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The Process Matters

Published 05 September 2021 at Yours, Kewbish. 1654 words. Subscribe via RSS.


Introduction

I feel like I start a lot of these blog posts with stories from when I was little, but here’s another: when I was in elementary school, I used to be fascinated by stop-motion animation1. A very niche thing to be into - but then again, aren’t all my hobbies? I watched hours of Shawn the Sheep, some of the Wallace and Gromit shorts, and tonnes of the little claymation (stop-animations created with clay) shorts on YouTube. I didn’t have the access to, or the patience for, the extensive sets and equipment used by professional studios, so I settled for tinkering with my little Lego Friends sets. There was a book at my favourite library branch called Brick Flicks that I must have read and reread cover to cover at least a couple times. I made some half decent animations in Windows Movie Maker (the old version packaged with Windows 7, if that means anything to you) just by importing hundreds of photos taken on the family point and shoot, and setting the duration of the slideshow as something like 0.05 seconds. All of a sudden, I could weave together stories about whatever took place in my imagination and act them out with little plastic people - it was nothing short of magical.

Stop motion’s a pretty labour-intensive undertaking: each picture has to be lined up almost perfectly with the next, and each tiny movement has to be painstakingly planned. But that’s if you’re going for a good quality animation - and to be honest, grade-school-me was just looking for hours of free endless entertainment and maybe even a half-decent product at the end. I enjoyed the process of bodging together a camera mount and kneeling at the coffee table fiddling with arms and heads more than the end result, though my ‘movies’ weren’t that terrible either. Interestingly enough, there’s a whole genre of behind-the-scenes videos for these stop-motion productions, especially from larger firms who not only film the actual series but also film the making-of. Just Google ‘behind the scenes of [x show]’ - you’ll get tonnes of results. I remember Wallace and Gromit had some interesting ones, as well as the franchise that did Coraline and Kubo - I think it was Laika. I was enthralled by hours of BTS footage: I found it incredibly interesting how artists pieced minute movements into full-on action sequences into the final product.

This interest in behind-the-scenes continued throughout the rest of my phases: when I got into electronics and went through my pseudo-engineer stage, I binged Diresta, ILTMS, and Tested, among other channels. When I got into game development, I loved watching devlogs, getting way too interested in the technical details of whatever new features my favourite developers were working on. These devlogs were posted on a semi-regular schedule, so I had solid chunks of weekly entertainment, and a consistent stream of content. With my more creative interests - like bullet journalling - I turned to the numerous ‘with me’s on the Internet. There were ‘plan with me’s, ‘paint with me’s, ‘Notion with me’s, ‘organize with me’s, ‘study with me’s, ‘bookbind with me’s, and a whole other set of para-collaborative videos.

What ties all these things together - what ties all these ‘with me’s, behind-the-scenes cuts, and b/v/dev-logs together? Well, the process - the process of creation, development, and innovation. For little me, being able to watch the evolution of amazing large-scale projects I’d never have the time, resources, or patience to carry out was like living vicariously through others. It was a sort of motivation and companionship as I tinkered away at my own work. As I look back, it’s kind of interesting to note that I always preferred to watch the behind-the-scenes footage and to observe the journey, rather than to watch and marvel the end product. I think there’s a reason for that, and I’ve been trying to figure out what that reason exactly is.

I haven’t quite got all the way there yet, but this is a thought-chain of untangling intrinsic motivations, justifying things I probably don’t need to justify, and, most of all: trusting the process.

From Consumption To Creation

I’ve set my bio on pretty much all my social media as some variation of ‘work in progress, trust the process’. The ‘process’, to me, is the doing of things for the sole purpose of doing them, and maybe focusing a bit less on the end result. Maybe I find more enjoyment in just doing things for the sake of doing them, or in watching the development of something instead of taking an interest in what exactly they’re making. It’s true for a lot of the more conventionally ‘less practical’ things like sketching in a bullet journal or trying a new recipe - hobbies or pursuits whose pursuits fulfill you more than what you end up creating.

