Excuse me while I kiss the sky

It’s after midnight. I’m promised myself I’d hit the gym in the morning. I need a routine. I need to follow through. I’m stuck. I can’t move forward.

The thing is I can’t sleep. I have a mess of thoughts whipping around in my head like protons in an ion collider. Yeah, I bet you haven’t heard that analogy before. Me either. Funny what you’ll think of after midnight.

I’m going to the gym because I want to get back on track—literally. My goal is to try kickboxing again. If I can conquer kickboxing, I can conquer just about anything—my writing, my fitness, my fears.

But I’m not ready. Not yet. I need to build up my strength and endurance, starting with the track and then moving to the weights. We’ll see. Maybe I’ll take my new iPod. Music is a great motivator, but you knew I’d
say that. How about a motivator you wouldn’t expect?

How about Facebook?

Not really. I personally believe Facebook is an evil monster that consumes precious time. It’s also a numbing drug that alleviates stress and boredom—to be used temporarily, mind you. It can be habit forming. But
occasionally something good pops up on Facebook’s Recent News. I’m talking about a link to one of my favorite blogs, Parkour Training Blog. The key word? Flow.

Flow is usually associated with Parkour. (If you don’t know what Parkour is, check out the Parkour Training Blog.) Flow, as the author Dan Dinu describes it, is the “harmony of moving fluently.” You see, for a traceur (a person who practices Parkour), moving through an environment from Point A to Point B can be kind of a creative expression all its own. It’s like a dance with life.

I like learning about Parkour because I frequently transfer the principles of Parkour to the principles of life. I’ve been a freelance journalist for a long time now, but the one element that is I hope is characteristic of my work is flow. When I write a story about a person, I like for the parts of the story to flow smoothly from one part to another. In terms of writing a novel, it would be like moving seamlessly from scene to scene.

I’ve had a very difficult time writing lately because I am still negotiating the stages of grief—and not so well mind you, but that’s another story. The words don’t flow. My thoughts don’t flow. My life is NOT flowing. When Dinu talks about flow, he illustrates his text with examples of tango and ballet, “precise and continuous gliding.” Yeah, that’s what I’m aiming for—in writing, in music, in life.

In order to achieve said state of flow in parkour, Dinu says “never train.” When I read this first tip, I knew immediately where he was going. He relates this point to artists like Picasso. People who create are not drained by their “practice.” They are rejuvenated, re-filled.

Let us not forget that when God gave us our talent and passion, he meant for us to enjoy it. It should be gift, not a burden. Wouldn’t it be great if we always considered every moment of life a gift, not a burden, regardless of the circumstance? Some people say just “go with the flow and be happy.” Christian call it joy.

When I pick up my guitar, I immediately know the difference between the two types of practicing. I am NOT a great guitar player. But I do know enough to say that if I have to force myself to play, I’m not playing the way I should. When I play the piece during this type of practice, the notes are stiff, mechanical. But when I “feel” the music, I I find myself on another level of playing. This is the type of practice that occurs when I’m totally focused, totally one with the music.

Dinu refers to the way guitar guru Jimi Hendrix let his feelings flow when he played. Exactly! Hendrix didn’t just play the notes; he felt them. (Good example. I can relate to Jimi’s purple haze. No, the song isn’t really about some pyschedelic drug-induced haze.)

Right now my biggest obstacle in writing (and life) is fear. Of what? I don’t know. Failure, maybe. Don’t we all? The publishing industry has a very narrow gate. Will I ever find myself moving through it? I’m not afraid to write. I’m afraid I’m not writing right. I’ll admit I pray about this problem almost without ceasing, but God doesn’t grant wishes like a genie. He has a purpose, and sometimes He lets us work our way to a solution so that we’ll grow stronger–and wiser.

Dinu says with Parkour, there is more than one way doing something. I have to remember that when I write and follow my gut instinct, I get better results. It’s kind of like playing music. Rather than playing a copy cat version of a song, the really good musicians will make it their own. After all, people are remembered only if they stand out in a crowd. For writers, this means finding their own voice and knowing the right time to break the right rules.

