We are a society that’s fixated on the finished product, the grand finale, the happy ending. No matter what it is we’re undertaking, we want to sprint past every conflict, every roundabout encounter, so that we can cannonball right to the glory.
What we don’t realize is that by rushing to the ending, we are omitting our beginning and middle. We’re hindering our own growth by coercing our heart into changing phases long before it’s ready. By forsaking our appreciation for process and trying to skip over it, we’re also forsaking our appreciation for life and trying to skip over that as well. And we all know what comes at the end of human life. This essentially means that we’re running full-speed towards death. Do we know any other species that wish their lives away quite like we do?
Michelangelo did not just skip right to sculpting bodies out of marble blocks, he spent many years studying human form – which he often referred to as the physical representation of the soul. Mozart is another Great who considered composition an active process. In a letter to his father he once wrote, “You know that I am, so to speak, plunged into music,—that I am occupied with it the whole day,—that I like to speculate, to study, and to reflect.” John F. Kennedy understood the inner-workings of process when he told the American people, “Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures.” It comes down to the simple notion that success is a journey rather than an event, similar to healing, and of course, life itself.
Before writers can breathe life into their characters, they must either study the topics in which they desire to write about or they must already be experts. From this phase, they begin an outline, sometimes multiple. And then the drafting phase begins, and for some, it never truly ends. Learning to fall in love with the graduality of process is how we become Greats ourselves. It’s how we turn mediocre into magnificent, elevator music into epic symphonies.
We all are capable of greatness, but we become so enamored with the end result that we forget about the labor of love required to bring it to fruition. Even as consumers we lost the ability to fully savor beautiful pieces of literature, works of art, musical compositions, or architecture. The worst thing about shortcutting our creative processes is that not only does it do our final product a disservice, but it robs us of our time in the classroom. Learning comes from process, learning is how we improve and improving is how we master.
True beauty and wisdom cannot be fast-tracked and they demand the sort of lessons that make us modest and malleable. Whatever project it is you’re working on, give it your undivided attention. Take each step with mindful purpose. And most importantly, take your time. Anyone can create something out of nothing overnight, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be of any value. It most likely won’t have a major impact on the state of the world or be mentioned in any history books. We all have a chance to create a lasting legacy, some come in the form of our children, others in our careers or inventions. Let yours speak to humanity long after your last breath.
I beg that you give your creation the space it needs to evolve over time. If you do, you will one day wake up to find that you evolved right along with it.