Whatever Makes You Want to Create, Do It

This post has been inspired by a recent video that I watched on DeviantART. I am incredibly inspired by the artists in that video. They’re amazing at what they do. I encourage you to watch the video if you can. Now, I know a lot of people who would love to be amazing at whatever it is they’re passionate about. Drawing, painting, writing, stories. But these same people are afraid to start because they don’t want to suck at doing it. This is kind of the same idea that I presented in my blog about being bored and making things, but really, I feel like this doesn’t get addressed enough and I didn’t hammer it hard enough before. So here goes. These are some rules for getting better at what you do. Even though these are about art, these rules can be applied to anything you do. So if you’re not an artist or writer, read anyway!

1. Dare to Suck

Don’t be afraid to suck! Everybody sucks at what they do when they first start. You don’t have to be amazing to start, but you have to start to be amazing. Here’s an exercise for you: take something that inspires you personally (not something that everyone else thinks is amazing, but something that you find especially inspiring) from your favorite artist, and print it out. Hang it on your wall. If it’s a book, keep the book close to you. If it’s artwork, hang it up. If it’s poetry, hang it up. You get the idea. Then go and look for some of the oldest stuff they’ve ever done. Find it, and hang that up next to that piece you already have out. There’s a great example right here.

2. These Things Take Time

This artist drew the first picture when he was about fifteen years old. The second is almost two decades later. Two decades. Just take a minute and wrap your mind around that. This stuff takes time. A lot of it. And if you’re really passionate about something, you will take that time. If you feel like you slacked off recently, or even for the past ten years of your life, pick that thing back up that you loved doing so much and continue from where you left off. Learn. Create. Don’t quit just because someone disses you. Don’t quit because you see someone who’s better than you. There’s an incredibly inspiring quote in the artist’s comments on that picture I gave you earlier. It’s this:

“I strongly believe that this is the most inspirational deviation that I ever submitted. So print it out and hang it on your wall and scream ‘I can do it too!'” -Artgerm, on DeviantART

If this guy can do it, then you can do it too. Take the thing that inspires you, and keep it close by. Whatever makes you happy, whatever makes you create, just go do it. Take some time and realize that there’s nowhere to go but up. You never go backwards with your skills as long as you continue to develop them. Speaking of developing your skills….

3. Keep A Journal or Sketch Book

Something that might help is an art journal with ideas for what to draw, or a writing journal. Actually, if you’re aspiring to be an artist or a writer, then these things are essential. Not necessarily an art journal that tells you what to draw every day, but keep a sketch book, and then keep all of your ideas. Even the crappy ones. This goes for writing as well. Keep a journal, and look back on previous writings every once in a while. You’ll be amazed that, contrary to your own beliefs, you actually are making progress. It’s amazing. Get a DeviantART account, and use that to motivate you to put more of your stuff out there. It helped me to see progress, actually.

Here’s a picture from quite a few months ago (probably closer to a year and a half, but who’s counting?):

Girl Drawing

You see this? You see this picture? This is something that I personally drew and then never wanted anyone to ever see it. I never wanted it to see the light of day. Now I’m not trying to diss the level of skill, because I know that there are people who might look at this and think, “But that’s better than what I can do.” If you’re thinking that, then stop that right freaking now. That’s not my point at all. My point is that I thought that I sucked. I was firmly convinced that I was a sucky artist and that I should just give up.

But I didn’t give up. And here’s something that I drew a day or so ago:

"Cate Blanchette as Galadriel"

If you want to, I give you permission to hang these two things up on your wall if that’s the inspiration you need. If you want my pictures, then by all means, use them. I would love to know that I’ve inspired someone to continue with that thing they’re passionate for. Personally, my thing that keeps me wanting to draw is Jerry Vanderstelt. Jerry is an amazing artist that you should totally check out. (So click the link. It opens in a new tab, so you won’t navigate away from this post. Do it!) He’s done tons of art for The Lord of the Rings as well as the upcoming movie, The Hobbit. (I just had a nerdgasm right there because I am so freaking super excited about The Hobbit!)

But that’s beside the point. So, the point of this was: don’t ever stop trying to be better at what you’re doing. Stop telling yourself that you suck and just tell yourself you need to develop skills. You’ll be amazed at what that can do for you. Oh, and if you need some extra inspiration because you’re stuck, check out my other blog, Art In My Life, where I share one of the things that I’m most passionate about with people who are also passionate about it.

