Normally, if we were going to blog today, it would be written by one of the artists who worked on this quarter’s Gathering–Duncan, Daniel, or Taliesin–but after the twelve-plus-hour-day I (Connla) pulled yesterday, I felt it was a little more important to talk about what I learned from that experience, and maybe talk a little bit about how it relates to my own personal process (because your personal process is important, and maybe introducing the concept, and talking about how to work on it will help some of you).
Let’s talk about the concept of process first. The dictionary defines it as “a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end”. Bruce Lee, who I celebrated as my hero in my artist journaling page today for Determined to Shine’s 30 Days of Artist Journaling, described being in one’s own process like this:
“The truth is that life is an ever going process ever renewing and it [is] just meant to be lived but not lived for. It is something that cannot be squeezed into a self-constructed security pattern, a game of rigid control and clever manipulation. Instead, to be what I term “a quality human being” one has to be transparently real and have the courage to be what he is.”
Now, a lot of us live by the standard of “I am a work in progress“, but what if, instead, we lived by the standard of “I am a work in process“? Let’s look at the definition of progress, and then I’ll get back on track with what I learned yesterday (which is what I promised to write about in the title of this post).
Progress: forward or onward movement toward a destination.
And that, my friends, is what yesterday definitely was for me: constant forward or onward movement toward a specific destination, that “destination” being completing the official public release of The January Gathering: Winter Wonder. Yes, there was a process to getting that done, but by about 3:30PM yesterday afternoon, I was no longer in process, but I was in progress, and believe me: there’s a definite difference between the two, and the latter one (progress) sucks! I started my day early–7:30AM, which may be a little hard for those of you who know me best to even fathom–and I worked diligently, running pomodoro after pomodoro (for more on that, please do check out the work and offerings of Racheal Cook ), so it wasn’t like I didn’t “schedule well”. I had my “eyes on the prize”–getting all of this published and out to all of you, and available for sale; my final specific destination–from before I even went to bed on Tuesday night! But about five minutes into trying to publish the first set of Word Art, I realized we had absolutely nothing for the gallery on that product that actually showed the word art being used, and I suddenly had to switch from progress to process, and that basically threw off my entire day: to the tune of I finally reached my specific destination at 8:45PM last night, and I was not at all pleased about that!
So, what did I learn yesterday, apart from the important lesson of “check your CT inventory before you start trying to publish assets”? When I was actually playing with the assets, and using them to create examples of what could be done with them, I was in process, and time seemed to slip past me, effortlessly. Once that work was done, and it was back to the grind of actually creating the listings (which is a very slow process), I returned to a state of being in progress, and the work became tedious and exhausting. Yesterday, I learned to either do everything in process, instead of in progress, or don’t do it at all.
This goes along with another recent personal epiphany: planners make me feel icky. Planners are certainly all the rage right now, especially in the papercrafting/digi-crafting world, and I have really, really tried to hop on that bandwagon, but every time I start trying to tediously plan out my life with one, I get butterflies in my stomach and I just feel this sense of general agitation. And yesterday helped me figure out ultimately why that is: planners force us to live our lives in progress, rather than in process, because every deadline we write down becomes a destination we’re working towards, and we focus on that (those specific destinations in time) instead of on the steps we take to get there (the process).
I’ve really tried to start off 2017 in process, rather than in progress: Allyson Bright’s offerings over at Determined to Shine have really helped me with that, and so have Leonie Dawson’s Shining Life Workbooks, but yesterday put me back a notch. I got so focused on my destination (read: deadline), that the process of getting there sort of fell by the wayside, and that was literally painful. My day more or less became this determined, slothful plod, instead of an excited, triumphant race to the mountaintop, and nothing successful/good ever happens to us when we get in that place; when our minds and spirits go there. It’s like another famous Bruce Lee quote (this one from Enter The Dragon, which maybe you’ve seen):
“It is like a finger, pointing a way to the moon. Don’t concentrate on the finger, or you will miss all that heavenly glory.”
Yesterday, I reached a point where all I was focused on was the finger–on the deadline (the destination); and literally on my fingers typing, typing, typing, clicking the mouse, and hitting publish–so that by 8:45PM last night, the only “heavenly glory” I could even see anymore was “whew, that’s done”, when where I should have been mentally/spiritually was in a place of pride that this glorious set was now out there and available for other people (meaning you) to express themselves with it, too. So, short of more effective scheduling (which puts us right back in that planners-are-my-life-mindset, which is precisely where we don’t want to go), how does one avoid getting in that place of being in progress, rather than in process?
