That, I've decided, is what I like. Process. Results, while important, are not the point. The point is process.
I've been thinking about this lately because of my extra-literary activities: with school out and my novel finished, I've been taking lots of photos and recording some music. Now, there are simple ways of achieving these goals. Digital technology has made recording and photography simple; anybody with a good idea and some basic skills can take a decent picture or record a good-sounding song.
But in spite of these advantages, I keep putting things into my path--problems I have to solve, obstacles I need to overcome. The last song I recorded, I tracked it to a 4-track reel to reel made in the seventies. Then I transferred the material to a computer and added to it. And the last pictures I took, I didn't take with my fancy new DSLR camera--I used a film camera and lens made in the late sixties, and shot on black and white film. And then I developed the film, using four different chemicals, and scanned the negatives onto a computer, where I processed the photos further.
What's the point, when I might have gotten it all right instantly with a digital recorder, a digital camera? Obviously--the process.
If you're a writer, you like process. Occasionally I'll meet a book enthusiast who has an idea for a book. "Now all I have to do is write it." That person isn't a writer--a writer is somebody who likes writing. Ideas--those are a dime a dozen. You can find more ideas in one day's morning paper than you can ever write in a lifetime. The idea is merely a method of getting to the process--and if you're really cooking, the process will often overwhelm the idea, will change it into something else. I like to say that the novel I'm starting is ruined the moment I write the first sentence. What I mean is that my original idea begins to die when I start writing--the writing creates the idea. The process determines the content.
In music, and in photography, the medium we use determines our results. We may compose an image differently knowing we've only got a dozen exposures left; we might only shoot B&W because we don't feel like paying the supermarket to develop color. We may be more accepting of error in our music when the medium is hard to edit--our song might well be rougher, stranger, have more personality.
Similarly, when we let process dictate what we write, we write something more interesting. The process helps us forget our outer selves and dig more deeply into our thoughts, feelings, and motivations. The process can make you forget about publishing, about what your mom will think, about what your kids might be doing at the moment.
If the medium is the message, then the process is the point.