Dinu brings up other pointers too, like paying attention to obstacles and being yourself—knowing where you stand so not to lose your orientation and again, making the song your own, making your writing your own, making your life your own!

If I could offer readers, wannabe writers like myself, and dreamers at larger two bits of advice, I would say this—remember the flow and read, read, read anything and everything well written. You can glean something worthwhile from anything well written. Who would’ve thunk Parkour had anything to do with music or writing or especially life? But how well indeed it does.

As I read the article, my thought processes flowed freely and smoothly from one discipline to the other. I’m inspired. I want to inspire others too.

What is it that you want? Where are your feet? Did you pay attention to where they were so that you can see how you got where you are now ? And where do you need to place them so that you can get where you want to go?

My feet are going to hit the sheets. It’s after 2 a.m. I’ve got to be at the gym by 7:30.

(P.S. Happy birthday, Dan!)

Monday Mentor: TCup Grosch

 
  

Today’s Monday Mentor takes a different approach. As I was doing research for my manuscript, The Edge, I turned to TCup, who was kind enough to answer my basic questions about parkour. Like the main character in my book, he too is a traceur.

 In case you don’t know, a traceur refers to a guy who practices parkour. Parkour is a sport that involves using one’s body to get past obstacles, either mental or physical, by running, jumping, rolling, climbing, etc. As I learned more about parkour, I soon realized that the philosophy behind the sport is a philosophy that I could adapt toward life.

Parkour requires the athlete to train and to stay focused so that he or she can be prepared to deal with problems as they arise. Most athletes are fairly young because the sport requires a lot from the body. But anyone can benefit from even the basic concepts.

Writers are faced with “obstacles” with every plot turn. Sometimes we simply shut off the computer and grab chocolate instead of working our way over what’s in our path. Adopting a parkour philosophy can make us stronger, more creative writers.

And if you want to take it a step further, the parkour philopsphy can make us better disciples of Christ. The traceur’s motto is “Être fort pour être utile.” Translated, the motto says you have to be strong to be useful. I associate the principle with “I can do all things through Christ,” but that’s just my personal philosophy.

Many thanks go to TCup for helping my readers (and hopefully future readers) learn more about parkour.

 How were you introduced to parkour?

I was introduced to parkour as a sport a few years ago, when I saw an Internet video of a guy doing some crazy stunts off buildings. We later went to New Orleans on a mission trip, and my friends and I taught ourselves how to climb up onto the building where we were staying. We were able to make our way across the roof, jump off the building, and land without breaking anything. On a side note that was the best game of capture the flag ever!

But when I looked back even further, I realized that I had been doing these moves almost my whole life, not intentionally, but whenever I would bob or weave through a rail or hang out on the jungle gym as a kid.

 Are you saying many of the parkour moves are basically natural?

When you’re running and climbing on stuff, you get a feel for the basic move sets for parkour. I feel like it’s the same thing, just on a much bigger scale. Now I grab rails and jump off of things whenever I can, that is, unless there are masses of people around that would point and laugh if I messed up and hurt myself. (It happens… a lot.)

 Do parkour athletes train alone or in groups?

I tried to find a parkour clan near Nashville so that if I was going to run around and look like an idiot, at least I wouldn’t be alone. I’ve heard it’s better to run in small groups of 2-4 people anyway. You’re supposed to get a better feel for how you can overcome obstacles when you see other people doing it.  Then you can try it yourself. It makes sense, but I still haven’t heard back from any of the groups I tried to contact.

How is parkour different from other sports?

For people with a history in sports, it’s much, MUCH different than anything else out there. I can’t think of any other sport that uses the same skill sets as parkour. Although it helps a lot to be physically fit, you’ll still have to train your body through the steps of the moves.

 Is there an age limit for this sport?

While it does help to be in shape, I don’t think there is an “age limit” to free running. I mean if you feel that you’re up to it, then you probably are. Everyone should take it easy at first, to get a feel for it. During the introductory period, you could easily decide if want to keep learning or not.

