Process vs. Project: From Knitting to Programming

Art and craft have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I have spent more than 18 years knitting and spending time with creative individuals. I have organized many classes and earned a certification in knitting instruction. It has taught me a great deal about how people approach creation and learning in any medium, from knitting to programming.

There is a concept in crafting called Process versus Project. The idea on the surface is simple. Which interests you more: the Process of creation or the finished Product? You will occasionally see makers refer to themselves as Process People or Project People, and most people fall into one of the two camps.

Comparing Process and Project

Let’s start by defining the process archetype. These folks tend to celebrate the process of creating. Research, testing, working through logic — every step is a good step. Rough drafts, half-finished projects, deleting work: none of these tend to scare process people. They’re in it to do the work, and fixing mistakes only means more time can be spent creating and improving. The finished object is the icing on the cake. They might work on several projects at a time.


Process people care more about the process than the finished project.
A finished project

The project archetype, by contrast, is interested in the cool finished object, especially the custom and the unique. They often look for the quickest path to ground, even if it involves leaving small mistakes in the work. They celebrate at the finish line, no matter how little they might have enjoyed the process. (Some folks might not enjoy the process at all.) These folks tend to be monogamous in their work, working on one project at a time.

The Tough Question

So which one are you? You may have had a gut reaction when reading the descriptions. However, I encourage you to take a deeper look. Think about your past projects. How did you find motivation when you were stuck? Did it come to you while looking for a quiet moment when you could get back to enjoying the process? Did you find it when you envisioned showing off your crisp, clean, finished object?

Both? Neither?

You might not be a process or a project person! You could be both, cherry-picking the aspects of the two that fit you. You could be neither, and you could reject the concept entirely. Your methodology could vary based on the project you’re working on. Do you find it changes based on the day or the feature you’re working on? How can shifting gears help you find motivation again?

Examining yourself and your motivations can be tough. However, highlighting the differences in the source of your motivation can help you find inspiration again and again.

  • Abi Franklin says:

    Great read, Sam. This was sent to me by another dev who knows that I love to knit. In both worlds, I’m definitely a process person.

    How do I find my motivation? I like to document the journey and I find that it helps motivate me to keep going and provides that bit of guilt when I look back at unfinished projects.

    The dopamine hit of the cast on is very tempting.

    • Sam Thorne says:

      Documentation is a great point, you’re absolutely right that it keeps us honest. I find it helps me to be willing to explore new things too.

      The dopamine hit of the cast on is real!

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