings there are. What they care about is how they feel when they look at it: does the painting speak?

 

A Case Study in Un-originality
– Dear Evan Hansen


I remember when everyone was talking about it. They made references to it on twitter, and I saw the sheet music on Instagram. They said it was great. They said it touched their hearts. For whatever reason (and I still don’t know the reason), I never listened to it. That is: until March this year. Now. . .I understand what all the hype was about.

As of writing this post, Waving Through A Window has received 34,528,797 plays on Spotify.

Out of all the thousands of people that were touched by this musical, they weren’t touched because Dear Evan Hansen explored some obscure emotion no one had never heard about. No, people related to it because it was right in their face with every doubt they had ever felt, every question they convinced themselves was too stupid to say out loud. It gave them hope in a way that wasn’t far off. It was right there in front of them. It’s going to be okay and here’s why: you are not alone.

Show me someone* who went to the show and said something like: yeah it was good, but do you know how many other songs have been written about suicide and loss and loneliness? You know, I couldn’t help but think of every person who’s ever told me that my life matters. Blah. I really wish song writers would write something original, for once. Meh. This same, old refrain gets a little repetitive, to be honest.

*i mean, critics
might have, but
they’re not paid
to enjoy art, are they?

 

I’m not saying that everyone adored Dear Evan Hansen. I have actually come across several people who said it was too depressing. That’s fine. But. This musical touched enough people that, it shows me you don’t have to produce some BIG GREAT story line in order to make a difference. Sometimes it’s the little things that speak. Sometimes they speak louder than big things.

 

In Conclusion
– I’ll let W.H. Auden say it for me:

“Some writers [or artists] confuse authenticity,
which they ought to always aim at,
with originality, which they should never bother about.”

 

 

so go
make authentic art.
cheers.
k.

 

 

|| Let’s Have a Conversation ||

What do you think about originality? Have you ever worried that your art wasn’t original enough? Is there something you’ve seen or read that was the complete opposite of “originality” but it still touched you beyond words? Tell me about it.
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Dear Artist, it’s okay to have a regular job | January Series no. 5

It’s become a habit for me to start these with an example, hasn’t it? Let’s do it one more time.

Artist’s friend asks what Artist does for a living.
Well, says Artist, I make art.
Well, says Friend, Isn’t that kind of, you know, expensive?
You can’t really make money doing that, can you?

The thing is: plenty of people do make money from their art. But plenty of us think that in order to be a legitimate, successful artist, one must make money from their art.

I’m here to say: that’s a lie. I do not believe that in order to call yourself an artist, you have to make money doing it. You do not have to make some big, crazy jump into the unknown. And you certainly do not have to devote every single waking moment to art.

 

“. . .for most of history people just made things,
and they didn’t make such big freaking deal out of it.”

*Liz Gilbert’s words,
not mine.

 

There’s this idea of work-separation in our culture. That there’s creative work, and there’s regular work. People who work at a desks or drive trains are not “creative people,” they are “regular people.” But people who compose music and paint murals – they are “creative people.” This is why a lot of artists believe that they can’t live + work in the real work, and still make art.

But that’s a lie because…
If you are alive, you are a creative person.

The idea that you’re merely a hobbyist, or an amateur if you aren’t making money from your art is crazy. It suggests that true legitimacy comes only if people think your work is great enough to buy it. And like we talked about last week, you are the only person who can decide your own legitimacy. You are also free to make art without the obligation to share it with anyone. Would I still make art even if no one paid me to do it?

I’m not saying that creating art will never be your real job. I’m saying that you should never feel embarrassed or shy about having a real job for as long as you need to. If/when the time comes that your art can support you, GO FOR IT. But until then, you absolutely don’t need to worry that your art has to pay the rent money too.

One of my favorite books on creative living, puts it this way:

“Money helps, to be sure. But if money were the only thing people needed in order to live creative lives, then the mega-rich would be the most imaginative, generative, and original thinkers among us, and they simply are not. The essential ingredient for creativity remain exactly the same for everybody: courage, enchantment, permission, persistence, trust – and those elements are universally accessible. Which does not mean that creative living is always easy, it merely means that creative living is always possible.”
|| Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic

I read a novel recently, called Little Fires Everywhere. In this novel, Mother and daughter are living together in an apartment they rented from a wealthy family. Mother is an artist, a film photographer. She spends all her extra time with photography. Sometimes her photographs sell to art galleries and collectors, and she gets a little extra money to buy shoes for her daughter. But this Mother doesn’t just make money from her art, she holds down a half dozen other odd jobs that she pools together to pay the rent. She works as a waitress two nights a week, she cleans houses on the weekend. She buys her daughter thrift store clothes, and she finds art supplies at garage sales and flea markets. She arranges her art around her life. And in this novel, is a line that makes my point exactly:

“. . .her mother’s real work was her art,
and whatever paid the bills existed only to make art possible.”

