That was the question posed to me at my first job interview after I graduated from college. The interviewer asked the question, gave me some paper and a pen, and left the room for ten minutes or so. I can still recall that room: small, nondescript, no windows, and white walls as blank as my mind for the first minute or so.
Then my liberal arts education kicked in, thank heaven, and I began to craft my response. I wish I could have taped my answer, as I was offered the job.
I didn’t know at the time how brilliant the question was; how fundamental to living; how frequently I would return to this notion of process.
It can be a very product-oriented world out there. So much focus and pressure on what we’ve done, made, earned, parented, achieved. Over the years, I have found myself wresting from my own hands and mind my fervent desire for product.
Ah, the illusion of control.
I believe it can be especially challenging for us artists to keep the faith and focus on process. Creating is the embodiment of process. And yet, the world, often well intentioned and perhaps unfamiliar with artistic processes, constantly asks about product. How many paintings/articles/dances/pieces of music/fill in the blank have you made/performed/exhibited/sold? Where have you taught? How many students? What reviews have you had? The beat goes on….
But I can’t lay blame solely on other folks–not by a long shot.
Take choreography. Even though I know that creating a dance is a quintessential example of a process, I still feel the strong pull to reach a conclusion. To have a dance in my pocket. Or even to walk out of the studio with something solid to show for it. Nothing like pressure to produce to kill inspiration.
I see now that I’ve made some not great choices in choreography because I was too impatient, scared really, to be in the no man’s land of process. Floating between inspiration and creation or inspiration and re-creation. It can be bloody uncomfortable.
Even with writing this, thereby deepening my understanding of my own process, I am pretty darn sure that when I go rehearse tomorrow, I will at some point need to talk myself back down from rushing to conclusion.
Thankfully, the marsh in my back yard and the nearby sea now provide constant reminders that living things and life are at their core processes.
And the great news about process? With all of its uncertainty, it indicates our aliveness. Anything can happen. Possibility: YAHOO! Or, as Benjamin Franklin said: “When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.”