Product vs Process

I have those days. Those days when I really don't know what to do. The ideas just aren't flowing and I can't seem to get started. I think we all have them. I think we all sometimes fall into that artistic void. That blackhole of unknowing. That fear inducing moment of, “There's nothing here.”

Trust me, I live in that blank space sometimes.

One of the big problems we have in modern society is being product oriented. That is, everything that we do has to result in some product. For artists, that means a song, a dance, a painting, a poem, etc. PRODUCT. This puts a lot of pressure on us and helps make that artistic void even larger: “I have to create something, but I don't have any ideas.”

The 1st thing is to get away from product thinking and move into process thinking. The difference is that in the 1st one, the end result, the product, is the goal. In the 2nd one, the journey, or the process, is the goal. This is often a difficult concept to grasp and change in our thinking because, again, we are so product oriented in today's world.

This is where your practice comes in. 

If you have an established practice, then you are already process oriented. A regular practice has you working each day on doing something, perhaps even the same thing. It helps to set the tone and engage your mind/thought process. Let's say that every morning you get up, have a cup of coffee, read your e-mail and the newspaper, then from 9-11 you work on your art. You do this without fail on most days. This is your process in action.

The 1st thing to do is to give yourself permission to just create with no goal in mind. Think of it more as play than work. I'll give you an example of my process:

Every morning I do much like above. I have a cup of tea, check my e-mail, and get oriented to what happened overnight while I slept. Then sit and write. I might be working on this blog. Sometimes I have no idea what to write, but I start writing. The important thing is that I know whatever I write doesn't have to be the end product, so I am free to just write. This is warming up. 

It's important to know that what I just wrote, I can throw away later.

As I write, new ideas fly into my brain. Often I'll go off on a tangent and find something that takes on a life of its own. I keep writing. It can be fairly freeform at times, but I also realize that I can edit it later. I can take out the things that don't fit or aren't relevant, and be left with something solid and concise. You can do this with any art: come up with something, then work at it and refine it.

Sometimes the results become product, like this blog, or a composition, or a magazine article, etc. Other times, they become an idea for the future, like a seed that is planted and needs to sprout, then grow. Yet other times things were just a start and are tossed away.

The important thing is to develop your practice. When all else fails, and you are staring at a blank paper, the process will save you. This blog post started just that way. I had an idea and a title. I started writing and things took shape, moving and evolving. I later changed the title because the post had become something different. But it all started from writing down a title and working from there.

Repeat after me:

When all else fails, the practice will save you.

When all else fails, the practice will serve you.
When all else fails, the practice will save you.

~ MB


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