Creative Mileage: Part 1 - An Introduction
Skip this bit if you don’t care about a quick personal update from myself.
It has been over a year since I last wrote anything to publish online. In fact, it’s pretty much been a year since I’ve been around online at all. That was intentional. I won’t bore you with the details, or ramble too much. But things are better now. More than better. Good news.
The main headline and purpose for this somewhat pretentious preface is to announce a new content schedule. If you’ve been keeping up:
Two weeks ago, I launched a new version of my site.
Last week I added a small update, Playground.
This week’s batch adds another exciting update, a shiny new blog post and design (that’s what you’re reading right now!).
Coming up, every Friday from now until I expire, burn out, go on vacation, something comes up, or the world ends, I will be releasing something new - I’ll announce more details as they come. Expect a thing, of some shape or form, every Friday from here on out. You’re so lucky to have me.
You can keep up with this Friday fiasco by signing up to my (also brand new) newsletter, starting Friday 29th.
Back to the action.
Hey there, pull up a seat. I’d like to talk about a relatively simple concept that has had a very noticeable difference in my day to day life. Mileage.
What on earth are you talking about, are you a car?
No. Unlike cars, humans get much, much better with mileage. Let me explain.
Mileage in the manner I’m speaking about it is referring quite literally to distance travelled. But these are mental miles, and they come from practice and repetition. Working through processes and tasks repeatedly within the areas in which you want to improve specifically. With each run through you get those mental miles and over time they build.
Mileage teaches you the shortcuts, the patterns. With each run through of the process, task or repeated action, you improve, learn or gain a new perspective.
Say, for example, you’re learning to cook, and it’s time make a sauce. The first sauces you make, you’ll need to measure the ingredients and carefully read how to put together bases and all sorts of stuff. But with each time you make a sauce, those steps become more natural. You can eye the ingredients. You know the route to get to specific points. It becomes second nature, and the output becomes much better with a greatly lessened cognitive load.
No, this isn’t about “10,000 hours” or any of that shit. It’s about focusing on the things you directly want to influence and getting that mileage in on them. Breaking goals down so you can plan a favourite route. Then using your time wisely and being adaptive and iterative.
This advice supersedes just the things I talk about in this article (and the forthcoming two parts). But to ensure this doesn't become a thesis, I’ve kept it more limited to focusing around aspects of my life I felt were important. Feel free to apply it however you deem appropriate. It can be as basic as making sandwiches or as elaborate as becoming a rock star. The same mindset applies.
Analysis vs Intuition
At present, I’m putting some of my time into learning about sketching and improving my drawing.
Recently, when I was watching a video on Iterative Drawing, I started playing with the idea of looking at some of the methodologies and concepts, but instead of looking at them as tools to improve my sketching, I set about applying them to my life. Primarily focusing on creativity and how it can be used to complete tasks.
For those of you that don’t have a free hour to watch the above video (understandable), I’ll try and condense the part of the message that spoke to me:
The introduction to the video talks about the spectrum between analytical and intuitive people. Where someone sits on the spectrum helps determine how they would naturally go through processes in sketching and the greater world. The video's creator, Sycra, also speaks of dreams and how they relate to our perception of the world constructed by our brain. Fascinating stuff.
Sycra goes on to speak about how no matter where someone exists on the spectrum, they can always tell when something is “off”, at least to themselves. It’s all about the bridge between intuition and analytical and personal balance. How that bridge gets built is through mileage, and smart use of it.
One of the examples he outlines in the video is the process of learning to draw eyes. Let’s, for self-improvement and value demonstration, play along at home.
Task - Quick Sketching
Time needed: 30 minutes.
Let's work through the example from above. Today we're going to learn to draw eyes. It's only going to take 30 minutes to see some progress. Don't believe me, watch.
Instead of taking a piece of paper and carefully drawing a single eye on a page. Let’s start by quickly sketching 10 “eye shapes” on your page. Work through and flesh them out gradually one by one, thinking about what you remember from last time or just using your intuition. Keep it simple and move fast, looking at your previous attempts and iterating, improving each time using your judgement.
Once you've done your ten eyes, take a photo and tweet them to me @jamiesyke and I'll get your very own discount code over to you for my forthcoming product ❤️
So you've sat, drawn out ten quick shapes and gone through and fleshed each one out, learning and iterating based on your past actions. By thinking differently with each iteration, the result is ten different eyes, unique to you and made through analysis.
Think about how you can expand this outwards when you next have to do a task, taking 10 (or whatever number you like) possible directions, looking at them and gradually fixing, tweaking and selecting.
It’s not just about “drawing a ton of eyes”. You can’t just have confidence, and it’s not just about mileage alone. It’s using your brain to analyse “how” you draw those eyes. This process strengthens your intuition through mileage. Now intuition may not be the right word. But it’s muscle memory. Instinct. You build and train through repetition, just like learning riding a bike. Once you’ve got the process down, it’s second nature.
Approaching tasks in this manner builds your muscle memory and teaches you to apply the theory that you’re creating and parsing in real time. You’re straddling between the intuition and analytical. The bridge.
The outcome of this is that for each task you put mileage into, you get to the point where you “know” what to do. You know what colours to pick, you know what shape you want to make something, and as you grow, you build and apply a style that’s honestly yours.
Overall mileage has had a considerable effect on how I work on a day to day basis. I love building processes, watching tutorials and observing others to hone my craft, this kind of process is ideal for my style of working. This reframing of mentality to further creative power has become very important to me. It’s eye-opening to work in an iterative way to get towards a goal and to build those mental roads. Those roads become more worn with time and link together to make the shortcuts I spoke upon earlier. They become a familiar path.
Want to learn how you can apply mileage to your work and life? Come back Friday. We'll get to it.
Until then ✌️