 

 

The Illusion of Time
– why we think we need uninterrupted time to create, when really, we don’t

People feel that if they get a regular job, they won’t have time for art. And I get that. It’s probably true (depending, of course, on what kind of job you have, and its expectations of you). But if your job doesn’t give you enough time for art, you should probably find a job that does (just as if one pair of jeans doesn’t fit, you buy a pair that does. You don’t stop wearing jeans altogether).

Here’s what I think:
too much time can be just as dangerous as too little time.
– we use not enough time as an excuse, because we doubt ourselves.

We all dream of uninterrupted time, don’t we? Writers, especially, dream of the kind of hermit-life that doesn’t allow them to be bothered or spoken to. Sitting for hours and hours, writing alone in a cabin with open windows and the smell of coffee. Burrowing underground, surrounded by nothing but nature and time. The idea of uninterrupted time sounds wonderfully romantic, but unless you have someone willing to fund your existence so you can live in a hobbit hole, dreaming is all you can do.

I would argue that having less time can actually push you to create better: For example: you’re a writer and say, you work full time in the electronics section of BestBuy. You write every morning before you head off to work, and you write after you get home (if you’re lucky, you write at your lunch hour too). But because you only have two or three opportunities to write a day, your brain is pushed to anticipate those moments. When you finally sit down to write, you almost can’t wait the length of time your laptop takes to turn on.

I’ve had this happen to me dozens of times. I put my creativity on hold, and then my brain started to anticipate the fun I’ll have once I sit down to create. I work creativity into little moments – in-between laundry loads, in the car, after dinner. Creativity is important to me; I make time for it.

So whatever style of person you are: whether you love uninterrupted time, or you love to create in a rush, please don’t feel like you have to carve out enormous chunks of time. Don’t feel like you have to put aside your art to work in the real world, no more than you can put aside your smile or your laughter. You can bring your art right alongside your real life, because art is real life. Creativity can be folded into everyday moments.

“Most individuals have never had enough time, and they’ve never had enough resources, and they’ve never had enough support, patronage or reward. . .and yet still they persist in creating. They persist because they care. They persist because they are called to be makers, by any means necessary.”
|| Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic

 

 

Your Job Can Fund Your Creative Life
– in more ways than one

One of the biggest issues I have with the “hermit-artist-type” is that it ignores the fact that the world around us is our greatest inspiration. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in public spaces and seen or heard something that I immediately wrote down because it related to my story. Usually it was something small, but it was special all the same.

And the thing is: what I saw and wrote down weren’t things I could have picked up in the wilderness or in whatever place people go to escape the world. I wasn’t going to learn all the things I know about how the world works if I hid myself away from it. That’s why I believe: the best ideas aren’t found in solitude, they are found in everyday life.

*of course there’s
something to be said for solitude.
It’s permanent solitude
that isn’t healthy.

 

Let’s use again, the example of our writer who works at BestBuy. I guarantee you, she will learn what she needs to know about people from conversations at the lunchroom table; the disappointed stare of an unsatisfied customer; and the moment when her boss gives her a kind word at the end of a very long day. She’ll learn about the world from experience – and there’s a lot of inspiration in that.

The world is a wonderful place for artists. It offers everything we need for inspiration. And I think artists want to shun that in the high-and-mighty name of solitude. The idea that we can create better by ignoring the world and branding ourselves as a “special kind of people that dislike the company of other people.”

I’m not saying that people who don’t have day jobs are seeking solitude. I follow some pretty amazing creatives who have vibrant social lives and are doing just fine. But I don’t want anyone to think they have to quit their life, or become a hermit in order to be an artist.

So…I want you to remember:
It’s totally fine if you don’t fit into the typical hermit-artist mold.
I don’t. And I still call myself a creative person.
You’re fine. Just keep creating.

cheers.
k.
postscript #1 – if you ever want inspiration
for creative living, I highly
recommend Liz Gilbert’s
Magic Lessons podcast.
postscript #2 – also, Abigail Lennah and I
are doing a super cool collaboration
and we’d love you to be apart of it.
More details here.

 

|| Let’s Have a Conversation ||

What do you think about day jobs for artists?For, against, or indifferent? • Do you have a day job? If so, how do you still make time for your art?

