Parkour your creative process


Heard of Parkour or its close cousin, free running? It’s frickin awesome.

Watch this. 

Other than looking sweet, the goal is to navigate obstacles (tables, cars, mail boxes, etc.) the most efficient way possible, using only your body to run, jump and climb. The way I see it, you vault, roll and swing your badass from here to there trying not to die.

So what does this have to do with creativity? Everything. Let me explain.

Say you want to jump 2″ higher than you can today. How would you do that? The simplest, most effective way is to… wait for it… practice jumping. Duh. Jumping is the perfect exercise to jump higher. So if you’re a writer and want to get better… right, you have to write. But there’s more to that because you also need ideas. Enter, “Parkour Thinking”.

If you watch the “traceurs” (practitioners of parkour), they’re quick, fluid and precise. But they’re also strategic about their path of attack. In a matter of milliseconds, a traceur observes what’s ahead, evaluates the probability of clearing each obstacle, then performs the necessary ninja-like maneuvers to continue on. 

So beyond training their body to excel at running, jumping and climbing, a traceur is highly focused yet capable of adapting to the landscape.  What does that have to do with thinking up great big ideas? Patience, young grasshopper.

While ideas seem like they come to us out of thin air in a magical poof, there’s a process to the inception. We just need to train your brain to work a certain way, like a traceur trains his body.

Step 1: Priming.
Read your creative brief. Ask questions. Read the brief again. Talk to people in the know. Read the brief again. Fill your brain with every morsel of data at your fingertips until it hurts. You’re stimulating your brain to make connections for you later. Did you read the brief?

Step 2: Scratch and scribble.
Clear your desk, leave only some sheets of paper and your favorite pencil. NO PENS! And shut down your computer, I mean it. Now, think up ideas. Think fast. Write fast. Don’t think about what you already thought about. Spill/puke/spew every idea onto the paper. Smoke should be rising from the page. Your fingers will cramp up. Keep going, it’s only been a minute. Four more to go.

Step 3: Walk it off.
Get out of there. But be careful, you may feel a little woozy and/or wobbly. That’s ok.

Step 4: Wander and wonder what if…
Your brain is hyperaware and wants to connect dots back to your project. This is good. Everything from a song lyric to the buttons on your shirt is fair game. Be ready. Let this happen over a day or two and jot down anything that makes you tingle. The more you do/see/experience, the more connections you’ll have. And having lots is vital.

Step 5: Fresh perspective.
Review your scribbled/scattered ideas from the other day. On a new sheet of paper, list any good ideas. With any luck, there are a couple great ideas. Better yet, “sticky” ideas.

Step 6: Parkour.
Pick one of your ideas and give it legs. Take it from point A to point B and beyond. Does it play nice with the creative brief? Does it work in all media? How does the idea evolve after the initial launch? What is its secret sauce?

In no time, you’ll be able to buzz through these steps and land safely on plenty of monster ideas.  Apply this parkour thinking to other areas of your life. Need a killer birthday gift idea for a loved one? How about remodeling/redecorating your home or office? It works.

I’d love to hear how you feel about parkour thinking. Share your few success stories.

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