July 6, 2018
Creative Mileage: Part 3 - Momentum & Scale
Previously on Jamie Syke’s Creative Mileage
Part 1: In part one we learned all about the concept (or at least my interpretation of) mileage and how we can relate to creativity. We also drew some eyes if you played along at home. Good times.
Part 2: Last week, part two looked at the benefits mileage, and iteration has on your life and work.
I wanted to take this, the third and final part, to highlight three examples of mileage and iteration used effectively at scale. We'll also speak a bit on momentum, and it's relationship to talent.
Let's wrap this sucker up. Here we go.
Mileage at scale
When scaling any process, I firmly believe in the self-setting of goals, and while today we won't be going into goals in detail, we will be talking about something that helps augment your goals. By finding successful or remarkable people who have had similar problems or goals to yourself and looking closely at previous applications of methods and studying them in detail, you can learn so much. It's insightful, inspirational and puts you in the right mindset to construct plans and visualise what success looks like to others and engineer how to apply that mindset to yourself.
To get a good idea of mileage at scale executed by an outstanding person. Let’s talk about Kanye (obviously). If you love him, hate him, or don't care, it doesn't matter. He’s a shining beacon of mileage, process and momentum. Just look at the level of consistency and quality he's achieved in a career spanning over 20 years.
Take even the most recent example, five albums released between May 25th and June 22nd worked on by Mr West - releasing his own "Ye", a collaborative album with Kid Cudi titled "KIDS SEE GHOSTS" and handing the executive production for Pusha T's - DAYTONA, Nas' NASIR and Teyana Taylor's K.T.S.E.. An exercise in consistent content, iteration and a remarkable feat. Let's look at this a bit deeper.
What Kanye was doing was adding mileage through regular releases, be it production, rapping, singing or whatever is needed. With all of these albums being experimental and intriguing they create a lot of discussions and provide a reaction so even with such a rapid release schedule he can make small adjustments based on the reception of an album from week to week. It isn't just an exercise of pure expression for Kanye, he'll be studying the results and reacting to the responses. Following a similar structure to most creative projects of Ideate, implement, test, iterate. Using that information to alter the upcoming album releases.
Kanye rides the line between eccentricity and genius very well, using his carefully honed talents to create vast bodies of work, but always swiftly iterating, keeping the attention of the masses and building momentum, audience and reach. As you can expect, pumping out high-quality, consistent content leads to an increase in reach. Releasing five high-quality albums worth of material in as many weeks leads to an explosion.
It's not the first time we've seen something like this, it's been a long-running trend in his career. If you, like myself, are a fan of Kanye, you'll almost certainly remember "GOOD Fridays".
If not and either way, I'll elaborate. Leading up to the releases of 808s & Heartbreak in 2010 and The Life of Pablo in 2016, many free singles were released every Friday leading up to the albums. From old songs, no one had ever heard to demos from the upcoming album. He used the feedback on those demos to adapt the songs that eventually released on the album. Kanye was essentially applying the same process as detailed above for the writing, but using his legion of fans instead of Grammarly. Smart guy.
With exercises like this, Kanye West has built a career on iteration, building and rebuilding himself in different images and styles. Constantly improving and progressing. An inspiring mindset to have.
He has shown time and time again that polish is sometimes not always the key to success. Take the fact that for one of the recent releases "KIDS SEE GHOSTS" with Kid Cudi. One of the verses was recorded by Kid Cudi the night before the album's release and barely mastered. It's an incredibly raw moment that stands out as one of the best moments of the album. Which goes to show that you have no idea what's going to work or be amazing until you try it and you also can't say how you'll perceive something until you do and hear what people have to say about it. A system Kanye embraces wholeheartedly.
This mindset has lead to projects changing names, being altered and updated after release. The best example of this is the Life of Pablo album. Following its release, three reissues of the album, with altered mixing, added guests, removed guests, corrections and such, were pushed out online. A new song "Saint Pablo" was also added a full 4 months after the release of the album. Four months.
But it worked. It captivated in just the way Kanye intended. With Winston Cook-Wilson of Inverse saying of the album: "As a way of holding the public's attention span, Kanye's choice to continue to tweak The Life is Pablo indefinitely is genius. It encourages people to spend time processing an album that deserves it: a bewildering, sprawling, and controversy-courting piece of art."
Everything we've spoken about with mileage and the processes and examples outlines something important. Talent is only half of the solution, sometimes even less. Talent only takes you so far. You need to get the distance in, experiment, iterate and learn. It can’t just be all of one and none of the others. You need balance. Find your passion, work out what you’re good at. Get the mileage and remember to refuel. It’s a long, long journey, but if you break it down and focus on the directions you want to go. It’ll be a good ride.
See you next week for... something else, probably. Wanna hear about it on my wavy newsletter? Go on then.