What does parkour do for you?

Once I get really focused on running, the adrenaline kicks in, and the moves start coming more and more naturally I get a feeling that I wish everyone could feel at least once in their life. I can only describe this feeling as a euphoria, which is what really draws me to free running.  It’s when I feel like I’m in tune with everything around. me. (Typing this makes me realize I may be an adrenaline junkie.)

Do people have to change their lives to practice parkour?

Learning parkour isn’t what I would describe as life changing. Aside from having people stare at you when you jump off of something, it really doesn’t affect a person’s schedule or anything like that. Unless your planning on devoting masses of time to practice, or if a person was really good and went professional, it shouldn’t affect you that much. As for me, I don’t think it has at all, with the exception of practice time.

How can people learn more about parkour?

It isn’t as popular of a sport as is should be in my opinion, which means that there is only a very limited number of instructional videos and things like that, so my answer on where to learn things would be the Internet. I know it’s shallow, but Internet videos are usually accurate when it comes to that kind of thing. After that, the best thing to do would be just to get out and try stuff, whatever you think you can handle.

So you really think anyone can do something that involves the very basics of parkour?

Humans were built for this kind of thing. You just have to—I guess for lack of better terms__un-train yourself. (That makes it sound like we’re de-evolving or something.) Parkour has so many different levels from “professional” to all the way down to “that kid that jumps off the rail every day after school.”

So for beginners, it’s not like other sports where you’re trying to push your limits. It’s knowing your limits first and then expanding slowly. I know I sound like one of those lame instructional videos, but learning your abilities is the difference between doing an epic leap off of a building and showing up on the news as an idiot who tried a ridiculous stunt.

Personal note: Check out this site if you’d like a taste of what parkour is all about.

http://parkourathlete.wordpress.com/

Mossy oak and parkour

I’m warning you. Don’t do it. Yeah, I know. Little kids do it. Middle schoolers do it. High school students definitely do it, and the majority of college students do it. What is “it” you ask? “It” refers to the Pavlovian response non-writers exhibit when their instructors give them a research assignment. There is no need for you to assume the fetal position. There is no need for you to resort to weeping, wailing, and the gnashing of teeth. 

I would expect such behavior out of graphophics. (Research the word if you don’t know what it means.) But not YOU. You are writers. Bite the bullet. Accept the challenge. Take it like a man, a burly man with hair on his chest. Better yet, take it like Stephenie Meyer, J.K. Rowling, James Patterson or Alice Sebold. If you want to write, write. But first do your research.

Except for the few times when I was given an opportunity to interview a band on the spur of the moment, I’ve had to do my homework as I prepared for an interview. Note to potential journalists: Some celebrities get frustrated when they have to spout off the same information that is easily found on their websites. I always start there and then ask myself, “What did the publicist fail to mention?” I start there as I make my list of questions. OR if I do find an interesting fact on the website, I will intentionally ask the person to tell me about it so that I can get a fresh quote, one that I won’t have to credit to another publication. Plus, people generally appreciate the fact that you consider them worthy of your time investment.

I don’t consider spending ten minutes Googling the name or topic adequate research. And by all means, don’t stop with your Wikipedia responses. I always take my research as far as it will go. Remember when I told you I tracked down the mother of the drummer of a California ska band so that I could get an interview with him? Trust me. I didn’t find her name on the first try. (I am NOT advocating that you harass or stalk. Please see the previous blogs concerning stalking.)

Now that I’m learning more about fiction, I have realized that researching my story has been both challenging and fun. My main character TJ is a Memphis transplant, so my family and I traveled to Memphis and spent a lot of time on Beale and in the “scary areas” of Memphis to get into his head, to understand WHY he would make some of his decisions. Research has its benefits, you know. I can name a few we picked up in Memphis: ribs, ribs and more ribs.

