James Clear wrote in his article “Forget About Setting Goals, Try This Instead,” “If you’re a writer, your goal is to write a book. Your system is the writing schedule you follow each week.”
Austin Kleon wrote in his book Show Your Work! “There’s ‘painting,’ the noun, and there’s ‘painting,’ the verb. As in all kinds of work, there is a distinction between the painter’s process, and the products of her process.”
James Clear hypothesizes that by electing to ignore your goal, while continuing to focus on your system, you will still get results.
Austin Kleon acknowledges “process is messy.” However, “Human beings are interested in other human beings and what other human beings do.” They want to not only “stumble across great work, but they, too, long to be creative and part of the creative process.”
Personally I’m not in search of “great work.” I’m more of a what-catches-my-eye, what-resonates-with-me, what-evokes-emotion gal. My tastes have always been eclectic. I like what I like. Off hand I can’t think of a “single body of work” which has resonated with me (though there are pieces of a particular body of work that REALLY resonate). That makes sense. The artist/creator is continually pushing his or her boundaries, exploring different aspects of creation and following the threads of “What would happen if I did this?” I’d be shocked if they felt all their creations were equal.
I remember happening upon Manuel, a man camping on the beach, creating a body of artwork using only the rocks he found. Sculptures were created using no tools but his hands and imagination. I watched for a couple hours as he picked up a rock, weighed it in his hand, turned it this way and that before finally putting it in place. While the end-result was amazing, watching him in action was utterly fascinating. I felt I was a part of — a witness to — something very special.
Perhaps this is Austin Kleon’s reasoning for encouraging people to show/share their work-in-progress.
(Interestingly, further up the road under a freeway overpass, Jack, a homeless man had been inspired by Manuel and was also creating rock art.)
When you witness the creation of something, you feel more connected to it. It holds meaning for you. Value.
I tend to get very overwhelmed because I focus of too many things at once. Those rare times I’ve focused on one thing at a time (on the process of that one thing) has been very freeing. It seemed almost meditative. Ironically (and because at those times it really doesn’t matter to me), at the end of the day I’d been more productive than I had on those days when I pushed to reach a goal.
So while using different words and offering different examples, both men seem to be expounding upon the importance of the journey (the doing), rather than the destination (the thing being done).
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