I had a reminder last week of the struggle between process vs outcome.
I was talking with my daughter the other day and she said “I’m not good at art.” Now anyone who knows me will know that with that simple statement she hit on one of my big frustrations. There are so many ways that this is just not true or, arguably more significantly, not important!
Ok, so I’m her Mum and I’m bias but I think that she is perfectly ‘good’ at art especially when considering her age. I wouldn’t say that she’s so good that she’s obviously talented beyond the norm but she enjoys it and I think it shows. However, someone somewhere has obviously made a comment that has knocked her and I’m just Mum so whatever I say/think doesn’t count. My daughter and I will work through this but this is also something I hear more often than I’d like from new students who have often had a similar experience to my daughter which has then stuck with them through the rest of their life. It makes me so sad.
You see the first thing that this really shows is that we spend too much time focussing on the outcome of an activity/workshop/etc rather than the process of creating. It’s a very natural thing to do, after all why create something if the outcome isn’t going to be something. The purpose of creating is to make something. But, here’s the thing, is it always? Sometimes it is but certainly I don’t think it always is. I think that the process of making can be the purpose in itself regardless of what you’re making. Just the process of creating something with your hands and heart brings so many benefits particularly in terms of personal wellbeing that I think the process becomes the important part. Why not create to spend some time away from the demands of everyday life; to relax; to reconnect with nature; to express yourself; etc? If the process brings you joy, peace or relaxation then surely that is more important than the outcome.
There are also a lot of other benefits of changing your focus from outcome to process. Allowing yourself to focus on the process rather than the outcome frees you up and takes the stress of expectation off your shoulders. It allows you to take advantage of opportunities or ‘happy accidents’ as you work and create because you aren’t blinkered by your outcome. It frees up your thinking as you’re developing and learning as you go so you can alter course if and when you feel the need. It allows you to make mistakes and learn from them rather than letting mistakes make you feel like you’ve failed (“I have not failed. I have found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” — Thomas Edison). The process changes you, impacts on how you feel as you create which means you appreciate the outcome not just for itself but for the benefits creating it brought to you, the learning you found and feelings it brought you.
The second thing her comment really highlighted is what is good? Who decides what’s good and what isn’t? Art is, and probably always will be, controversial and highly subjective. It’s one of the things I love about it. The same piece of art will speak to different people in very different ways or say nothing at all to someone else. There will always be people who love and people who hate a piece of art and that’s ok. If we all made art to appeal to everyone it would soon become very samey and most likely bland and boring because there’s no way to please everyone! So what makes something good? There is a degree of technical skill that comes into play in creating but beyond that I think if a piece does what the creator intended it to do, surely it is good?!
So the next time you go to make something, whatever it is, take the pressure of the outcome off your shoulders and ignore the voices telling you what good is (including the ones in your own head!) and focus on the enjoyment of the process, the experimentation and the learning. It feels great!