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Sunday, 19 March 2023


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I think you are a person who enjoys writing what comes to mind and you like thinking out of the box. You cannot be hemmed in into one style or another.

Some say these are like Omakase chefs who have no fixed menu so their clients go for the surprise dishes one after another but they know the chef would not short change them.

Maybe this might explain why your book is dragging along with no end in sight.

Dan K.

I'm definitely more process oriented. I can finish projects, but tend not to, but I stay busy. I'm most productive working with others, with a little social obligation and deadlines. Group projects like magazines can herd the process-oriented into a project. I miss the golden age of magazines, not so much the age, but the magazines.

JH's comment, and defining of the way people work, is brilliant. Project versus process. I wrote five 40,000+ word books and did all the illustrations for them in the space of three years for Amherst Media. None of the books took me more than four months from receipt of contract to completion. I have to be the most project driven person I know because I did all of the books while maintaining a full time schedule within my commercial photography business. And I rarely missed a daily swim practice. Nicholas's realization that the best way to get a project done is to hand it to a freelancer is so true. We live to get stuff done successfully and then move on quickly. No question. Time is money. But the product has to work.

While all five of the instructional photography books were popular and profitable for both the publisher and me I would now decline book projects as the internet has made the whole venture unprofitable for the amount of work required. Wanna learn to take better photos? There is YouTube, Masterclass, etc.

Short form writing is more fun than long form. Working as a professional photographer can be more profitable. Especially so if you can be quick and focused...

Impatience can actually be a positive personality trait. We don't like to wait around....

As a follow up of my comments from yesterday:
I agree with several others who see that the short post on this website could and SHOULD be made into a book.
I see several advantages because of the subject, let’s take a classic aspect of photography such as composition. I am sure you have written about it, but here is the beauty of having a blog, the comments attached to each post.
Now you have the author opinions and the contributions from an interested and educated audience. A synthesis of all that would be something truly special. And it doesn’t have to end with the publication of the book, there would be plenty of material for new editions…

Finally the established audience for this blog would guarantee a robust initial sale.

All the elements are already here.

There's another type of person who works for companies. Normal people. They have a job, they do their best at it and they want to be paid decently and just go home at the end of the day and forget about "the company" and the company drones who often make their lives miserable. Those are the people who make the process and the project work for the company. They are the most essential of all. They're also the least recognized and least rewarded. Welcome to the world post-1984.

I still think a book of edited and compiled posts from TOP would sell at least several thousand copies. Enough to make it worth doing.

Probably I'm a process person, with a "But".

I've completed plenty of things, start to finish. But 40-ish years ago I got into "this thing" where I had trouble finishing paintings. It seemed to be a huge problem at the time. Then I had an epiphany right before grad school (thankfully!) that instead of being all angsty about it, I should embrace the unfinished. That really did open some mental doors for me, and ironically helped me finish works as well. So, the finished work can be 9at least partly) about the process, cf Abstract Expressionism, Process Art, & etc.

And yes, writing can be this as well, cf John McPhee

I sometimes made a similar distinction in my work life between "people who make things happen" and "people who make things work" -- both essential, but often co-existing in mutual suspicion. The art of project management, is to make sure you've got strong exemplars of both, and then make sure they can work together. If you can find them, of course: both varieties are rare and precious. Most people, in my observation, are simply useless dorks who stop things happening or manage to break them.


This really strikes a chord for me, not so much because of what I naturally am, but the environment I find myself in when doing consulting projects.

They’re always limited by time and have clear deliverables. But the large organization I do them for is full of people who kind of just churn along. My biggest challenge is always to move those people into some kind of action so I get their input on time. It’s always my biggest hurdle.

So, I guess, by the nature of my contract I become a project person having to deal with process people.

But that doesn’t explain that I find it hard to motivate myself do start, work on or finish something that isn’t driven by a deadline or a need for hard cold cash.

The two classifications of people make a lot of sense, based on what I've seen in my career as well. Interestingly, I'm an accountant but consider myself a project person. Early in my career, I would go into a company and set up all the processes, then get bored with the routine myself, and move on to the next project or company. The second half of my career was in operational finance where I was fortunate enough to work for a large company that reorganized itself every 18-30 months, so there was always a new project or role to take on. I semi-retired 10 months ago but, unsurprisingly, have stayed more busy than I want with consulting projects.

Maybe this relates to my photography in some way. I enjoy purchasing and playing with antique cameras, and the "project" of learning what makes each one tick (sometimes having it restored) and running a few roles of film through them is the fun part. Then I get bored with that one and need to find a new project camera to learn. The "process" of developing and scanning the film and doing the Photoshop work to the digital image is drudgery. Now, if I can just make a project of getting a few of them sold off so I can buy others and keep my wife happy at the same time.

