Excerpts From Improv Wisdom: Don't Prepare, Just Show Up
Patricia Ryan Madson
1. Say Yes
2. Don't Prepare
3. Just Show Up
4. Start anywhere
5. Be average
6. Pay attention
7. Face the facts
8. Stay on course
9. Wake up to the gifts
10. Make mistakes, please
11. Act now
12. Take care of each other
13. Enjoy the ride
"What would you do if you knew you would not fail? What would you do?" (17)
"Life is an improvisation" (15)
"Listen to your inner promptings. Don't make choices to impress others or to gain status. Listen to your own drum and march to it" (13)
"Learn to listen and trust your own imagination" (13)
"Seize the day, live each precious moment fully and with gusto" (15)
"A good improviser is someone who is awake, not entirely self-focused, and moved by a desire to do something useful and give something back and who acts upon this impulse" (15)
"Take chances and do more of the things that are important to you" (15)
"Make more mistakes, laugh more often, and have some adventures" (15-6)
"Improv is a journey of opening oneself to possibility" (16)
"A life brimming with spontaneity...Feel yourself alive, poised, and ready for any adventure" (18)
"We practive improvisation not only to 'express ourselves' but to connect with others in a more immediate way" (20)
"Improvising invites us to lighten up and look around" (20)
"Reality continually presents itself as a fresh moment" (22)
Darwin: "In the long history of humankind those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effective have prevailed."
"Taking an improvised step always leads you somewhere. Notice where you are going." (25)
MAXIM 1: SAY YES
(following cited from p. 34):
Just say yes.
Become a "can-do" person.
Look for the positive spin, for what is right.
Agree with those around you.
Cultivate yes phrases: "You bet"; "You are right"; "I'm with you"; "Good idea";etc
Substitute "Yes and" for "Yes but." Add something to build the converstation.
Exercise the yes muscle. This builds optimism and hope.
"Say yes to everything" (27)
"When the answer to all questions is yes, you enter a new world, a world of action, possibility, and adventure" (27)
"Life is too short to argue over which movie to see. Seize the first idea and go with it. Don't confuse this with being a "yes-man," implying mindless pandering. Saying yes is an act of courage and optimism; it allows you to share control. It is a way to make your partner happy. Yes expands your world" (27)
"Saying yes (and following through with support) prevents you from committing a cardinal sin--blocking. Blocking comes in many forms; it is a way of trying to control the situation instead of accepting it. We block when we say no, when we have a better idea, when we change the subject, when we correct the speaker, when we fail to listen, or when we simply ignore the situation. The critic in us wakes up and runs the show. Saying no is the most common way we attempt to control the future. For many of us the habit is so ingrained that we don't notice we are doing it. We are not only experienced at blocking others, we commonly block ourselves. "I'm not good at brush painting, so why bother? Whatever made me think I could do art?" (29)
"Try substituting "yes and" for "yes but". The spirit of improvising is embodied in the notion of "yes and." Agreement begins the process; what comes next is to add something or develop the offer in a positive direction" (30)
"To say "yes" is to make a leap of faith, to risk oneself in a new and often scary relationship. Not being quite sure of what we are doing or where it will lead us" (31)
"With the rule of yes, we call upon our capacity to envision, to create new and positive images. This yes invites us to find out what is right about the situation, what is good about the offer, what is worthy in the proposal. Exercising the yes muscle builds optimism" (32)
(Exercises taken from the book)
1. Support someone else's dreams. Pick a person and for a week, agree with all of her ideas. Find something right about everything he says or does. Look for every opportunity to offer support. Consider her convenience and time preferences ahead of your own. Give him the spotlight. Notice the results.
2. For one day say yes to everything. Set your own preferences aside. Notice the results. See how often it may not be convient or easy to do this. Obviously, use some common sense in executing this rule. If you are a diabetic and are offered a big piece of pie, you'll need to find a way to protect your health. Perhaps you can say boldly, "Yes, I'd love to have this pie to take home to my son who adores cherries."
MAXIM 2: DON'T PREPARE
(following cited from p. 44)
Give up planning. Drop the habit of thinking ahead.
Attend carefully to what is happening right now.
Allow yourself to be surprised.
Stockpiling ideas for future use is unneccesary.
Trust your imagination. There is always something in the box.
Welcome whatever floats into your mind.
Fear is a matter of misplaced attention. Focus on redirecting it.
"Change the habit of getting ready for life in favor of getting on with it now" (35)
"The habit of excessive planning impedes our ability to see what is actually in front of us. The mind that is occupied is missing the present" (35)
"To improvise, it is essential that we use the present moment efficiently. An instant of distraction--searching for a witty line, for example--robs us of our investment in what is actually happening. We need to know everything about this moment. Instead of preparing an outcome, ready yourself for whatever may come. Open your eyes, breathe fully, and attend to just this moment. Make it your world. Allow planning or thinking-ahead thoughts to pass through if they occur. If your mind gets absorbed in these thoughts, redirect your attention to a detail in the immediate environment" (36)
"Substitute attention for preparation" (36)
"Cultivate a flexible mind that is ready to act" (37)
"Stop choosing and welcome what is there, allow yourself to be surprised. Accept what you see completely. Finally, beyond acceptance is appreciation and thanks. For the improviser there are no wrong answers or bad gifts" (40)
"When we train our minds to accept whatever arises, ideas grow, and we nourish the garden of our imagination" (40)
"Performance anxiety comes from excessive self-focus" (41)
"Don't fight the fear or attend to it. That simply fuels it. Notice and accept whatever you feel, and turn your attention to doing something useful" (42)
"Observe the room, its furnishings, the lighting sources, your materials. Breathe consciously. Smile. Laugh. Keep moving. Changing your focus can provide relief" (42)
"Fear is not the problem; allowing your attention to be consumed by it is" (42)
"Performance anxiety can be understood as a matter of self-absorption, of misplaced attention, and the remedy lies in turning your attention to the act of doing whatever it is--well" (42)
"Improvisers always speak without a plan. Discover the freedom that comes when you trust that you have what you need. Remember there is always something in the box" (43)
(Exercises taken from the book)
1.Spend a day without a plan. Have an adventure. Instead of following ordinary routines at this time, open your eyes especially wide and move along with curiousity and attention. Don't consult your to-do-list; instead decide what to do based on what needs to be done right now, using your heightened awareness.
2.Substitute Zen-like attention for planning. When you notice that your mind is planning what you will do or say, make a conscious shift of attention to the present moment. Notice everything that is going on now. Attend to what others are saying or doing as if you would need to report it in detail to the CIA. Listen with both ears. Substitute attention to what is happening for attention to what might happen.