Quotes

I decided to just list some quotes that I love, and maybe tell you about why I love them so much. They are in no particular order. They are from everywhere, from songs, to books, to sermons. Feel free to steal them if you want. I really enjoy quotes, and I like sharing them even more. If enough people like and respond to this post, I will find more quotes and put up another list!

1. “Writing is not just how I communicate my thoughts but how I actually think. It’s the way an experience or a fleeting thought becomes real to me instead of floating away. It’s the way I catch my thoughts and turn them over and over, testing their weight and deciding whether to keep them or throw them away. For me, to write is to become, and I can’t become [an] older, wiser person without skewering those youthful thoughts to paper, without holding them up for my scrutiny and yours.” -Alisa Harris

When I read this quote in Alisa Harris’ book Raised Right: How I Untangled My Faith From Politics, I fell in love with the book. It describes my love for writing in a way that I was never able to do myself. I could never find the words, ironically. Writing really is how I think and how things become real for me. I have terrible memory, until I write things down. When I write, everything that goes onto paper seems tangible.

2. “The venn diagram of boys who don’t like smart girls and guys you don’t wanna date is a circle.” -John Green

Personally, I think that John Green is one of the best people ever. He is one half of the VlogBrothers on YouTube. If you don’t know who the VlogBrothers are, click the link right now. Yes, now. This particular quote is from a video about dating. John Green’s advice to girls seeking a boyfriend? Date nerd boys. I agree with that 100%.

3. “Even if God were to make me tyrant of the world and give me power to reshape it as I see fit, even if I won every political battle I waged, I could never create the world that Christ will one day bring to the poor and meek. The most brazen campaign promises fall short of His. The only way to defeat the politics of ressentiment is to remember that the kingdom of God is here but not yet realized: we still live in the earth’s darkness, but we hold on to the heavenly promise. Instead of seeking power, I want to work for the kingdom’s picture of peace.” -Alisa Harris

Again, a quote from Alisa Harris’ book, Raised Right. This completely describes how I feel about politics and the far-right Christians who seem to be everywhere since the 1980’s. This election is not the election that will decide the fate of everyone on earth, and our children will probably never experience that election either. Our world is full of sin, and electing one man as the Commander in Chief of one country will not change that.

4. “[My brother] knows that I love him even if I don’t say it. But like Dumbledore said, words have power. And we have to use the magic of our words on each other so that we can feel it and experience it, and the people that we love know viscerally and without a doubt how we feel.” -Hank Green

I love Hank Green. Hank Green is not just an amazing person, but he is also the other half of the VlogBrothers. You would know that if you’d clicked the link I gave you earlier. If you’re at all nerdy, you will love these videos of two brothers rambling about everything under the sun, because it’s nerdified ramblings.

5. “We hypocritically applaud men for seeking the truth, but call for the public execution of anyone arrogant enough to believe he has found it.” -Paul Washer

I love Paul Washer. He’s an awesome man of God, and one of the best preachers I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to. This quote was one regarding truth, and the way we view it in society today. This relates to one of my recent posts about R.C. Sproul and the law of noncontradiction.

6. “It has been my observation that those who are most opinionated and critically outspoken of other people’s evangelism are those who say the least for Christ, if they say anything at all.” -Jon Revers

This is something that a friend of mine said, and I think that it speaks for itself.

7. “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” -Ray Bradbury

First I’d like to say R.I.P. Ray Bradbury. You will be missed, and you have contributed some of the most influential pieces of literature ever written to the book-loving community. I love this quote because, well, I love Bradbury, but more than that, because staying “drunk on writing” to me means continuously creating, continuously becoming (if we connect this to the quote from Alisa Harris). Writing is the only drug I’ll ever need.

8. “This is no game. You want revival and awakening, but know this: for the most part, great awakenings have come only preceding great national catastrophes or the persecution of the church. I believe God is bringing a great awakening, but I believe that He is raising up young men who are strong in trust in the providence of God to be able to wade through the hell that’s going to break loose on us.” -Paul Washer

Yep, Washer again. I think this one speaks for itself, and I wholeheartedly agree with him. It’s from a short video on persecution in the United States, here, if you’re interested in watching it. Whether you are Christian or non-Christian, it’s a good video.