My thanks to JH for the article (& Mike for putting it up).

I hadn’t reflected on work in those terms explicitly, but I definitely agree. I started work in financial services administration. Very much process-based. I tend to think of it as a bit like manufacturing - lots of little specific tasks, but a continual stream of them. Give me widget A, now widget C, now another A. The enjoyable part was learning new things, but once the processes and related details were learned, it grated.

As I progressed through admin roles, I started to help project people, and enjoyed it. I was encouraged to go for a junior business analyst role when it came up, and thrived. I’m definitely a project person. I love to sink my teeth into something ‘meaty’, analyse what it is, how it affects the wider services and admin tasks, what needs to change to introduce whatever the project is doing, and roll through to the end. I enjoy seeing a big chunk of work done, pausing, and then moving onto the next big thing.

I joined a tech start-up about 4 years ago, and brought my financial services knowledge over. They operate agilely, which I had dabbled in before. There are aspects of thinking about and framing work that I like in agile. The way agile is structured means my role is doing about 3 things concurrently;
- working on the current analysis work in a 2-week ‘sprint’
- supporting the code development & testing based on our previous sprint’s work
- planning the next sprint’s work (with an eye to the one after, or the next ‘Project’)
I.e. agile has turned projects into a continual process. When we’ve done all the analysis and drafting up of work from the current ‘project’, we roll straight into the next one.

There’s no big delivery (a separate team does Production releases of code) so you don’t get the satisfaction of seeing it through to the end & done. Supporting changes to admin does continue after the code goes into Production, so there is endless ‘warranty’ - which has it’s good and bad points.

But overall - Grrrr. So now I’m looking to take my knowledge & experience into a different direction - aiming for Knowledge Leader. Knowledge Leader vs People Leader is a whole other two-kinds-of-people discussion ;~)

I’d say for myself, no, “process v product” is not a particularly useful question. The work generates (or does not) its own rationale for its continued existence. To get involved in navel gazing is distracting, for me.

I’d rather look at what my effort is creating within itself than how I'm making it. (As you’re fond of saying, YMMV.) If the work is compelling, if it’s exciting, if it’s challenging, then the work generates the momentum.

To pigeonhole myself into one box or another does nothing for me. I’ll leave that to others, if it amuses or interests them (and it probably does not).

[Just to note, it's not "process vs. product" but process vs. proJECT. Yours might have been a typo, but just to be clear. --Mike]

Two unrelated comments:

1. The self-definitional outcomes of project-based work makes it harder to conflate activity with achievement. But it does not follow that that is any better (or worse) than process-based work with or without any externally defined outcomes, especially so in the arts where the creative freedom of the work is often the very point of the exercise. For example, can it be said that a great novel is intrinsically more (or less) important than a great poem? Rather, what is important is that whatever you do is fulfilling for you.

2. Mike, I may have already posted this as a response to your New Yorker articles, but IMO you should focus your 'serious' (i.e. other than TOP) writing towards essays founded on and around the topic of photography. You have a lot to say; what you have to say is both important and interesting to a lot of people; its suits your writing style and probably personality; and you are really, really good at it.

Well, It takes me 1/1000 second to do a project, but after 46yrs., still working on the process.


Project types get all the press because of their productivity. 40,000 of this and 20,000 of that. They have something to point to in the can, whereas us studio slugs plod through the ongoing project(s). One artist I think fits both idees is George Herriman. He had to make an entire weeks worth of strips, not to mention the Sunday colour supplement, each and every week. But his genius flowed like honey. Even so, it only comes down to us today because his publisher gave him carte blanche to hang the head scratching syndication outliers and simply give 'er, which he did. A nice combo of project type and process type. Not many have the backing of a W. R. Heart though, so proceed do I, project do the neighbours, bifurcated by well kept fences. I am a process man, happy in my life of exploration, recently retired and equally enjoying the project of putting it all together. Which, I must say, is a fascinating exploration in itself.

The old joke still has plenty of traction: There are two types of people; those who categorize people and those who don’t.

I know a couple where he "makes (lots of) things happen" and "she makes things work". Pretty hard on her.

In a conversation with a successful sculptor about finishing projects. He said that one theory about art is that a piece of art is never really finished, only abandoned. Something to think about in a discussion about process vs. project.

Now that's interesting. I'm certainly a project person in a lot of areas of life, my professional work and my working on SF conventions.

But I think I may be more of a process person in my photography (with the Words Over Windows project as a bit of an outlier; there was a set of goals, the web site and the book, that I drove for fairly ruthlessly once I had the pictures taken).

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