On the topic of creation - I’ve realized that I’ve gone more from watching stuff about the process (spending hours scrolling through the latest devlogs - I don’t want to talk about the amount of YouTube I watched as a kid) into participating in it myself (some of the more creative hobbies I’ve been trying to explore this past summer). Even as I write this blog - I think I enjoy the process of writing these thought-chains down, than the end result, which I simply leave for future me to cringe at a couple months down the line.

Maybe some people’s creations are fueled more by the goal, but for me it’s always been more or less about the process - but I feel like this summer, and this past year, I’ve been tending towards it even more. It’s not always true for aspects of my life like academics, but maybe I should take some of my own advice and shift towards a more process-focused mindset for that as well. I’ve been finding joy in just making stuff - I generally have no idea what I’m ever going to do with the end products of my diversions, but I like that hobbies, and things beside tech, take my mind off what I’m normally thinking about. When I bake or bookbind or obsessively doodle in my journal, the end product isn’t really the goal - yet it also is, in a way, since it’s a by-product of the process.

Software For Its Own Sake

Tying all this back into development, I guess I’d like to think more about developing software for its own sake. This goes back into a bunch of the ideas I’ve had regarding hyperpersonalized software, and what I want to end up creating, maybe even as a career. Often, the more whimsical, what-the-hell, why-not projcets are those that are explored for the journey and the process itself, not just practicality. Those projects are the ones that draw me in - I don’t think figuring out web monetization and musing about the metadata possibilities of the web are going to cure cancer or figure into some magical, big-bucks data analysis, and that’s fine. I want to build software and tools that I can personally learn from the development of, and enjoy the process of creating. If I’m going to be honest, I don’t think that those projects’ll end up being another pixel-perfect Instagram clone complete with a well-documented REST API to pad my GitHub with.

Conclusion

Still, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to completely reject the slightly cynical and more pragmatic viewpoint that I’ve been working with all this time. This post ended up being me trying to convince myself that accepting some things won’t end up being all that practical is natural - and I think that’s something I’ll be working on for the next while. I’d like to tend towards, yes, specifically targetting certain goals, but also enjoying the process. That takes trust in yourself, since you’ll be building that process while also striving towards whatever you’ve set as an aim. Right now, the more ‘for the process’y things I’m doing, or have been thinking about, are developing some little TUI tools for personal productivity, and messing with my digital workflows. There’s also been a lot of yak-shaving as well - I’ve been writing a bunch of small wrapper scripts to automate tiny parts of my workflow - stuff that’s not particularly impressive or typically ‘useful’, but that I find fun.

This’ll be the last article I publish before I properly start UBC. I’m honestly quite excited for this whole new fresh start, and most of the worries and concerns I have about the transition, is, I think, a result of having too much time and reflection on starting UBC, and not enough actually starting UBC. The anticipation’ll be over soon - at the time of publishing, it’ll be a couple days before I have my orientation right before all classes start. I hope to still be able to post somewhat frequently here, especially as I gain new perspectives and consider new ideas from whatever I’ll be learning and diving into then. It’s been nice to have this space to share my thoughts and work out what I genuinely think about some ideas in tech (see the Zettelkasten mentions and hyperpersonalization threads) - and hey, productive procrastination between assignments is always welcome.


  1. For a primer on what stop-motion is, individual pictures of various subjects are stitched together with a short frame-rate to create an illusion of movement. It operates on the same principle as the little flipbooks you might’ve made or heard of as a kid - each picture contains small differences from the previous shot, thereby making it seem like whatever’s in the photos is moving. A bunch of different mediums are used: clay is popular as it’s sculptible and very tactile, and so are action figures (including Lego). Anything can really be used, including actual people, everyday objects, and creative paintings, textile art, and more. ↩︎

- Yours, Kewbish


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