Dear Artist, it’s okay to be proud of your work | January Series no. 4

Let me open with a process you are probably all too familiar with:

Artist gets an idea. Artist is so so happy about said idea. Artist takes that idea and tries to make it into something. Artist spends a lot of time with that idea, and…sometime during the process, Artist decides his work is stupid and why did he even try it in the first place. Then, Artist gets on social media and types out a tweet about how his project isn’t working.
This Artist labels it with something like #RelatableArtistStruggles, or #LookingforInspirationButCantFindIt.
Artist, then, spends a lot of time wondering if he’s really, truly an artist

If you’ve stuck with me this long, you know social media has been a big, big part of this series. And I’m probably going to keep talking about it, because it infiltrates nearly every corner of our lives. There’s a lot of artists hating on themselves and their creativity – and they use the online world to do it.

One of the reasons why I think we do this is because it makes us feel better when other people respond with, oh my gosh, I relate so hard. There’s a kind of connection and fame that comes with writing about how horrible and hard creativity is. You don’t often see artists writing about how they find joy in their work, because really, who relates to that?

In short: #WriterProblems is far more likely to get re-tweeted, than #WriterVictories.

When I was just starting photography, I didn’t really understand how valuable it is to love your own work. I didn’t think my photography was any good because I didn’t have fancy equipment (that’s a whole other discussion right there). I had to learn the hard way. So instead of going out and taking photos, I would spend hours researching great photographers and camera models. I bookmarked photographer blogs. I envied photographers who bought their first DSLRs at thirteen, traveled with their model friends, and got 15.5k likes on Instagram.

Yeah, I’m really glad I don’t do that anymore.

I remember stumbling across one photographer on Instagram. At the top of her feed were great photos. But as I scrolled down, I realized that she hadn’t always taken great photographs. Her earlier ones were nothing to be recognized. The editing wasn’t natural, the composition didn’t catch my eye. They were clearly beginner’s work. This shouldn’t have surprised me, and it didn’t, really.

Instead, I was surprised that she, seeing where she is now, would still leave those “beginner photos” on her profile. I was shocked that she didn’t just delete them, because they represented that time when she was learning and figuring things out, and didn’t know what she was doing.

how can she live with the fact that these photos are still online? I thought, why doesn’t she delete them?

But I had been looking at her photography the wrong way. I compared her work then, to what it is now, and failed to realize that she had once loved those “beginner photos”. She loved them enough to share them on Instagram, and that’s exactly what she did. Those photos, back then, were the best she had to offer. They were not as good as the photographs she takes now, because she has learned. She learned to take better ones.

I’m really not proud of this story, but I share it because it illustrates the exact kind of thinking I had to overcome. I should have realized that it’s okay and well and healthy to be proud of your work, now, right at the level that it is. That doesn’t mean you will always be proud of it. You might create something better down the road, (and you will, I promise), but now…

It’s important to love your work, now.
Because hating it isn’t going to make you a better artist.

I remember when I used to hate the photos I took. They frustrated me because they didn’t look like they got pulled off tumblr or pinterest. I would post photos on Instagram, and then go back a week later and delete them because I had doubts about how they “looked”. My photography didn’t look like – this, or this, or this, so to me it was like: what’s the point anyway?

That was my world for a long, long time.

But you know what it taught me? to stop treating my work/art as if it isn’t the best I have to offer right now. right now, it’s beautiful. right now, all I need to do is: keep creating, just keep creating.

I think one of the reasons we hate our work so much is because we believe that, in the end, our work will always be horrible, we won’t get better, and we’ll never be able to finish that draft or that painting or that project.

Our greatest fear is: I will never make anything that matters.*

*that’s a lie
so please, please
don’t ever think that.

But when you throw that beautiful gift of creativity skyward because…

a). it doesn’t look like someone else’s work.
b). it’s too hard
c). it sucks
d). you’re not good at it. (yet)
e). it doesn’t matter to anyone

you do a disservice to yourself. Creativity might be scary. Creativity might be hard, yes, but it’s even more damaging when you hate it. And besides, you really have to ask yourself this question: why am I doing it, if I hate it so much?*

*Aimee gets credit
for this one

 

Goodness, if you hate your work that much, find something else to do. Life is too short.

 

 

Comparing Your Art to Your Art
– instead of someone else’s

 

While I was looking for another personal story to share with you guys, I found this photo I had taken in 2015. And I thought I would show you how I used to edit photos vs. how I edit photos now ( because it might help you see that even though you think you aren’t moving forward, you actually are).

2015

In 2015 I really didn’t know what I was doing. My dad had gifted me Photoshop the year before, but I had found it completely overwhelming. I actually didn’t use it until I got my first camera, and even then, I spent more time editing with other people’s actions than I did learning how to make my own. I figured that if I used actions made by professionals, my photos would turn out just like theirs.

*to clarify, “actions”
are a Photoshop term
in Lightroom they are
called “presets.”

