Creative Mileage: Part 2 - Benefits in Life & Work

Previously on Jamie Syke’s Creative Mileage

Part 1: Last time out, we learned all about what mileage is and how we can relate to creativity. We also drew some eyes if you played along at home. Good times.

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In part two we’ll be looking into the benefits and how you can apply it to your day to day life and work, to amplify the power of your brain and get a bunch more done. Sound good?

To help illustrate these benefits I’ll go ahead and run through some use case examples from my own experience.

Our first use case should be familiar

Let’s look at one that is pretty ambiguous as to if it would go in the “life” or “work” pile. Sketching. It’s something that I, personally, am currently improving and if you followed along last time and drew some eyes, it should be pretty easy to remember.

So, let’s quickly take that example of drawing the eyes and look at how it’s applied. From a high level: What kinds of elements did you need to think about with each iteration, to get that mileage? - How can you apply these kinds of methodologies to other parts of your life?

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Before you continue reading. Send me your drawings from last time to @jamiesyke on Twitter, I’d love to see how you got along.

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Learning through iteration

You’ll notice that throughout the whole process of the sketching example you’re looking at your own work. Thinking about the how and why behind what you did and working out how to improve it. Seeing what happens if you draw the lines as zigzags or use peculiar or uncommon shapes. Trying new things.

This is a vital part of what makes this process so compelling, you learn from your own work and exploration. At no point is reference needed for you to get to a point you deem to be “correct”.

I found that there is a multitude of different things you can try out, in a whole host of different verticals. You just need to make sure to take each task and break it down, look at what needs to be done. What are the different ways you can construct it? How can you best iterate and think through all the possibilities to see what works best for you?

Ponder the variety of methods you can apply to each process and in turn, learn those patterns that lead to the momentum that comes from that path being familiar.

Mileage in the writing process

Moving on, to look at another example from my own life and one that you’re currently joining me in. Writing.

A big part of the content plan I shared _at the beginning of part one_ is writing. So upon kicking this all off, I looked at applying this iterative, mileage-based methodology to my practice.

By working this way and doing the “right” tasks, in quite a high-level manner, comparing my previous work to what I’ve done. I can pick the parts I want to improve and look in that direction more with laser focus. I see what happens if I tweak the tone slightly with each iteration or move some sections around. It keeps things fresh and exciting as you’re always working on a “new” task with each iteration.

Let’s run through my process for writing this article and see where mileage comes into play to assist my creativity:

- Step One: I am usually in the shower, on the tube or walking down the street and an idea will hit me out of the blue. I’ll often stop whatever it is what I’m doing and put a note in my phone (I use Ulysses on both Mac and iPhone). In this case, I watched the video linked in the first article, and after a few days thinking around the idea, I started a new document the new document when I was confident I could write about the matter. You're reading the result.

- Step Two: In most cases, it’ll be those bolt from the blue inspirations I act on. So when I’m first getting the idea down, if I have some free time (or can make time) at this point, I’ll try and take some time (usually between 20 and 60 minutes) to vomit out an ocean of thoughts onto a page, watch some YouTube videos or do some research on the subject. For this article, I had already had those few days to think, so I had a lot of notes to put down, as you can tell by the fact this article is published in three parts.

- Step Three: If there’s any further research I feel I need to do, I’ll do it here. I don’t want to be referring to reference outside of my own notes once I’m inside the process of writing. To avoid copying ideas or fundamentals. I want my thoughts to be my own, so I cultivate an environment for that to be the result.

- Step Four: It’s time to dig through all these damn notes. I’ll read through everything and, after wondering just how I stoned I was, I’ll get into expanding the reams of bullet points, questions and the like into something comprehensible. I’ll run through and ensure that I’m illustrating the more substantial aspects of the article and jot choppy sentences that I’ll want to include and can build into larger sections later. Keeping little structure and ensuring the constantly be refining the notes and points by iterating on their wording and tone.

- Step Five: At this point, I’ll try and put together a plot and skeleton from the parts I have so far. It was at this stage of this particular article I started realising that it would likely need to be split up into multiple parts. But here is where I’ll try and answer the all-important questions: What is the point in the article? How can I best put that across to my audience? - If I can answer those, I have an article.

