The Middle


"Dancing is creating a sculpture that is only visible for a moment." -Erol Ozan

Creative expression can be really difficult sometimes. If you dance or act or play music or make visual art or CREATE, you've probably dealt with the process vs. product problem. You've probably sat down to make your thing and been so focused on the end result that you forgot to trust the process. For me, I don't just forget to trust the process, I refuse to trust it. Nope! Give me the illusion of control instead, says my anxiety. Give me the hundred ways it could go wrong so I can solve those potential problems ahead of time and avoid letting anyone down, says my fear. I've got this final product in my mind and if reality doesn't match up to it in the end, it'll mean I've failed, says my insecurity.

Woah. But experience tells me this isn't true! Especially with art. I love movies. But I certainly don't watch them for the sole purpose of learning how they end! The ending loses all significance if we don't see how the characters arrived there. I love how Brene Brown puts it: "The middle is messy but it's also where the magic happens." Ah yes, messy. That's a good word for it. But when I'm feeling insecure or afraid or exhausted, I don't want messy... and what I'm retraining my brain to think next is, "Well, then you don't want real."

But I do want real. I want relationships that can make it through the messy times. I want to NOT follow recipes some nights so I can discover something new. I want to mirror my client's vulnerability when she steps in front of my camera so she knows she is in a safe space. I want to dig deep into my heart when I create a self portrait, even when I get frustrated and realize what I need to create is not the sparkly ideal that will look good to the rest of the world.

The middle is messy: the middle of creations, the middle of relationships, the middle of conflict resolution, the middle of good movies, and the middle of life. But you know, 99% of everything is basically the middle -- the process. "Trust the process." One of my friends has it tattooed on her arm. I've seen and heard it a thousand times, and only in the last year have I come to understand the weight of it. The result isn't "it." The process is. And when I don't want to be honest with myself about something, I put blinders on and focus on the product. And that's the paradox! When we trust the process, the product really does end up the way it was meant to. But when we focus too much on the product, we can overlook important parts of the process and risk creating a bad product.

When Bailie shared her dance and story with me, I was inspired. When most of us think of dance, we think of the 3 minutes on stage with the perfect hair and makeup and impeccable costume. What's easy to forget is the hours and hours of practice and struggle, the bruised feet and sore muscles, and the mental stress of expectation and insecurity. But these things are what make dance what it is.

The struggle to express is what produces art. And I think we could all use encouragement to push through that messy struggle in order to grow. Trusting the process makes us give up the illusion of control, and in my experience, that really is where the magic happens.