 

 2016

By 2016, I was way more comfortable with Photoshop. I still used a couple of presets that did simple things like warm, cool, or lighten a photo (but those were used only to save time). I did a lot of “clean editing” in 2016. Simple, light, minimal contrast. I actually still love the way this edit turned out.

 

2018

I have been using selective color since 2017, and it’s easily my favorite editing tool. I created three different sc layers on this one, grabbing from presets I created last year, and then tweaking them a little. The only preset I used was a “warm” one that I use all the time. All it does it warm the photo, nothing else. It’s a bit moody, and saturated (which along with clean editing, is what I love).

^^^^ When I look at these photos side by side, I feel progress and growth. Even if I doesn’t feel like I’m learning anything, the work shows that I am learning. I am making progress, and getting better.

I think instead of comparing our art to other people’s art, we should compare our art to our art. <<< that’s where you’ll see how far you’ve come, and it won’t be as easy to get discouraged with the art you are making now.

When I look at how I edited photos in 2015, I’m not proud of it at all. But because I no longer feel proud of the way I edited that photo, that doesn’t mean I can’t learn from it.

I know the day will come when I look back on my 2017 and 2018 photos the same way. They’ll remind me of the days when Windows XP was the latest operating system for home computers. But until then, I’m proud of those edits, now.

 

Let’s Get Really Practical
– how to be proud of your art.

– create a lot of stuff. create stuff that fails. take lots of notes. document why it failed. remember: you don’t have to share every piece of art you create with the world.

– share those things that give you a kick inside. share that drawing that makes you happy when you look at it. ignore that doubting voice.

– don’t compare your art to someone else’s unless you can learn from their art. compare your art to your own art, and let it give you inspiration to keep going.

– accept compliments. face it: people are going to think that your art is great even if you don’t. stop telling yourself that those people are lying to you.

– let your art be good, even if it isn’t flawless.

read Julia Cameron. she will make you love your art for what it is.

read Twyla Tharp. she will give you practical exercises to develop your art.

– don’t expect it to come overnight. it takes time. lots of time.

 

I’ve been doing photography for three years, but it’s only been nine months or so since I’ve really started to be okay with where I’m at. Which means that I have learned to leave my work as I’ve shared it. That means I can’t delete old work on Instagram because I get doubts about it later. I have to accept what people say about my photography, even if sometimes I don’t believe it myself.

I’ll tell you, it feels really good to plug my camera into the computer and not be filled with the urge to throw out every single photo. It help my creativity, a lot. So I keep some photos, I keep a lot of them. I share a lot of them too.

Because I’ve learned…
Hating your work is not going to make it better.
Comparing your work is not going to make it better.
Doing more work – that’s what makes it better.

Let’s stop thinking about art and creativity as if all that matters is: flawless, flawless art. Let’s just focus on growth. Let’s allow our art to be what it is without tearing it down because someone else did it better.

 

cheers.
k.
postscript #1 this video
and this post . enjoy.
postscript #2 – if you want to listen to
a really inspiring talk about
creative living, listen to this.

 

|| Let’s Have a Conversation ||

What is your favorite part about being an artist? • Have you ever hated your own art? What do you do to silence those doubts?Have you ever gone back and looked at your old art and compared it to what you create now? • What was that experience like? I’d love to hear about it.

Rest is Not Legalism | January Series no. 3

I’m writing this at my kitchen table. I have a cup of steaming coffee besides me, my bible is open for reference on the side. It’s Sunday (a week or so before you read this). It’s still dark outside because the sun isn’t rising until at least 06:44 these days.

I want to talk to you about rest. Specifically, a day of rest, and why it’s important. I am going to use the word “rest,” as much as I can, because you probably already know another word people use for “day of rest”: Sabbath (or Shabbat, which is waaayyy more fun to say). The reason I will use rest, is because I don’t want you to conclude that I’m Jewish or 7th Day Adventist, or anything. I’m not. I’m just a regular person who doesn’t like labels.

I bet I can guess what you’re thinking already. The moment I mention Sabbath, you are going to ask me one of two questions

a). “Well, aren’t you, like, living in legalism?”

b). “Well, didn’t God do away with Sabbaths/resting and all that?”

I get those questions a lot. And I do have answers, but the answers are complex and would take a while (certainly longer than this blog post). My point here is not to debate or prove that Christians should keep Sabbath. I don’t think Sabbath can be proven intellectually – at least, not entirely. Instead I’m going to talk about heart, because I believe that’s where it’s at. I do love the intellectual side of things, but I don’t quite have space to explain it all to you and still feel like I did the topic justice. So we’ll leave intellectual arguments aside for a moment, and instead talk about purpose and intent.

