Idea Tournament: A Creative Cleanse

I recently completed an Idea Tournament, a creative exercise that I did in 2016 when I left Mirada to strike out on my own as an independent creator. First and foremost, I 100% stole the idea for this exercise from Lucas Martell, who has recently done some incredible work in VR. I modified his version to better meet my own needs, and I wanted to share it with you all in case it is as helpful for others as it has been for me. I’ll explain it first, and then describe how it has helped me.

The basic structure for an Idea Tournament is:

  • Day One: write down (5) new ideas for something you want to make; keep it top-level – “Jaws in space” or anything you like.
  • Day Two through Day Five: write down (5) new ideas and (1) logline for your favorite idea from the day before.
  • Day Six: write down (5) new ideas, (1) logline, and (1) synopsis of your favorite logline from the last five days.
  • Day Seven Onward: repeat in five-day chunks as long as you can.

That’s it. Pretty basic, but incredibly powerful. I’ve also come up with a couple of ‘rules’ along the way based on my own experience; it is not “cheating” if you:

  • Pull old ideas out of the drawer and include them – the goal is to get every last idea clattering around in your head down on paper.
  • Use the weekends to catch up and complete any items you don’t finish during the week.
  • Write ideas down as they come to you.
  • Read, watch, and experience as much as you can on as many topics as you can, and keep track of ideas that come to you during.

I ran out of steam somewhere in the four-week range, but if you keep it going that long you will have (100) ideas, (20) loglines, and (4) synopses. Along the way, you will have made your own ideas compete against each other, and you’ll often surprise yourself with the discovery that something you really want to write/make is actually not as good as something else. You will also begin to discover themes that resonate with you as new ideas begin to traipse into the same territory as older ones, and you’ll refine your own thinking as you go. I learned quite a lot about my own process this time, and I was able to pull together ideas that have stuck with me over the last 20+ years and come up with even better new ones.

I have been incredibly creatively invigorated both times that I have done an Idea Tournament – I jokingly refer to it as a juice cleanse for creativity. If nothing else, it’s a great way to organize all of your ideas into one place and evaluate them against each other.

Now to decide which ideas are most worth making…