Process as Product

The following is a guest post by my good friend Anthony Marco. Anth and I started the premier independent Canadian tech and pop culture podcast Dyscultured nearly four years ago (I departed the show earlier this year and Anth is still hosting the podcast with Andrew Currie, Shane Birley and Ryan Wiseman) and he has a ton of other things he does online — mostly in the podcasting realm. I’ve known Anth for nearly 20 years and he was one of the first I trusted with writing a piece here during my time of busy-ness because he is simply awesome. Follow Anth on Twitter over here.

There is a long accepted premise in visual arts about an artist not allowing someone to see a work before it’s complete. Perhaps the artist’s apprehension comes from fear of misinterpretation or misrepresentation. Perhaps it’s even simpler in that perceived blemishes and flaws haven’t been concealed yet. What the fears all bear out, however, is an inescapable conclusion that tradition favours finished product over process.

In an increasingly shared culture, becoming witnesses to creative processes is far more engrossing than final product. We are consumed by “Making Of” vignettes appended to DVDs. We watch the Iron Chefs in their process for 50 out of 60 minutes before ever seeing a finished dish. We want to see the choices, occasional slips and stumbles that are part of the creative process. Call it the authenticity of the work or the humanizing of the creator, process is often far more engrossing than product.

Beyond the process and product, however, lies a deeper level. The online creator is ultimately becoming the product far more than any single piece of output. When we subscribe to blogs, podcasts, YouTube channels, and photofeeds, we are most often subscribing to the creators and not their output. Our minds race to make connections between output and the impetus behind the choices. The more we know, the more we connect, the more we appreciate.

Growing up, watching cross-border PBS affiliates, every Saturday there used to be a artist who would, over the course of a half hour, create a landscape painting beginning with broad washes and ending detailed flecks. The result was a piece that was less than stunning to look at as a finished piece, but made infinitely more interesting by the steps it took to get there.

In simplest terms, consider your process as product.

As someone who’s transitioned from blogging to podcasting, one of the ways that I’ve tried to embody this belief is to publish everything, warts and all. Many podcasts I record are unscripted, impromptu diatribes. They are not polished, nor are they meant to be. In the bigger picture, they are elements of a process and indicators of product that is not a fixed place in time.

Content creators should appreciate this relationship. While precious few of your final products may be brilliant, many may be good, and some may be questionable, they can all be made richer by sharing your process.

As the bulk of my online creative output is done at the level of hobbyist, I am comfortable being casual in my creativity. I would rather revel in few serendipitous moments of brilliance at the cost of revealing a hundred imperfections. For someone whose income is tied to creative output, appreciate the value of a well-honed finished project, but don’t disregard your process as being part of your larger product: you.

If you’re a writer, maybe that process will not be on the front page of your blog. Maybe there will be a secondary page, an annotated bibliography so to speak, which contains drafts, links, clips, and other inspirations.

If you’re a digital artist, show us the steps along the way. Show us the pre-filtered image, the opacity of layers and the dodges and burns.

If you’re a musician, let us hear the early tracks, botched takes, and alternate leads.

No one believes you are perfect. A reader may not be able to identify with every final product you publish, but almost everyone can identify with the promise and perils of creativity, choice and sensibility. By making your process a part of product, you personalize creativity and make an essential connection to those who read, view, and listen.

Photo credit: Steve Hardy (CC BY-ND 2.0)