I was watching Ash Barty play in the Australian Open tennis last week. Jim Courier was commentating and drew our attention to a quality this great champion possesses. ‘She doesn’t think about what is ahead,’ Jim pointed out. ‘Instead, she focuses on the execution of her work.’ The end product will happen but the crux is the process – each shot, point, game that eventually, makes up the entire performance.
The distinction between process and product is not a new one. Mid-nineteenth century writer, Ralph Waldo Emerson, is credited with saying: ‘It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.’ Another tennis player, the famed Arthur Ashe, echoed the idea and added that ‘the doing is often more important than the outcome’. Educational theory, in the eighties at least, was heavily invested in the importance of process over product. Certainly, in my area of classroom drama, the difference between exploration and performance was starkly drawn with the former valued more highly.
It becomes obvious that visual art, another creative discipline, works similarly. One can be concerned with the product one is trying to produce – for exhibition, commission, sale. One can also focus on the application of the craft, the process of making, with an endpoint less clear. Both approaches are valid. A professional practice inevitably moves between the two ends of the continuum.
But, it’s easy to fall into a distorted place where concern with a product takes a dominant position and the value placed on the process is diminished. This is to the detriment of the transparency and honesty of the art. Sometimes I need a reminder to reset; to concentrate on the execution of the work rather than the result of the game.
Thank you, Ash.