Integral Iterations: The Process of Building “Trust”…

The picture above was inspired by the notes I took while I was interviewing Daniel Midson-Short for an episode of my podcast. He and I had an unexpected conversation about “Integrity” – you can check it out below:

In the spirit of full disclosure, this is the second time I’m writing about this discussion. Having previously explored the topic, I didn’t intend to bring it up again. But, like the unexpected arrival of our discussion on “Integrity”, itself, this writing, too, is something of a surprise.

A couple days ago I wrote an essay called “Prototyping the Process“. As artists, creatives, writers, and makers, we have to be constantly tweaking and prototyping the work that we produce, but we also have to be constantly beta-testing and iterating the processes by which we produce the work.

Before writing that essay I began working on the art piece at the top of this post. It’s initial iterations took place in an app on my phone, while sitting in a retail store break-room. Eventually it found its way into Photoshop for further tweaks and iterations. For my birthday my wife got me a Huion Inspiroy Q11k Graphic Drawing Tablet. That’s what helped bring this piece to its final form.

It was a process of small changes, incremental adjustments, an interplay of various tools, an endeavor of consistent development. In other words, the process of creating this image embodies the quote it depicts. The art “is” what is it “about”. The medium is the message, one might say.
The iterative creation of this collage unexpectedly illustrates the on-going consistency that demonstrates “Integrity”.

Creativity and integrity go hand in hand. Both are a commitment to truth; a commitment to the pursuit of truth, a commitment to truth-telling. Both necessitate the strength of reliability. Art and each entail consistency. Both are built over time.

The slow dependable process of carefully stacking brick upon brick, Art and Integrity are built upon “trust”; trust in the work, trust in the process, the trust you give to others, and the trust you receive in return.

None of it arrives fully formed, and so we build…

Art in Pieces…

Nietzsche says that “One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.” I can relate. While I can’t say for sure if I’m actually able to “give birth to dancing star”, I can say that everything I create begins in chaos, an inner chaos that manifests itself into outward expression. That physical expression of an internal anarchy is what I call my creative process.

Everything that I make begins its life as a fever of a thought typed into Evernote, a jagged idea roughly hewn and scraped into a notebook or across a Post-It, like the photo above.

The line inscribed on the pictured Post-It note first appears in a conversation I had with Brady Hester on an episode of his podcast. It then took up residence as a random annotation. And, would eventually find a home in an essay called “I Am Grateful for the Insight of the Other.”

This leads me to wonder…

What if it’s the Post-It notes, the scaps of paper, the unseemly assortment of uncured ideas, that are more important then the completed essay?

What if it’s the sketches, the rough drawings, the drafts, that are of greater value than the finished painting?

What if “the process” is the place of artistry?

What if it’s all the various “pieces” that make up a piece of art that are the real ‘masterpieces”? And what if we treated them that way?

What if we created a Gallery of First Attempts, a Museum of the Primordial?

What if we framed the early iterations and filed away the finished product?

Maybe that’s what it means to be liberated from the “outcome”…

A Procedural Uncertainty

Last Friday I posted an interview I did with Joel Tauber for an Episode of my Podcast “The Process & The Path“. (Full episode below)

This Wednesday I’ll be posting the video of that interview on my YouTube channel.

As I was listening back through the conversation in making my final edits to the video , I realized just how much we talked about searching, experimenting, exploring, learning, growing, and all the ambiguous uncertainties that come along with being in “the process”.⠀

That probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise given that literally everything I do is wrapped up in the endeavor of “learning” out loud, documenting “the process”, and “practicing” the path.

The “process” is defined as “a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end”. What I think is so interesting about this definition is not so much what it says but, rather what it doesn’t say. What the definition leaves out, what it goes unsaid, speaks volumes.

More often than not, when we set out upon the undertaking of a process we have “a particular end” in mind. We have a particular goal, a desired outcome. There is a specific destination we are striding and striving towards. This end goal guides our steps and actions. It is the catalyst to the initiation of our “process”. It is the propellant that pushes us further into the process. Yet, that “particular end” is not guaranteed. Where we end up may very well be different to where we set out to go. 

In other words, what the definition doesn’t define is whether or not we ever reach that desired end.

Whether its the creative process, whether its the spiritual process, whether its the intermingling of the two, or whether its just any process, I think one of the things that gets missed is that the process is the process because it is laced with ambiguity and uncertainty. If we knew where the process would lead then it wouldn’t be transformative.

The point is that a lot of this is trial and error, creatively and spiritually. A lot of it is experimental.

In the book, Make You Mark: The Creative’s Guide to Building a Business With Impactthere’s a line that says “To make great ideas a reality, we must act, experiment, fail, adapt, and learn on a daily basis”.

We have to be willing to go through that process of trial and error, knowing that there is a risk that we might fall, a risk that we might fail.
There is an element of failing with purpose. Its the understanding that failure isn’t what we imagine it to be. Failure isn’t final. Failure isn’t conclusive. It’s simply part of the process.

Here, there is also the recognition that “experimentation” negates failure. It makes failure meaningless. In the light of experimentation “failure” becomes null and devoid of meaning. There is only the testing of a hypothesis and the collection of data. We re-run the numbers. We re-calibrate and we try again.⠀

The process is thrilling and terrifying because we don’t fully know where we’re going, and we don’t fully understand where the process is taking us. Sometimes we don’t even know where we are in the process.

To be in the thick of the process is to be in the midst of something unknown.⠀⠀

And that’s precisely the point…⠀