The process is more than just the means of achieving a result.
I have this goofy tendency to think way ahead of things. I’m a big-picture guy, and sometimes it rubs people the wrong way.
When I took a job at a railroad yard some years ago, my role was a fairly small one in the scheme of things. I dealt with truckers coming in and going out of the yard. What they did while on the property, I had no clue. All I knew was that they came in with a shipping container, left without one, and there was a train parked thereabouts.
So I had a tour of the yard. I picked our load planner’s brain. I asked a gazillion questions of our crane operators. I bugged the crap out of my boss, and I’m sure my caffeinated personality didn’t help my cause. To this day he’s probably glad he’s rid of me. But with each question I understood better what I was supposed to do.
I think best with the big picture in mind. Hang the process, give me results instead.
My one-time shrink once suggested I look more to the process and enjoy that. Results will come, she said. The whole thing sounded so Eastern with a high ooo-eee-ooo factor, so it was quite natural that I thought she was full of it. I’m just not wired that way.
As a writer I always had my eye on the finished product and on the deadline. The steps I took were merely the means toward an end. I didn’t have time to enjoy what I was doing.
Now hear this: Getting my stuff down on paper is fun. Taking a totally random germ of an idea and building it into something workable is a real kick in the pants. Talking to folks to gather the info I need is enjoyable. Shuffling through my arsenal of words to find The One that conveys the exact meaning I want, that’s fun too.
Isn’t it always a blast when you come up with that nice turn of a phrase, one that expresses everything you need to say in just a few words? Even if that masterful wording gets up snipped out in the final edit (always done with weeping and gnashing of teeth), it’s still a great feeling.
I remember this guitarist I used to work with. Guy was a musical genius but had some serious social deficiencies. He told me in a rare lucid moment that he had Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a form of autism, and I totally believe that. He’d go a whole gig without saying a word. But watching him play was something else.
He’d stand there with his guitar clutched to his chest, wringing out flurries of notes and chords, all correct within the context of the song but challenging you at the same time. He’d make faces as his mind worked through the song, and his eyes would be fixed on a spot on the ceiling. If somebody came in with a high-powered weapon and began mowing down everybody in the place I’m sure the guitarist wouldn’t notice.
I’d come to realize, this guy was in love with the process. He’s making music because that’s what he does, like that’s the whole of his existence. Because of this love (and probably the Asperger’s) he was able to do his work with an otherworldly singleness of purpose.
When I first discovered I could write, and later when I realized I could play music, I loved the process. Any moment I could spare, I practiced.
But after a measure of success (in my world, “success” was partly from knowing people were actually willing to pay me for doing something I loved) I loved the results.
Only the process, i.e. my imagination, could conjure up a vision like this.
The process? Ahh, it was there. It was still important. However, it was a means to the result. Results are always wonderful, but like some nasty redheaded seductress in a little black dress, the results took my eye off the process, of just doing my work and enjoying it.
(Now, wasn’t it fun conjuring up that seductress? I tell you, if it wasn’t for the creative process she wouldn’t exist.)