Sometimes that's the best way to work stuff out, I find. Think you hit the mark with it in the end.
I've got pages and pages in my sketchbooks where I've just played around with effects like that when I've got nothing better to do or my muse has clocked out for a while, that way if I get stuck I can flip though my pages of scraps of texture and (in theory) figure out what I did to get that particular effect. (Also good for getting a muse to clock back in Never know when an interesting pattern or squiggle will spark an image later on when you see it again)
It's so true, it's one of those aspects of art that is sometimes, in my opinion, the less-fun part (mainly when it's particularly challenging and you just got fail after fail attempts) but it's so necessary and worth it!!!
That's such a good thing to have, some of mine are like that too I totally know that feeling (cuz you don't always remember all the steps!!!), very helpful to be able to go back on!!!