Process, not product

This week I came to a realization I want to keep top of mind, so I thought I'd better write about it. It slips from me often enough that I want to do what I can to fix at least the grand lines roughly in place.


When I make things, and I'm paying attention to what I'm doing, I change. Who I am progresses in some sense (and when I say 'progresses' I don't necessarily mean towards some better, improved state - I really just mean towards something different, something that didn't exist before, at least in me). I had this same insight when I was reading a challenging book by Kristeva over the holidays. And then promptly forgot about it, till it popped back up yesterday when I was recording a podcast episode. See, this is the thing. It's like I'm reflecting in delible ink,. Maybe because I'm not engaging in the process deeply enough? In any case, I want to change that.


What I have to remember, always, is that what should matter more (to me anyway) is the process, not the product. When I write - when I challenge what I'm thinking and feeling and try to record what emerges - I become a different person, not quite the same as I was before. The act of writing carries me to a new space from which things look (are) different. It's not so much about the finished piece of writing itself; it's about how the process of writing resulted in a new understanding, awareness, feeling, insight.

Same thing when I draw.


Although actually, I find it harder to gain insights from the process of drawing, maybe because visual language is trickier somehow for me to integrate or digest. Words have always been more intuitively accessible to me.


When I draw, I do sometimes feel something is happening but I usually don't recognize it until someone comments, sharing what they see in the drawing. Then I can look again at what I've done and realize that through the act of making this particular drawing, I may be starting to see things - or at least something - in a new way, which in turn reflects something new in me.


Same thing with the podcast. Yesterday I recorded an episode about the importance of refuge. I have done a bit of research on the concept of prospect-refuge, which I borrowed from the field of architecture to illustrate the balance between challenging ourselves and taking space for reflection.


In the past, I had understood refuge as shelter, in the sense of 'hiding' from the outside world, taking a break from exploring, pushing, chasing, accomplishing. But in the act of talking through what I thought refuge was all about, I realized this was a pretty facile way of understanding it. What refuge means to me, for the moment at least, is a much-needed respite, a space for sorting and assimilating the nuts I've gathered and then making even vague sense of them before getting back out there to forage for more. And I wouldn't have arrived at this understanding - which I think may reflect what is changing in me - if I hadn't recorded the episode.


So, go ahead and create. Design. Write. Build. Make all kinds of stuff and try not to worry as much about the product as where the process takes you as a creator. If you're really paying attention, the activity will provoke change in you. That change is more meaningful than your output, in the sense that a different you will make something different next time.


And in the same breath, I encourage you to take time for refuge as well. In fact, I'm wondering if meaningful development and change actually have three requirements: making things, taking the opportunity to reflect, and having the discernment to know when to do what.

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