Product VS Process/ Destination VS Journey
I’ve often heard reference to the notion that we should focus less on the destination and more on the journey we take to get there. Presumably that means that the most important lessons are learned along the way, that we should find joy in each day’s progress, and that the end result will be more fulfilling if we have taken time to appreciate each step along the way.
However, as often as I’ve heard someone say something along those lines, I seen twice as many examples of the opposite. Let’s face it, we are surrounded by a destination driven society. Just about everything we do is driven by the end result, the level of productivity we have reached, the number of things we’ve accomplished at the end of any given day/week/year. We are rewarded by our fitness trainers for completing our reps or reaching our goals, we are rewarded by our employers based on how much we accomplished, we reward ourselves when every box on the To Do List has been checked off. We are not rewarded for how hard we tried, or how much progress toward the end goal we made even if we didn’t reach it, or how much we learned even though we didn’t finish the whole thing exactly as we expected to.
Of course we want to have goals, and we want to strive to reach them otherwise no progress is made at all. But I don’t think it’s outlandish of me to say that we are greatly ignoring the journey, the process of life, and instead setting our hearts and minds solely on the destination or the end product. If we don’t make it, we have failed. The journey meant nothing if we didn’t get where we wanted to go.
Can you see that around you? In you? I can, all around me. And yes, even in me, which is just one of many wars I wage against what has been taught, ingrained in me from a young age, what is now part of my unconscious self which I wish was not and now strive to dig out and replace with better.
When I talk about Process Art in the classroom, I am not just trying to get you to open doors of creativity and free expression for the children, though that is a big part of why I’m an advocate for that type of art experience. I am trying to provide a space and time where our youngest members of society can be free from expectation. Where they can try something, change their mind and try it again without negative consequence. Where they can make their own decisions and place value on the things they find important in a creative environment. I am trying to keep them away from the product driven future they will become a part of far too soon.
I can also tell you that a child who is enjoying paint is learning science through texture and color blending, they are developing pre-writing skills by holding the brush or pointing their finger, and gross motor skills by dragging the brush up and down the length of the paper and standing on both feet and extending their arms out toward the easel. I can tell you that a child enjoying open ended cutting and pasting is developing fine motor skills with the scissors, and math concepts by making shapes and dividing larger pieces of paper into smaller scraps. And while all of those things are true and actually happening, there is so much more going on.
A child enjoying paint, free from expectation and adult determined instruction is a child learning their own limits, discovering their own talents and tastes, finding the power to express emotions for which they still lack the proper vocabulary. The child who is creating with scissors and glue could be building their own imaginary world, or trying to make a brand new shape no one has ever seen before and totally believes is possible, or using paper to retell a story or interpret something that has happened to them that they cannot yet express verbally. Aren’t these the things we want to make our child’s future subconscious? Don’t we want our kids to grow up and NOT have to dig out so much nonsense about the product being the most important thing, but instead be able to enjoy their journey? Be able to express themselves without fear or hesitation? To believe that they can create something that no one else has ever created before. That’s what I want for your child.
Here’s a great article from the New York Magazine about typical preschool crafts versus the more open ended creative projects that are becoming more and more popular. Also, checkout here and here for ideas you can use when planning your art or easel time. If you find yourself overwhelmed by the idea of choosing a project beyond a photocopied color page or a peal and stick foam set, talk to me. I have ideas, and suggestions, and resources. I can help make it not so scary. But even if it is out of your comfort zone, know that it will be worth it. Not just for you children, but for you too.