9. “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” -Martin Luther

I believe that prayer is one of the primary marks of someone who is truly saved. It is impossible to be a Christian without praying. ‘Nough said.

10. “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” -Thomas Edison

This is another one of those quotes that speaks for itself, but I’d like to say, never, never, NEVER give up. You always have tomorrow, and trying again tomorrow when you fail is just as courageous as completing your goal today.

11. “Have you ever wondered how John could sit down and write all the whole gospel of John, 21 Chapters, and all through that entire thing record exactly the words of Christ? He could do it because the Holy Spirit brought him to his remembrance. That’s that promise there. Same here. We who have received it. We apostles, we writers. God has given it to us. You remember how? What was the vehicle? Inspiration. 2 Timothy 3:16 says that “all Scripture is inspired by God.” Theapanustos, one word, God breathed. God breathed it out into our minds. We received it. The Bible was not made up by men. It is not the opinion of men. It is not the view of men. It is not the comment of men on certain acts of God. It was received from God a gift brought by the Holy Spirit. So important. And notice a freely given or a graciously given one, not earned, just graciously given.” -John MacArthur

I love this man.

12. “The question is not ‘do you want to go to heaven?’ The question is ‘do you want Christ?'” -Paul Washer

More of Paul. Evangelical preaching has suffered because of the implementation of the question, “Do you want to go to heaven?” in place of, “Do you want Jesus?” Everybody wants to go to heaven. Why would anyone want to go to hell, unless it’s the little kid in the corner wearing a black leather jacket reading the satanic bible? Everyone wants to go to heaven, but Jesus is the only way to get there.

13. “Unfortunately we often get praise for things that weren’t particularly difficult to achieve. If we focus on the props and encouragement of those who have low expectations for us, we become mediocre. It can be challenging to set our sights on excellence, particularly when we’re hearing that we’re already there. One of life’s greatest lessons, which we all must learn, could be expressed in the phrase “That was nothing. Watch this.” Challenge yourself and others to call the normal things normal and save that word excellent for things that really are.” ― Alex Harris

This is from a book called Do Hard Thingswritten by the younger twin brothers, Alex and Brett, of Joshua Harris. Alex and Brett’s book is awesome, and I think you should read it. It’s not just for Christians, though Alex and Brett are both Christian. It’s about doing hard things (go figure) and being the best you can be. Also check out the Rebelution website! Josh Harris is the author of I Kissed Dating GoodbyeBoy Meets GirlDug Down Deepand Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is)All of these are excellent books, and I strongly recommend Dug Down Deep for anybody, whether you are Christian or just curious about Christianity. It’s a clear, well-written, and easy to read overview of Christian doctrine and theology without getting into all of the messy denomination stuff.

(Wow, that’s a lot of links.)

Morning Musings

I’ve recently been getting up 15 minutes earlier than usual so that I can have time to read my Bible in the morning. It’s been awesome. I love being able to look at the clock and not be stressed about getting out the door on time. Seriously, just 15 minutes makes all the difference. (Probably because when I wake up on time I lay in bed for another 15-20 minutes wondering if I should move today, and when I wake up 15 minutes earlier, then laying in bed for those few minutes just makes it so that I get up on time.)

So far, I think that my favorite verses in Ephesians are in chapter one:

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight, 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, thinks in heaven and things on earth.

If that’s not awesome, I don’t know what is. My pastor mentioned in his first sermon that the gospel is basically summed up in Ephesians, and the more I read it, the more I realize that that’s true. God chose us before the earth was even in existence so that we could be blameless in His eyes through Jesus’ death on the cross. And why did He do it? Love. That’s why this plan even exists. Love. That’s all. That’s what it all comes down to. God is just awesome. This set of verses emphasizes God’s plan and exemplifies His sovereignty. Ephesians seems to do that a lot.

Me and My Logorrhea: Relativity, R.C. Sproul, and the Law of Noncontradiction

Well, that’s officially the longest title I’ve ever used. I’ve had some very interesting thoughts today due to both a philosophy class and a book I’m reading. They’ve been bouncing around all day, driving me crazy, so I decided to dump them here, in the form of pixels on a very small number of screens, because I know that very few people actually read my blog. That’s okay, it’s more for my own personal usage anyway. In the paraphrased words of Ray Bradbury, I write so as not to be dead. Not for the amusement of other people (though if my writing amuses you, I’m glad I could make your day a little brighter, whether it be because you think I’m insane and laughable, or because you actually enjoy reading what I write).