But back to me, sitting at the kitchen table, writing this with a cup of coffee…

 

An Introduction to Rest, as Rhythm

How many of you have a morning routine? That series of things that you do every morning before you head out the door to work, or school?

You know the importance of routine because it does wonderful things for you. It gives you consistency, and predictability, a general rhythm to things. Even if you’re the kind of person who hates routines and checklists, I guarantee there are a few things in you life that you do on a daily basis.

You know there is a time for everything. Mornings are for getting ready, evenings are for getting ready for morning again. Weekdays are for working, and weekends are for resting. The world would be a crazy place if we didn’t have a process for how we do things, even certain times to do them.

I’m reminded of a verse that says, “To everything – a season, and a time to every delight under the heavens.

Ecclesiastes 3:1

There is rhythm built into creation.

In this culture of fast-paced, 24 / 7 accessibility, we have forgotten rhythm. We’ve forgotten the ebb and flow of time, as if we think the ocean could survive without the moon. We tend to view rest as a side-note, something we can skip because we don’t have time, or because it’s for lazy people. Humans are chronically aware of the ticking clock, and we smother that awareness with work. With work, we can forget our troubles, and since we hate being reminded of our troubles, the solution is…say it with me: more work.

Americans specifically, are addicted to the hustle. Even if we understand that rest is important, we get caught up in the lie that says, your worth is in what your get done, and if you are not getting things done all the time, you are lazy and wasting your life.

Rest is a rebellion against the work-cycle because it reminds you that your worth is not in your work. You are more than the bricks and buildings you make. Human being, not human doing, right? Rest is a tangible sign that you recognize your work doesn’t define you.

God wired humans for productivity, sure. But if all God cared about was our productivity, He would have made us into super humans that didn’t need sunlight or food or sitting down on the couch because our legs are tired. He would have made us with the ability to function without sleep (wouldn’t that be nice?).

No. Instead He gives us a gift. Something built into the fabric of creation, our bodies, everything. A gift out of kindness and benevolence. Because He loves us. He knows that given the chance, we will work ourselves to death in the name of productivity. But He loves us too much to let us break ourselves down on the hamster-wheel trap of work. He reaches down and tells us: I want you to take one day out of that crazy week of yours. Just one day to be with Me, and rest. You are more than what you do. I made you to be…

Rest forces you to pay attention to your life. It’s a weekly check in, how are you doing, and how can you do better? For crying out loud. REST IS BEAUTIFUL.

 

Rest is Not Legalism
– but it could be, depending on your perspective

I am going to address this concept of legalism, because it’s one of the first things I hear when I tell people I keep Sabbath. People get really worried about me, as if I’m committing an unknowable crime, or putting myself under bondage (it makes me laugh to think that rest – not work – is bondage, but whatever).

Our first thought about anything related to the Old Testament seems to be: none of those laws are relevant because we are saved by grace. And so, by extension, keeping Sabbath can’t be done because it’s part of the OT and we are now saved by grace and grace alone.

The reason why we tend to associate rest with legalism, I think, stems from the parts in the NT where Jesus is confronting the religious leaders about the law of Moses. It can appear that Jesus taught legalism and “‘the Law” as brothers. We see this most clearly in Scriptures where the Pharisees accuse Him of breaking the Sabbath. But first, some context…

In the first century, keeping the Sabbath was taken very seriously. Religious leaders debated long about exactly which was the “right way” to keep it, even going to far as to “define what counts as work, and what doesn’t.” We know about a some of these boundaries from the text. They had what was called “a sabbath day’s journey” – or, the maximum distance anyone was allowed to walk on the Sabbath. A sabbath day’s journey was 2000 cubits or.57 miles. They also believed that carrying your bed, or threshing grain with your hands was work if it was done on the Sabbath. And because Jesus was caught breaking all of these “laws”, it’s easy to think that He was actually against the Sabbath.

But it’s important to remember that nowhere in the OT does God command that you can’t walk more than .57 miles, or that you can’t make your bed. He doesn’t say that picking a few heads of grain is work (although threshing with a plow certainly is). The commands for Sabbath are really straight forward – don’t work and don’t make anyone else work.

As with most of His teachings, Jesus wasn’t addressing outward keeping of the law as much as He was addressing the heart. The heart was really the deeper problem, and correcting the heart would lead to a proper understanding of the external things. It didn’t matter how many commandments you kept, if your heart was far from God. If you forsook justice and mercy, but you tithed a tenth of all your spices – what worth is that?

Jesus was correcting a misapplication of Scripture – the idea that you can use God’s Law as a checklist to gain righteousness.

