Traceurs see the world differently.
Where some see a dead end, we see a short-cut. This mindset shift transforms obstacles into opportunities. A (seemingly) singular path-dictated by the structure of walls, railings, and other elements of the environment-can become a multitude. How? By interacting with, instead of avoiding, the environment and that begins with a trick of the imagination. Picture yourself moving over, around and through the obstacles around you.
This ability to imagine yourself flowing over obstacles and spotting opportunities for movement can be an immense boon for your creative powers, in every arena.
“Don’t think! Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.” -Ray Bradbury
Thinking in words can hold back creative potential. Words simply can’t convey as much detail as we can quickly get from our sensory imaginations. In the time it would take me to describe to you the gist of the route I’m imagining I could come up with ten other possibilities. In the same vein a painter can picture an entire painting in his head, a filmmaker can imagine the intricacies of a scene or a developer can see the finished product of her code.
It’s tempting to think those are all innate talents, but they aren’t. Creativity, like anything, is trainable and can be improved with practice. My own experience is a good example. . For most of my life I’ve held the unfortunate belief that I’m simply not creative. I assumed I was the rational and logical type of thinker, and ‘creativity’ was not in my wheelhouse at all. As a kid I didn’t have any real artistic inclinations and didn’t find myself spontaneously generating creative ideas, especially not of the visual sort.
The shift towards a creative mind begun after I started practicing martial arts regularly. When I wasn’t at the dojo I found myself imagining scenarios while walking down the street. I would visualize exactly how my attacker(s) would behave and mentally test effective counters. Practicing those visualizations had effects beyond martial arts practice. Sometimes ideas would manifest as images (more than I’d like as memes…thanks internet), I just lacked the skills to put them on paper.
Parkour blew the door off of this whole creative thinking thing for me. As part of daily practice I had to scan for opportunities, imagining how I could jump, climb, and crawl my way around. Parkour is different in that way, as you’re imagining what you can do right now in this real space, with its unique set of conditions (available obstacles, grip conditions, weather, etc.) and limitations. And it’s the limitations which are, paradoxically, the key to generating more creative ideas. Creating movement under the restrictions of your environment, skillset and ability level is an excellent way to test and flex your creative muscle, with immediate feedback to boot!
“Structure and freedom are two sides of the same coin. Structure yields freedom to creatively roam.” -Todd Henry, Die Empty
It wasn’t long before this scanning process moved beyond the boundaries of training into my daily life. Now whenever I’m out I find myself constantly searching for movement opportunities, regardless of whether I intend to act on them. For myself, the more time spend playing movement possibilities through my mind, the more creative powers I unlocked elsewhere. Anything from ideas for posts (like this one), pictures to create and spontaneous movement ideas now manifest frequently. The missing piece now is the skillset to bring them into reality, but that too simply requires practice (like the sketch that opened this post).
Clearly the act of thinking in a different way, without words, had unlocked a creative side of my mind that I had thought, or perhaps rejected, I didn’t have at all.
Take advantage of thinking with your senses to build your creative capacity. Parkour practice is a powerful tool for flexing your sensory imagination and continuously training your creative muscle. Always stay on the lookout for possibilities and imagine them, without words, to speed your creative thinking and forge new ideas.
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