In case you’re wondering (which, if you’re reading this, then you just might be) I am currently reading a book called Not a Chance by R.C. Sproul. Basically, his argument is that chance is a myth in modern science and cosmology. Chance is largely viewed today as a force having causal power to cause effects, but this can’t be true, since chance is nothing. Chance is simply a term used when calculating mathematical probability. What effect, Sproul argues, does chance have on a coin’s landing face up or face down? None whatsoever. But when we say that things happened “by chance,” we are ascribing casual power to chance, which is, in reality, nothing. Ex nihilo, nihil fit. “Out of nothing, nothing comes.” Chance can do nothing, because chance is nothing. Nothing cannot do something.

Sproul is a reformed protestant theologian, but this book is not “about” God. It merely refutes the idea that chance can actually cause anything. In fact, Sproul, in the beginning of the first chapter, says that if chance has the power we ascribe to it, then God need not exist. It’s not that God once existed and now is no longer needed; it’s that if chance is truly a force, then God does not need to have ever existed. If chance has the power to create something, which would be self-creation because chance is nothing, then all logic is thrown out the window. God doesn’t need to exist because chance would be so much greater than God simply based on the fact that it could do infinitely more with infinitely less. The idea of God and the idea of chance having any sort of power are mutually exclusive concepts. If you’d like to read the book, I strongly encourage you to do so, because it takes a whole book to explain in full what I just hardly covered in one paragraph.

Inspired by my philosophy class and Dr. Sproul, I began thinking about the law of noncontradiction. (My computer thinks that “noncontradiction” isn’t a word. Silly spell check.) Two diametrically opposed statements can both be false, or one can be true and the other false, but it is impossible for them both to be true. If one is true, then the other is false. If one is false, that does not make the other one true. This would be a “bona fide contradiction” (thank you, Robert Sproul, for your overuse of  “bona fide”). Even God cannot understand a contradiction. It’s something that is impossible. Now Niels Bohr famously stated that “the opposite of a profound truth may very well be a profound truth.” This is logically impossible if the law of noncontradiction holds true. Take, for example, the existence of God. I say He does exist, but plenty of people say He doesn’t. Some people choose not to take a side. But for the sake of my point, I’m going to stick with the Christians and the atheists (just to narrow it down). A Christian says, “Yes, God absolutely exists!” An atheist replies, “No, God does not.” Both of these cannot be true, because “X” cannot exist and not exist at the same time and in the same relationship. Even God cannot both exist and not exist in, say, Manhattan. He cannot be present and absent at the same time. Either He is there or He’s not. Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe God is omniscient and omnipresent. But He has to either be or not be. He cannot be both.

Which leads to the thought that I’ve been trying to get at this entire time, a thought that I had while sitting outside waiting for my boyfriend: I strongly believe that the prevailing belief that truth is relative is a huge factor in the other prevailing attitude that “anyone who disagrees with me is evil/hates me.” I think that, way back in the day, that two people could believe two different things, acknowledge that only one could be true because they were contradictory, and actually have an intelligent conversation about it and remain buddies. Amazing concept. You don’t have to hate people for having a different opinion. You could just acknowledge that you thought differently and move on with your lives. If someone had a better, more grounded opinion than you did, you could listen to them and get new information from someone who knew more than you. Now truth is subjective. So truth is not only different from person to person, but truth is not something found outside of people. It has become something extremely personal, something that is “part of your core being” or something like that. (I don’t know, honestly. How do you even define it anymore?) So if someone says anything that is contradictory to someone’s personal values, their “truths,” it is taken as an assault on a personal level, because you are disagreeing with something that is a part of someone, not just something that they think or believe to be true. Truth can be objective without people getting uppity about everyone who thinks differently.

This. This, RIGHT HERE.

This. This, RIGHT HERE.

