Process vs goal


Today, I have a guest poster!

Well, sort of. A very good friend and talented costume designer posted this on her Facebook status. I loved what she wrote so much I asked her permission to repost it here, as part of my long term goal of presenting the voices of many, not just me. It is a worthwhile read and a point I often make in discussions with artists. If you have seen a ballet, opera or play in Madison, WI, there is a good chance you have seen her work. If you have seen Hubbard Street Dance Chicago perform, you have definitely seen her handy work as she keeps the dancers’ costumes from imploding onstage. Without further adieu I present the latest blog post from guest commenter, Jennifer Schwaner Ladd. Many thanks to Jenni for her permission to republish her thoughts.

Making Art: Process Vs. Goal

A couple months ago I was in Dublin having many pints and a lengthy conversation with singer/songwriter Barry McCormack. We were discussing our respective artistic endeavors, and I posed the question: When creating art, are you process-oriented or goal-oriented? Which is more important to you, the end product or the act of creating it?

It’s a thorny question, and after some deliberation, he determined that he was probably goal-oriented. The process was, of course, important, but he needed the end result and the feedback that comes along with sending your work out into the world. I remember being surprised and impressed by this answer, largely because nearly every other artist I have ever encountered says they are process-oriented. I am inclined to agree with him.

I think for a lot of reasons, we as artists are expected to say that we enjoy the process more than the finished product. This goes for performers, writers, painters, dancers, designers…anyone who creates. We are supposed to get all our pleasure out of what we do, and not reap any additional rewards once we’ve presented our efforts. After all, why would anyone keep doing such a low-paying, often thankless job if you weren’t filled with joy every step of the way? The truth is, the process is not all kittens and rainbows. It’s HARD WORK. When you are sewing frantically at 2 am the night before a deadline and you haven’t eaten or slept properly in weeks, it can be pretty damn tough to tell yourself you love this, you chose it, you should be happy you are doing it. And we DO love it, ultimately…but that does NOT mean it can’t be difficult and grueling and stress-inducing. It’s like any relationship. You are committed to each other and you love each other, but that doesn’t mean neither of you can be infuriated with the other sometimes. And at the end of it all, it is rewarding to have something to show for your efforts, something you can present to the world and say “I did this. I am proud of it.”

There’s other reasons too, why people say they are process-oriented when they are not. When you are finally done and absolutely no one seems to care and your work is waved away like it’s nothing….well, there have been whole psychology books written about artists and depression. It’s the bravado we exhibit to shield ourselves emotionally. Having your end product dismissed or ignored or treated like you did nothing special at all is very damaging; worse, even, than it being disliked or criticized. So we say things like “well, it’s ok because I am doing what I love.” We pretend it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks and lift our chin up through the tears.

For Barry to say that he is goal-oriented is, I think, very courageous, and I admire him for saying it. Instead of protecting his ego by saying “I’m just doing this for myself, because I love it,” he is sharing his art with the world and inviting them to comment on it, good or bad. To put yourself out there like that is BRAVE. And I think admitting that is a big step in making BOTH the process and the goal equally important. We need the feeling of accomplishment. We need the recognition.

There are people who truly ARE process-oriented and able to do what they love for themselves alone. I respect and admire that too. I’m just not one of them.

Thanks for reading! Shoot me an email.




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