Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Gear up to cover more creative ground.

I rode my bike the nine miles to work today. I live in a farming community outside a small city, and take a route comprised entirely of two-lane roads with no stoplights and very little shoulder.

I passed hulking blueberry bushes bursting with fruit and nearly obscuring the hand-painted sign reading "pickers wanted." Unnaturally still cornfields with leaves like a pair of corduroy pants I had hated in the fifth grade. Dusty swaths of potatoes flowering in faded-quilt colors: eggplant, butter, cream. The river a muddy smear, motionless and sullen.

I felt I was barely moving, too. My legs were churning and creating a happy cicada whirr in the gears, but I felt mired, as though I were pedaling through that thick river. Sleepiness was the culprit for my hazy thought process, and after a mile or so I woke up enough to look down and realize I was in the wrong gear.

By George6996 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
At that rate, as the road curved out from the woods into sprawling golden fields, gearing up didn't cost me much more effort, but my speed increased rather dramatically. I finally felt the morning open up around me and my bicycle begin to eat up the road. I passed the Tim's Upholstery sign on the side of a barn and the big, scruffy eagle's nest in the crag by the railroad tracks, and I thought about the day's work ahead of me.

First on my list was revising a web page that had been reviewed the previous day. "Why didn't you include such-and-such new product in the comps?" the client had asked. "Well, we hadn't been told about that product." Minor details.

The week before, my rewriting talents had been strained to the breaking point with a similar issue. "This page is actually for two audiences: the one that knows about our product and the one that doesn't. Can you rewrite to address both?"

Working with limited information is like riding a bike in the wrong gear: you can churn and churn and churn, but you're getting nowhere fast. But knowing all the products, all the audiences, all the strategic imperatives up front lets the team slide into that lovely, purring rhythm of productivity, making time, pounding out the miles of creative work.

My ancient Trek and I flickered past the country market, the ramshackle houses of the edge of town, past the cement factory and the broad, glittering expanse of Puget Sound. I pedaled hard, eager to get to that copy now that I could rewrite it in high gear.