And actually, if, according to the theory that truth is relative, truth cannot be known by any one person, why bother to listen to anybody at all if the only truth that matters is my own? Why listen to what someone else has to say if they can’t possibly know Truth? I personally make it a point to listen to others, even those that I largely disagree with (I watched the DNC, give me some credit), and when I discover truth that is different than my current definition of truth, I change my definition. This especially applies to Christians, like myself. Christianity cannot exist in a world where truth is relative. It just can’t. Because God speaks in absolutes. God is an absolutely sovereign God. Jesus said that He (Jesus) is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one can come to the Father except through Him. How can that exist if truth is just whatever you happen to think it is? And if you disagree with me, that’s okay too. It’s not a blow to your intelligence to think differently than someone else. Some of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met can 1) make mistakes, and 2) not make a mistake and still think differently than other intelligent people. All of this goes back to the theory of noncontradiction, though: God cannot exist and not exist at the same time and in the same relationship. Whichever side you’re on, one of us is wrong, or both of us are wrong, but we cannot both be right.

It’s Slow, It’s Brainless, It’s Ravenous…

And, no, it’s not a politician.

It’s the comb jelly:

THIS THING is NOT a jellyfish.

THIS THING is NOT a jellyfish.

Now, contrary to what the name might imply, the comb jelly is not actually a jelly fish. A jelly fish belongs to the phylum Cnidaria, while the comb jelly is of the phylum Ctenophora. But it’s a lot like a jellyfish (if you can’t see that). Most species of comb jelly are spherical in shape, and they have eight comb rows that extend from one end of their body (called the statocyst which is actually their sensory organ) opposite their mouth. These comb rows are where they derive their name. Well, actually, they derive their name from the Greek for “comb” and “bearer,” but I’ll let your biology teacher cover that. Comb jellies and others that share its phylum are usually colorless like the one above, but they have been known to occasionally have pigment, ranging from red or orange, to black or gold. 

The comb jelly, or Mnemiopsis leidyi, is sluggish and has no brain and therefore no cognitive ability. It’s basically a gelatinous blob that eats things. But it is surprisingly an extremely effective predator. Until recently, nobody knew why. The comb jelly is such an effective predator that it has recently become an invasive species in many parts of the world, taking out small animals at the base of the food chain. This throws off entire ecosystems. I mean, this thing eats a lotAccording to the Smithsonian, the comb jelly can eat ten times its body weight per day. And we think we’re fat. This little tiny thing wipes out entire ecosystems just because it eats so much.

Remind you of any other species?

Apparently, the comb jelly’s favorite food is this thing called a copepod. A copepod is a small crustacean that lives in pretty much every water-based habitat, even swamps. They are benthic, meaning that they are bottom-dwellers, and are used as bioindicators for aquatic ecosystems. A copepod is 100 times the size of a comb jelly, and can move up to 800 body lengths in a second as opposed to the comb jelly that basically just floats. Copepods have great sensory abilities, and they’re fast. So how does the slow, brainless comb jelly manage to eat so much without ever being spotted by the things it’s trying to eat?

Well, it turns out that the comb jelly is invisible to its prey. Yep, invisible. According to research by Sean Colin of Rhode Island’s Roger Williams University, the comb jelly is able to sneak up on the copepods because of the fluid dynamics of its feeding behavior. Basically, the jelly feeds by pulling water into its mouth using the cilia on all those combs all over its body, creating a current that draws things in.

So why can’t the copepod just sense that water current and get away? Because the current is such a minute change that the copepod can’t detect it, even with its super sensitive senosory gear (say that five times fast). The current is very wide and very slow, so not many animals can tell that they’re about to be lunch. This renders the comb jelly “hydrodynamically invisible,” in Colin’s words. He’s now wondering if turbulence affects the comb jellies’ feeding habits, so he’s comparing stomach contents of jellies from calm and turbulent waters by dragging a huge net around behind him in the ocean. If there’s a correlation, then we will be able to narrow down which places are monitored for this tiny, translucent predator.

This is all super useful information considering the comb jelly devastated the fishing industry in the Black Sea during the 1980’s. The comb jelly has been more recently discovered in the Bornholm Basin, which is where the Danes get their cod. They’re pretty crazy about cod, so when they heard that the comb jelly could potentially wipe out their precious fish, they flipped out. So it was a great relief when the Danes found out that salinity affects comb jellies’ breeding habits, and the Bornholm Basin has low salinity. However, countries surrounding the Baltic Sea are concerned about what this small animal could do to their own fish populations.