Dan Roge on Wendell Berry: Process and Product

I recently had a chance to visit with my dear friend Dan Roge in Washington, D.C. Dan is a big fan of Wendell Berry1, an acclaimed author and activist. Recently, Dan had the privilege of sharing Berry’s company in the luminary’s own home.

Dan shared many lessons he gleaned from that visit, but one in particular has been rolling around in my head for the last several weeks. Here’s an excerpt from Dan’s own hand, describing the relationship between the actual work Berry produces and the way he produces it:

There was no differing between what he produced and the way he produced it, everything was wrapped up into one. The way is the same as the product. In this regard, I was just as impressed with what he didn’t do as with what he did. He shared stories about missing out on being more widely published because he remained loyal to his longtime editor. Ultimately, this resulted in money being tight for him and his family when it might not have been otherwise. It did, however, preserve his relationship with his editor. This, for him and for [his wife], was net gain.

The way is the same as the product.

Those words are worth stewing on for a good while. When I look at my to-do list most days, my main focus is completion, not the means by which I get there. I do think critically about what I do2, which is a start, but the idea that how I accomplish things is as important as the things that are accomplished is still very challenging. Allocating time well isn’t the same as paying careful attention to how you do what you do.

Thank you, Dan and Mr. Berry. I have much to chew on as we approach the new year.


1. Wendell Berry is “…an American novelist, poet, environmental activist, cultural critic, and farmer. A prolific author, he has written dozens of novels, short stories, poems, and essays.” Read more about Berry on Wikipedia.2. You can read more about how I do what I do and how I think about what I do in a series of articles I call “Making it Count“.

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