Sometimes research can even have a positive impact on the writer. TJ is a runner.A five-mile run is nothing to him, but he’s not the organized sports type. He is more of a freerunner, which comes in handy being that he has ticked off the entire football team. TJ actually considers himself a traceur because he practices parkour (PK). As a result of my research, I am now fascinated by freerunners and traceurs, and I hope to include an interview with the freerunner Tcup very soon.

I would like to be a traceuse—that’s the fancy French name for a girl who practices parkour—but there are a few things holding me back.

  • One, parkour enthusiasts are young. (Strike one.)
  • Two, parkour involves endurance. (Strike two.)
  • Three, parkour involves speed. (Strike three.)

I am sorry to say I will never be a traceuse. However, I have made a strong effort to pursue better physical fitness. Perhaps with my pursuit of physical fitness I can also work toward those nonphysical atttributes parkour enthusiasts value: respect toward others, humility, sharing of knowledge and the love of having fun.

I’m really liking that part about having fun. But guess what? Physical fitness is HARD. You have to WORK at it before it become FUN. Remember I am she who lacks endurance, coordination and youth, emphasis on youth. Running around my block once is about all the physical fitness I can endure. I’m exaggerating here. I said running around the block once. I have not made it one full round running once.  Walking, crawling, panting and heaving have also been involved. If I had to major in one of those values parkour enthusiasts value, it would be humility. I have already suffered, through my pursuit of physical fitness, more humiliation than a woman my age should.

I went to Walmart tonight with the intent of purchasing apparel that might encourage my physical fitness, and I found the perfect outfit. Pardon me if I don’t get the color exactly right, but I believe they call it mossy oak. I’ve included a similar picture below.  I like to keep my activities on the DL (yes, I know the phrase is outdated—so am I) so that I keep the humiliation to a minimum. Perhaps as I pursue my physical fitness I will not be noticed.

Let me know what you think, and feel free to share your own thoughts on the added benefits of researching what you write.

Let’s roll with it!

Having just finished my first YA novel, I’m chomping at the bit, ready to roll. I know I have to wait on God’s timing, but I have to admit I’m a little bit antsy. I have a hard time being still. (Yes, I can see a God message in this.) But what do you do when you’ve spent a year living with these characters, taking them everywhere you go and going to many of the places they visit in their own adventures?  I’m lonely. I’m ready to go on another adventure.

As I was doing preparation work for my novel, I found a great book by Sebastien Foucan, titled Free Running: The Urban Landscape Is Your Playground. The main character in my book is a free runner, or more accurately, a traceur, which, technically is not the same as free running but is close. Mr. Foucan taught me a great deal about TJ’s life and his attitude toward life.  I also learned serendipitiously a great deal about the Christian life–although this book by no means deals with Christianity or any other religion. It is a book about parkour, the art of moving through one’s environment as smoothly as possibily and overcoming whatever obstacles show up in one’s path–physical or mental.

I recommend this book if you’re needing encouragement even if parkour and free running are not for you. Here are a few tips that have inspired me.

1.  Don’t compete.  Do what we’re supposed to do without comparing ourselves to others.

2. Possession is illusion. The writer points out nothing on this planet is permanent. He says “don’t attach your happiness and success to a specific person or place.”  We have to continue on when these are gone. Wow. Christians, did you hear that? God is the true source of our joy–nothing else.

3. Be a participant, not a spectator.

4. Enjoy the journey.

5. There are risks everywhere.

TJ’s obsession with parkour has influenced my entire family. My younger son wants to do back flips off walls and to jump over everything. My older son says he would like to be a traceur. My husband recorded the MTV Ultimate Parkour. And what about me? I wanted to keep up with TJ, so I decided to try my own version of free running. I made it around the block and to the mailbox. Okay, maybe I’m not there yet, but I’m pushing toward a postitive attitude toward every mental obstacle I encounter. That counts for something, right?

 “Être fort pour être utile.”  That’s the traceur’s motto. You’ve got to be strong to be useful, especially to others.

Be strong everybody! ~ Ephesians 6:10