I hate when people use legalism to describe anything that God does, because legalism feels like scarcity, and scarcity is never God. Legalism is slavery: you work and work, hoping to earn something – like salvation – in exchange for your “goodness” as a person. You do this, God does that. And if you fail, you lose because your righteousness is bound up in perfection. It’s a constant cycle of never doing enough, never being enough. Think of the Hebrews in Egypt. They made bricks. If they didn’t make enough bricks, they were punished.

The only way that rest can be legalism is if you misdefine it as such. That’s what the Pharisees did, that’s what people do today. We get caught up in outward things, instead of looking at the heart.

You absolutely can attach legalism to anything God says. You can live as though everything God says comes with the condition, obey Me or else. But that isn’t the way God intended you to live.

There’s this verse in Jeremiah which says that God, in the new covenant, will write His law on His people’s hearts. His law will be in your heart. Do you know what that means?

It means that His law will no longer be something you read on paper or stone, and think, okay I better do this because God said so. No. It will flow naturally from you like a running stream. You’ll be walking side by side with Him without even trying to. You’ll want to do everything that He wants because your heart is intertwined with His.

We need to make a distinction between God’s Law as a gift, and His Law as a command. Sabbath is both, but Sabbath- at its highest point, is a gift. An invitation to leave material things behind.

 

Rest as a Joy, and not a Burden


I’m still at the kitchen table. My coffee cup is dry because I have taken so many breaks to sip from it and decide what I’m going to write next….

I have been doing Sabbath for close to four years now. And I would never go back to anything else.

Sabbath is hard to explain because it’s like trying to prove that God exists. I don’t have anything to compare it to because it’s not an intellectual thing. There is no physical blessing I can pinpoint and say: this happened, and God blessed me here, or here. If you asked me, I’d say that I feel more complete and my life is better in ways that words can’t explain. I feel so incredibly blessed by it, that I want to laugh when people tell me otherwise.

Sabbath becomes a totally wholesome addiction. I don’t feel bound to keep up with the world, because I’ve found freedom apart from it. I took myself out of the rat-race everyone else is running. But it wasn’t until I stepped out that I realized how much I depended on it. It’s like when I take a day off social media, I realize how many times I instinctively reach for my phone.

On Sabbath…

The dishes pile up.
The laundry sits.
The emails go unanswered.
The phone gets turned off.*

 

*still working
on that, actually.

 

“Sabbath is a day when you act like the work is done, even if it isn’t.”

 

*credited to
the amazing Rob Bell
who understands rest
like no one else does

 

I have never regretted the decision to take a rest day. Sure, I miss out on things. And sometimes I am tempted to compromise (there’s this thing happening somewhere, and I can’t go). A lot of concerts and creative things (especially for photographers) are on Sabbath, but at some point I have to stop using what I’m going to miss out on as an excuse.

And I get it, rest can be hard. It feels like laziness to say, “No. I won’t go there or do that, or spend that.” And even crazier to think of an entire day of doing nothing. Don’t you see my to-do list? God, really? You can’t be serious.

But I promise you, there’s freedom in rest that can’t be found anywhere else. If you’re thinking, “Oh, rest is too scary for me,” remember: it all starts with realizing that it’s okay to let the world go on without you. You won’t miss out on anything you can’t live without. Instead you’ll be living a freer, more complete life.

 

 

cheers.
k.

 

postscript #1. Rob Bell is my favorite
resource for Sabbath because
he understands it so well.
I highly recommend his podcasts,
The Cellular Exodus“, and
Letting the Land Lie Fallow“.
His book, How to Be Here,
has a great chapter on rest.
But the same ideas can be
found in these podcasts (for free!).

 

postscript #2 I hear Heschel has
an incredible book on the subject –
Sabbath and it’s Meaning for Modern Man.
I have yet to read it,
but I’d still recommend it
because Heschel has great work.

 

postscript #3 For a theological-ish
approach to Sabbath, check
out this article.

 


 

|| Let’s Have a Conversation ||

Was this post too terribly long? • I thought about splitting it into two parts, but I couldn’t figure out a way to divide it cleanly. •Also, how did I do distinguishing rest from legalism?What are your thoughts on rest and Sabbath? • Is resting hard for you, or easy?

Social Media is Whatever YOU Say it is | January Series no. 2

I have been thinking a lot about social media lately. You can probably guess that from my post last week. I have been thinking about this since early November, after I read a couple of posts about how other bloggers struggle with social media, and I thought, yes that’s me too. But today I want to write in clearer, more “practical” terms about what social media actually is.

It’s the new year, besides. I could use the reflection.

I think we have this idea that social media is an entity in itself. That it acts on its own, and does whatever it wants. That’s a nice thought, (and certainly less complicated), because if you ever wanted to change social media all you’d have to do is go back to the source and change it. One click and you’re done: social media is restored.