- Step Six: It should be coming to a point where you can start shuffling sections around and pulling things together. Here’s where we get real iterative. Firstly, I’ll take each of the parts and rewrite them in isolation. I’ll then take all of these elements and tie them together again, continually shuffling and improving. Considering the whole article and reading it aloud, changing and tweaking parts as I go. Going through as many times as needed until “happy” that it isn’t boring as fuck.

- Step Seven: If at this stage I don’t re-write the whole article because I have decided I hate it, it’s time to run through Grammarly, no human is better than a robot at finding duplicate words and incorrect punctuation. Massive time saver. However, after the robots have had their time, it’s time to let some fellow humans read what I’ve made and ensuring that I haven’t gone completely insane. Once that check is complete I can go ahead and pop the article in the to post pile and eventually, it’ll make its way onto these here internets.

I know, I know. It’s a bit long. But it’s not quite as elaborate as you think and it’s done (in my case anyway) at break-neck speed. I originally wrote about how good this method proved at getting things out on time. Then I missed my deadline for the first post 🙄. My excuse was that I hadn’t written in a year and despite the slight tardiness, I am still happy with the process, and I’m confident that going forward it will prove to be efficient and swift.

An essential part of this process is making sure to limit the iteration once the changes are getting smaller, or very picky. That’s when you get help, finalise and put it in the “To post” pile. No decent mileage comes from small, picky changes. Move fast.

Applying the methods to hobbies

The final aspect of my life we’ll briefly inspect today is something that is becoming a big part of my downtime. As someone who has struggled for a significant portion of their life finding hobbies, music has always been the one thing that kept me interested.

I’d played around with DJ-ing before, but have recently got back into it and practising every day with this iterative mindset is making a huge difference, to the point where friends have commented on how quickly I have improved. I’ve found the fastest way of developing is to practice with the same core set of songs (say in this example, 20-30) and play them every day, but each time try different orders, transitions, “paths” between songs and through the set.

The next step I’m going to take in this is one that I learned when I used to play video games competitively and is heavily used in sports all over the world. Taking advantage of footage.

I’m going to start recording my sets and pinpointing where my mistakes are, so I can improve and alter my iterations based on, once again, data that I’ve created myself. I’m not listening to other’s mixing work at this moment, I’m working out my taste, finding my style and getting that mileage needed to get to the best version of the set.

If that set gets good enough, I’ll go ahead and release it as a bonus on one of these sweet, sweet content filled Fridays I’m serving up.

Wrap this up already!

I’ve gone on long enough, let’s tie this up and leave you with bated breath for the next week.

However. With all this “I’m doing a completely unwarranted multi-part series” glory still shining in my eyes, I can hear someone crying: “Oh, Jamie. All this mileage stuff. It seems a bit simple doesn’t it?” - And I respond, Yep. It’s super easy to apply to your life and give a try, there’s no barrier to it. It’s more the building of momentum and framing of the mileage that is important here. It helps improve your mentality and puts you in a great place to push things forward in your life as a whole.

As you can see, from some of the examples above, I’ve been applying it quite liberally to my own life, and so far I’ve noticed that even something as simple as thinking through a series of design problems quickly as thumbnails. Exploring a variety of options and directions with haste, I’m able to push out significantly more work and improve substantially in shorter periods of time than I had been before. As long as I look at the parts of what I need to do and how they’re put together, I can pick a direction and start “driving” a road.

I used to look at things very black and white and think that just because I “understood” something, meant I was great at it. But it took a while to realise that just because you understand the theory, you aren’t the master of it it, and that is very important. You don’t just go to the gym, learn to pick up the weights and then go “OK, I did it”. You have to put in the reps and improve with time, make small adjustments and learn over time. The more efficient you become at that exploration process, the better you’ll be at applying this concept.

Next time we’ll look at mileage at scale. Exploring how far mileage can take you. Be here next Friday for that. Likely to forget? Don’t worry about it, just follow me on Twitter, or sign up to the newsletter (or both) and you’ll get a reminder. Awesome.

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