In this post, I will explore one of the classic challenges in our game, the Urban Challenger. One of the challenges is to write an Urban Haiku. Over the years, I have read beautiful snapshots of moments from people who have played. This post will guide you to learn the format and expand that challenge, making it a creative approach to city exploration.

1. Hit the pause button

Haiku is like an overnight stop on the Self-Expression Express. It's the ideal creative pause for people rushing between destinations. It can often capture a more honest image of what was happening in your head on a given day.

Writing haikus helps me observe the world around me, stay present, and enter a state of calmness. I enjoy the process of allowing the city to leave an imprint on me. That's why I believe taking more time to dive deeper into this beautiful art form can be so rewarding.

2. Learn the format

Although a haiku is simple in and of itself, the rules provide significant confinement (that helps the creative process in my experience) and are surprisingly complex:

  • It should be 3 lines long, with a pattern of 5 syllables in the first line, 7 in the second line, and 5 in the third line. The exact syllable count can vary slightly.
  • Use present tense.
  • Take inspiration from the natural world around you. Haikus often incorporate imagery that references the different seasons of the year.
  • Describe what is causing your feeling, but not the feeling itself.
  • Avoid using metaphors, similes, and rhymes.
  • The last line often contains a little twist.

Here is an example of the famous Haiku master Matsuo Bashō:

An old silent pond . . .

A frog jumps into the pond,

splash! Silence again.

Here is another example:

Berlin Wall
a smooth stone
in my pocket.
H. Gene Murtha

3. Find a spot, observe and write 

Now all you need to do is find time to sit and observe, letting the muse come to you in the form of words bubbling up from your subconscious mind. You can set time aside or use the empty spaces in your schedule, like a cross-town train trip, ideal for letting your mind wander aimlessly, guaranteed to find something that catches its fancy. Then, grab your pen and paper and…

Condense your observations
Into Haikus of three short lines
Striking and abstract

4. Share your wisdom

Do you like the words that found their way onto the paper? Then please share them with us so that we can appreciate the beauty of your haiku too!