Be mindful, my friend. (Yes, that may sound a bit like Master Bruce, but that’s me talking, not him. hehe) What does that mean? To be mindful means to be fully conscious or aware of what you’re doing: not where you’re going; not your final destination; not the moon or the mountaintop, but the steps you are taking to get to that destination. The deadline to publish yesterday is but one of many “destinations” I tend to focus on on a pretty much daily basis. Others include the deadline for newsletter each week, the deadlines for paying my bills, and the deadlines I have set for myself, in regards to such things as guest-blogging, effectively networking, and generally becoming my definition of “successful”. I’ll confess that up until the start of 2017, I’ve spent far more time focused on those destinations, than I have on the process of the steps taken to actually reach them. The consequence of that? I’ve spent a lot of time honestly depressed because I haven’t reached the destination yet: it’s about as useful as being homesick for a place you’ve never actually been.
Regarding mindfullness, Bruce Lee said:
“Discard all thoughts of reward, all hopes of praise and fears of blame.”
Reward is just another destination; so are hopes of praise and fears of blame. If you live your life doing anything because of what you’re potentially going to get out of it (financial gain, hope that other people will think what you did was good and lay praise on you for it, and/or fear that people will think what you did absolutely sucked and will be totally willing to tell you that, too), you are going to live your life in a constant state of worry, depression, and anxiety. Let me say that again, more succinctly, so you will remember it and take it forward with you, in your own life:
If you live your life doing anything because of what you’re potentially going to get out of it, you are going to live your life in a constant state of worry, depression, and anxiety.
Ultimately, I make art not because it might get me to any certain destination (whether that be financial solvency, self-worth gained via the praise of others, or my own particular definition of success), but because I literally have reached a point where I just can’t help it! Where things “go wrong” and switch from in process to in progress is when the feeling goes from “I just can’t help it; I need to create” to “I have to ___________”. “I have to” is destination-focused; it’s progress-oriented, rather than a process. Which brings me to the other very important lesson I learned yesterday: When art becomes something someone else is doing, that art often becomes “I have to” instead of “I need to”.
Now, I have total faith that everyone who is working here at Iaconagraphy is here, designing, because they need to make art, the same way I need to make art. If they weren’t, they simply wouldn’t be represented here. So don’t get me wrong: I’m not trying to remotely imply that anybody here at Iaconagraphy is here for any other reason besides the self-same reason that I’m here, which is because we all have a need to make art; we just can’t help it. What I am saying, as the person “running the show” (note: I really am not comfortable with that term, but it’s the best one I can come up with right now), elected as the spokesperson for the whole of Iaconagraphy, is that I, personally, have a tendency to switch the focus from process to progress when faced with not publishing my own work, but instead someone else’s. Which is part of why we’ve reduced the releases of upcoming Gatherings to quarterly, rather than monthly, but how else to avoid this ongoing dilemma? I mean, we’re a conglomerate of artists, all of whom need to make art, and therefore, deserve to have that art made available at the end of the day so that those of you who also need to make art have resources available to do just that. This isn’t just “my gig”….
Which brings me to the last (and maybe most important) lesson I learned yesterday: I need this to be my gig right now. That isn’t to say that there won’t be some very valid “guest spots” coming up in future weeks and months, but that is to say that I have at least one “bundle” that I’ve back-burnered at least three times since December, in favor of releasing other people’s work, and in favor of meeting other deadlines, and it’s starting to burn a hole in my brain–and in my soul. Every ounce of creation that I have done since December has been self-expression (i.e., artist journaling and digi-scrap) with things others have created, when what I really want to be doing–and what I need to be doing, the way most people need to breathe or to eat–is creating the assets to say what I need to say (and to give you all what you need to say what you need to say). When I leave that process up to everyone else, or even when I give that over to everyone else, art becomes a destination; a deadline; art becomes progress instead. And right now, I need that to stop happening.
Thank you for taking the time to read (what wound up being) a very long blog entry. If it helped you learn anything about your own process vs. progress, I’d love to hear about it! Feel free to comment below, or come on over and respond on our Facebook Page. Or, better yet, take a dive into art journaling, and make a page about your own process vs. progress, using the awesome assets in The January Gathering, and share that with me and the world!