Trust the Fucking Process / by Chelsea Snow

"I'm not sure I should keep doing this thing."

"Trust the process."

"I'm afraid this isn't going to turn out like I had hoped."

"Trust the process."

"I don't know what this is."

"Trust the process."

 "I am riddled with crippling self-doubt and I don't know what to do except eat french fries and drink beer and look at my Instagram feed."

"Trust the process."

I think I might be tired of being told to "trust the process". Not because I don't believe that trusting the process is the absolute best thing you can do, because it totally is. But because it's a really fucking difficult thing to do, and it doesn't exactly address the steps that actually need to take place. It's like being told to "let go" or "open up" or "relax". If these were simple things that we just needed little reminders about from time to time, the world would be a very different place--one filled with super relaxed, open-hearted, baggage-less, trusting-in-their-process people. The truth is, the world is filled with people who are under a lot of pressure to achieve things, to succeed, to act like we know what we're doing, to appear to have our shit together. Trusting the process asks that we stop focusing on the end result, to stop fearing failure, to admit that sometimes (most of the time) we have no idea what we're doing, but to go ahead and do it anyway, to allow ourselves to be vulnerable about our own shortcomings.

Countless books and articles and blog posts and inspirational desktop wallpapers are dedicated to this idea of trusting the process, so for me, it has become another uplifting but meaningless phrase that allows me to avoid having to answer the hardest questions. 

If trusting your process is easy for you, and you have a natural knack for "holding the vision" you need not read any further. But if you've ever struggled with indecision, self-doubt, or a lack of clarity around why and how you're gonna pull this thing off (this can apply to creative projects, relationships, financial goals, or anything else feels unknown and daunting), then here are some pro tips for unpacking what "trusting the process" really means for you.

1. You have to know what your process is.

Before I started graduate school, I had lofty daydreams about how having access to facilities (wood shop, metal shop, ceramics studio, fibers studio) would change my process. Like I would suddenly feel empowered and inspired to use every medium--and I would magically become one of those people who allow the medium to drive their process, and then process would be simple, and I could trust it. The truth is, I don't work that way. My process is complicated, and has many parts that involve but are not limited to thinking, mindless making (material is irrelevant), writing, meditating and stealing--all things that I can easily get carried away with, or conversely, forget to do completely. By examining my own process (not some idealized version of what I think process should be) I have become more intimate with it and more accepting of it. And that's really what trusting is about: intimacy and acceptance. 

2. Trust is not the same as faith.

Trust and faith are very similar--their definitions almost identical. The difference as far as I can tell is that unlike trust, faith is blind--putting the outcome into the hands of someone or something else--usually some kind of higher power. I'm not saying faith is bad, but it can be a little dangerous when it comes to process because it diverts responsibility. I have fallen into this trap before--I might even be in it right now. For the first time in over 25 years, I am looking for a job. But the thing is, I realized that I'm not actually looking. I'm just wanting a job, and having faith in the process that somehow if I just keep doing my work, someone is going to bang down my door and insist on paying me to keep doing it. As we all know, that's not how it works: trust in my creative process is completely unrelated to trust in my job hunting process. Faith looks like believing that a great job would drop into my lap just because I was working so hard. Trust looks like sending my resume out to everyone I know, applying for every job I can find even if I'm unqualified, or it doesn't seem like the perfect thing and to trust that the right opportunity will present itself.

3. It's your process, not the process.

Calling it the process makes it feel like it's a thing that's happening outside of us. It's not. It's happening within you and because of you. There's so much power in that: it's your process. Own it. Lean into it. Gobble it up. 

4. Process = action. 

Just like in the job-hunting scenario above, trusting in a process requires taking action. It isn't just knowing what you want--it's taking steps toward it. To get really meta, I'll use this very project as an example. Step 1 was envisioning myself as a successful writer/illustrator. I could easily have stopped there, made a vision board with pictures of Maria Popova and Cheryl Strayed, a well-lit studio with exposed brick, a stack of books and a lifetime supply of Copic markers. I could easily have tricked myself into a) thinking that making a vision board was the process and b) thinking that "trusting the process" meant simply banking on my own good intentions. Step 2 gets a little closer to the action as I create parameters: I visualize one year from now, with 52 weeks of essays and illustrations in front of me, swimming in a sense of accomplishment. Step 3 is action: write the first one. Don't worry if it's bad. Don't worry if nobody reads it. Just get it out there. Steps 4 through infinity involve lathering, rinsing and repeating. 

5. Stay grounded.

The reality is that trusting the process is a big deal, not just a simple shift in thinking, or a thing you can switch on whenever someone tells you to do it. It's also not for amateurs. I haven't read Shaun McNiff's book "Trust the Process", but I don't think I need to. Here's the Amazon summary:

"Whether in painting, poetry, performance, music, dance, or life, there is an intelligence working in every situation. This force is the primary carrier of creation. If we trust it and follow its natural movement, it will astound us with its ability to find a way through problems—and even make creative use of our mistakes and failures. There is a magic to this process that cannot be controlled by the ego. Somehow it always finds the way to the place where you need to be, and a destination you never could have known in advance. When everything seems as if it is hopeless and going nowhere . . . trust the process." --Shaun McNiff

While it's true that there is an intelligence working in every situation, and that if we trust it it will astound us, we need to remember that to be a lightning rod of that caliber, we need to have our feet firmly on the ground. The force that is the primary carrier of creation is definitely looking for you, but until you put a stake in the ground, it will not know how to find you.

6. Say fuck.

I was told recently that saying fuck all the time is losing its charm. Maybe that's true. For now, I still use it as a word that helps shake things up, and adds a certain emphasis that other words just don't quite provide. And there's something so not precious about the word fuck--because sometimes our process isn't precious: it pisses us off, or doesn't cooperate, or feels daunting or just unknown. Until a new word shows up to replace it in the urban dictionary, fuck is still my favorite word.

 Prints for sale  here .

Prints for sale here.