The Process Isn't A Waste
just because it's temporary doesn't mean it's not worth it
I think I’m allergic to futility; I really don’t like it when things feel like a waste of time and effort. This really gets in the way of how I view life and also how I view creativity. Maybe you feel the same. We tend to say things like:
It’s a waste of paint when my toddler is going to smear it all over everything to make a “masterpiece” that I’m keeping out of sheer obligation.
I don’t have the time to do crafts with my kids. We have way more important stuff to deal with.
I don’t have anywhere to store all the “art” we make.
I’m not good at art, so I’m not even going to try.
Another one of the frustrating things about creativity (and beautiful things in general) is that it’s all often temporary. You worked so hard to make a beautiful meal, but it was all gone in thirty minutes. You made a beautiful flower arrangement, but it wilted after a week. Even the most magical part of a sunset only lasts for a few minutes, doesn’t it? Nobody can do anything to make it last longer. The most beautiful moments of your life are just that: moments.
As Son of Laughter says in “Cricket in a Jar”:
Catch the moment. The moment has passed!
This is a law of loveliness: we love what never lasts.
The temporary nature of beauty can make us afraid to create. If this is the case for you, allow me to introduce you to the concept of process art.
The point of process art isn’t a lasting, perfectly impressive final piece, but an enriching experience as you make it. This is why I love road trips; it’s about the journey!
We are much happier—and more interesting—when we can accept all the mistakes, inconveniences, and creative limitations in our lives as part of the process.
If you don’t want to give finger paints to your baby or spend 20 minutes cleaning up a 5-minute craft, that’s fine. Literally same here. And you definitely don’t have to keep all the “art” your kids make; I photograph many and save hardly any 😉
But would you dare to believe that there’s great value in your kid’s indiscernible beach painting, or in your own sloppy calligraphy? Even if the final piece isn’t frame-worthy, it was worth the effort because of the experience.
Your brain made connections, your hands got more adept at motor movements, you used a bunch of your senses, and—ideally—you did all these things together as a family! Those moments will have an impact long after the meal is eaten, the flower arrangement fades, and the painting is thrown away.
This applies to other parts of life, too. Why spend months on a garden to only get ten bucks worth of vegetables? Why make friendships in college or the military if you’re going to part ways soon? Why volunteer at a hospice when you’ll have to say goodbye again and again anyway?
Because maybe we don’t need to make all our decisions based on the end result. Maybe we can embrace some temporary things and trust that those endeavors are intrinsically valuable, more than we can quantify. Maybe it’s even like planting seeds.
Yes, the chalk art your kid is making is going to get washed out by the afternoon rain. But the sensory delights, the motor skills, the brain connections…those won’t fade so quickly. Process art is worth it.
May you dare to create, even if the payoff isn’t immediately worth it.
May you become like a child as you take the risk to make something beautiful.
May you enjoy life with all of your senses.
May you grow in skills and make things that others will truly enjoy.
May you see the beauty and worth in the temporary things.
Hope from Family Scripts
Thank you, I really needed to hear this!
I LOVE this so tremendously much. God pointed the exact same thing out to me a couple years ago. How many times does He create little temporary flowers that hardly anyone sees? If He does stuff like that all the time, then it must be good for us to as well! And like you said, the point isnt the activity itself, but what it produces in us and in others.