But social media doesn’t have that kind of power. It only represents the ideas and perspectives of the people who use it. And as of 2017, roughly 81% of Americans use social media. (that’s a lot of sources).

It’s like this:

If *50% of the population believes that murder is okay, you’re going to see their ideas represented on social media (you’re also going to see a lot of people fighting back and saying that murder is wrong and those people are nut-cases and should be prosecuted).


*obviously, this is totally made up
but it illustrates my point nicely.

 

This explains why I feel so torn about social media: that it’s the greatest and the worst thing. Because social media is only as powerful as the people who use it. If people use it for evil, that’s what it’ll become. And if people use it for good, that’s what it’ll become.

Sometimes I see a thread like this, in my feed. And I feel inspired that the world is really not as hopeless as I think it is.

And sometimes I’ll read something like this*, and think, wow I really hope I read that wrong.

You know what I’m talking about.

*seriously, the only
political reference I’ll make
in this post, I promise.

 

This is why social media is a weird paradox of good and evil and indifference. Because it’s showing me all the perspectives, opinions, and shades of grey that exist in the worldat one time. And that’s depressing, because while I feel like racism doesn’t exist because I’ve never seen it, someone, somewhere is going to tell me that I’m ignorant because I don’t live in their town where kids are afraid to walk to school because of their skin color.

One of the things I see on social media is when people speak about their experiences, it doesn’t matter how they word it. Someone, somewhere is going to say, hey! you’re stupid and you have no idea what you’re talking about.

Not everyone is going to say, hey it’s fine you don’t get what I’m saying. I can’t expect you to. You’re not me. Social media is a roller-coaster because it represents people. It can be frustrating because you’re exposed, at once, to every single perspective on the face of the earth. You have a greater, larger audience than if you just got up on a box in front of a crowd. In the crowd you might have two dozen people disagree with you. On social media, it might be two million. It can feel like you’re a squigget* in a very large ocean.

*not even sure that’s
a real word, but whatever

 

You are. You’re in the midst of an ocean in which everyone feels like they have something to say.

But here’s the thing: We can’t eliminate free choice, just because people make wrong choices. The answer is not to cut off social media to certain people. That would mean someone has to be put in charge of deciding who those people are, and that’s a road that only leads to tyranny.

What can you do, anyway?

You can only be responsible for you. You are the only one who can make your social media different, better. You are one in 7.6 billion. You cannot change the whole world, but you have a circle of people you inspire and impact every single day.

Use that influence wisely. It’s important.

Realizing that social media is a representation of different people in different places, with difference experiences, really goes a long way in helping me understand what I scroll past everyday. It helps me realize that when I post something, not everyone is going to love me.

I still might get overwhelmed with social media, at times. And that’s when I know I need a break. I don’t have to be present on social media 24/7 in order to use it for good. Neither am I willing to throw it out completely, because…social media is still is the greatest tool for worldwide connection that exists.

 

So what are you waiting for?
Go make social media a better place.
k.

 

|| Let’s Have a Conversation ||

Sometimes you just need a break from it all, ya know? • So when do you know that you need a break from social media?What is your favorite and least favorite part of social media? • And finally, what can you do to make social media a better place?

I don’t have time to keep up with your internet life | January Series no. 1

How can I start this without telling you something you already know? I could give you statistics. I could say that the average person spends 2 hours and 15 minutes on social media per day. I could tell you about the benefits of social media, but you know them already.

– connection
– conversations
– information
– internet friends*

*the best part, seriously.

 

The internet is lovely, but the temptation to let it suck your life dry is strong. It’s a breeding ground for narcissism, a rat-race to keep up with everything happening in all corners of the globe. Social media makes us feel like the world is the best place, and also the worst place. It facilities both the greatest good and the worst evil.

And that’s a hard environment to put yourself through everyday.

I know I’m not the only person who fills the tiny gaps of her life with social media. You scroll though Twitter while you’re waiting for your coffee to heat up, don’t you? Your novel board on Pinterest can always use new pins, even if they don’t actually help you write your book, can’t it? Baking is only special if you take a video, isn’t it? You let yourself get down after no one comments on that very personal blog post you just wrote, don’t you?

Your identity is tied to the person you are online, isn’t it?

I thought so.

I don’t know what the thing is about social media that makes it almost impossible to escape. Maybe it appeals to our hopelessness about the world, there’s no way I can make the world better, so why try? Maybe it appeals to the part of us that wants to be passive, wasting time when we know we have better things to do.

It’s something almost like slavery, and we can’t figure out how to shake it.

Social media tells us that in order to play the game, you must: keep up with everyone else’s life + update them on your life + live your life in the real world.

And…don’t stress out while doing it.

