Process > Outcome

Creative work needs to be treated as a journey, not a destination.

July 19, 2023

When doing creative work, you can focus on two things. Either, you focus on the outcome. Or you focus on the process of making something. From my experience, the former ends in despair, the latter in success. Rick Rubin puts it best:

"Living life as an artist is a practice.
You are either engaging in the practice
or you’re not.

It makes no sense to say you’re not good at it.
It’s like saying, “I’m not good at being a monk.”
You are either living as a monk or you’re not.

We tend to think of the artist’s work as the output.

The real work of the artist
is a way of being in the world."
- Rick Rubin

The problem with being overly focused on the outcome is that it ultimately is not in your control. You could be producing the best work in the world without anyone noticing. If you then judge your work based on the recognition of others, you are miserable. You are attached to a measure of success that is not in your control. The outcome. The inevitable consequence of overly focusing on the outcome of your creative craft is quitting.

The better approach to a creative life is being obsessed with the process. And that's the part you can control. You can focus on making the best thing you can make. Iterate. Improve. Put in the work. The only judge of your work that matters is you. You treat your creative pursuit as a journey rather than a destination. And the journey is inevitable. Every destination just an illusion. What matters is the craft, doing it daily, and not quitting. You need to be doing the thing you love for many years without any material success. Mastery can only be reached if you put in the hours. And to stay motivated and engaged, you need to fall in love with the process, not the outcome.

Process matters more than the outcome. The good thing is, if you deeply believe in this paradigm, it doesn't matter what the world thinks of your work in the early days. You are just here to act, engage in the practice, get better at your craft, and repeat. You acknowledge that creative success is an infinite journey. And this will give you the peace of mind needed to do great work. You don't need permission from anyone or justification for the work you do. It will give you the confidence to just do the thing you want to be doing. You just need to *take the first step*. And treat your creative work as a journey, not a destination. The process matters more than the outcome.