Rough Drafts and Dummy Runs


You talk it up.

But the response is chilly, putting a freeze on your unfinished work.

Things feel icy, and you question whether you really are a painter, a baker, a coach…


What you need is a dummy run…


Test. Step back. Leap. Rinse and repeat.

Anything can be put through a practice run and everything improves when we renew the creative fires.

Season after season, in the boardroom, on stage, with paper, and in the woods.

But the best (labs) are thrown together in storefronts, on rooftops, and living rooms. Ordinary places where you run through, daydream, re-make and assert your right to test, test, test.

For awhile now, I’ve been borrowing from the best and keeping an unofficial list of rough drafts and dummy runs.

THE SCRATCH is choreographer Twyla Tharp’s way of taking little ideas and meeting them halfway. It’s an improvisational practice of visiting sights and scouring books, music, fashion, whatever is needed to generate unexpected ideas.

THE SCAVENGER HUNT is what artist Keri Smith defines as an adventure where you prowl the world looking for treasures, and going to great lengths to collect mundane items and imbue them with superpowers.

THE RAPID PROTOTYPE is management guru Tom Peters dance of innovation. You get an idea, you run a quick and dirty test. Then you ask, what happened? What can we learn? What can we do differently next time? And then you get on with it and do it again and again and again.

THE SPONTANEOUS WRITING BOOTH is how writer Natalie Goldberg lets go. All you need is a public space, a pile of paper, a table and chair, pens and a sign that says, writing on demand.

THE BLITZ is my way of orienting short-intense bursts of time around a small part of a big project. Working it from every conceivable angle. Taking high-single-daily actions and delivering fast and ugly evidence.


Next time you’re left empty and cold, instead of waiting for the thunderbolt to hit, take your idea and turn it into something else.

You can re-make ->

a half-baked screen-play into a dinner party
a jilted book project into a mixed tape
a clumsy business plan into a field guide
a tired mediation practice into a series of pastel sketches.

Change up the experiment. Keep some of it and throw some away.

Best of all, press play.

Now you’re cooking with fire!


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