Coming to terms with the kind of drain social media has on life, has been the hardest lesson for me to learn. And please, don’t you dare think I have it together. I don’t. At all.

Social media makes you feel productive when all you’re doing is absorbing parts of everyone else’s life, and wasting time that is better spent elsewhere. Let me give an example: I follow roughly 500 people on Instagram. Let’s pretend that only 75% of them post stories everyday. That’s 375 stories. Now if each of those stories are approximately 2 minutes each* (375 x 2 / 60 = 12.5 hours). That’s over 12 hours of stories, guys.

(*wildly exaggerated, I know, but you get my point)

 

What about blogging? Blogging isn’t like Twitter. You can’t skim posts and tap the “like” button – mission complete. Blog posts take time – to read and to write comments. I follow 319 blogs, but I end up commenting on maybe…five or six? And that’s not because I don’t want to comment on the others, and not because I don’t feel like I’m missing out on things.

It’s because I’ve learned that there isn’t enough time to read all the blogs, watch all the Instagram stories, and like all the tweets. I could try, if I wanted, but then I’d have to make keeping up with the world my full-time job. And I won’t do that. It doesn’t make me money, and most of the time it doesn’t enrich my life. No, it drags me down into a pit that says, everyone else is accomplishing more than you. and they still have time to update their followers about all of it. are they stressed? nope, doesn’t look like it.

This year, I’m going to start asking myself the question: in what ways can I limit myself in the name of greater fruitfulness? In social media. In all of life, really.

Like this:
you’re at a party with friends. the hosts are wealthy. their house is gorgeous and spotless. the wine is imported from Italy, and probably cost more than your father’s car. there is an enormous spread of pastries, cakes, and treats in the dinning room, glistening under light from the chandelier. there is more food on that table than you could ever hope to eat.

The question you ask yourself is: will I gorge myself until I can’t hold anymore, or will I only take a few things to enjoy and leave the rest?

The question is not, what about all the deserts I’ll miss out on? but, which decision makes my life better in the moment?

It’s limiting yourself: I don’t have to eat a bit of everything in order to have a good time at this party. just a taste will do. besides, there are many more things to enjoy here besides desert.

You’re not doing it because you have to, or because someone told you to. It’s you, setting boundaries because you know it’s good for you. It’s a form of self-control that carries tremendous power and freedom – you’re not a slave anymore.


At the end of life, or the internet, whatever, my greatest accomplishments won’t be how many Instagram stories I watched, how much I knew about X celebrities’s beauty drawer. It’ll be the conversations I had with others (and that includes online conversations as well), the things I learned, reading history, writing in my journal, watching sunsets and counting stars, pushing my sister on the swing, speaking truth and hope wherever I go.

 

So.
I don’t have time to keep up
with your internet life.
I’m too busy living mine.
k.

|| Let’s Have a Conversation ||

Do you have a love/hate relationship with social media?Do you feel like you’re just absorbing parts of everyone else’s life instead of living your own life, or is it just me? • Do you have an personal guidelines so that you don’t get sucked into the craziness?
I realize this isn’t exactly the clearest picture of what I’m trying to say, but it’s where my mind went…I’d love to hear your thoughts in social media. If you hate it. If you think it’s awesome. Or both.

 

Introducing | January Series

There’s a lot going on in my head at the moment. Mostly it’s a collection of ideas that jumped out at me last year. Ideas that pulled at my shirt and appeared at midnight when I didn’t ask them to.

Maybe you can understand that. It’s hard to ignore something that wants to be written.

But I didn’t have the time to write out these ideas last year. I took November off for NaNoWriMo, and then I managed to find other things to post about in December. So when I was putting together a list of things I wanted to blog about this year, I wrote these ideas down. Eventually, I decided to group them into series, because each idea had a common thread – how to live better in the world.

Next week will be the start of my first blog series – the January Series. It’ll be about things I think are important and necessary + maybe a few things about how to be a better human (something I think a lot about).

I have a feeling that 2018, is going to be a year when I really start to cut out things that weigh me down and clutter up my life. It’ll be fun, right?

The series will appear on Sunday nights (18:58 to be exact), all through the rest of this month, and into next. I’m still calling it January Series, even though it will likely extend past January. I just have more than three weeks worth of ideas. Besides, January is the time of year when people set goals to stay sane in a world that keeps getting crazier and crazier. *shrugs*

What I can’t promise for this series is consistency. I am shooting for once per week, but it all depends on how fast I can draft these ideas into sensible, coherent blog posts. But I am excited to write about these ideas and hopefully you’re excited to read them!

 

 

cheers.
k.
p.s. if you’ve got any ideas for this series
about how to live better
don’t hesitate to shoot me a message
on social media. maybe we can work out
a collaboration or something.
that would be fun, yes?