Like most years, 2012 had its share of ups, downs, set-backs, and awesome surprises.
My family continues to be healthy. And while the occasional wolf may have come to the door, they never got in. I am exceedingly grateful.
I had a handful of professional goals for 2012. Some I exceeded. Some I failed to accomplish. Some I abandoned because they no longer suited my trajectory.
It was a busy year in which I delivered:
→ 32 interactive training events for 26 different clients across a variety of industries.
→ 58 different shows, both public and private.
→ 30 improv class sessions.
→ 1 national commercial.
→ 1 industrial video.
Thank you to everyone who gave me support, advice and help. Please let me know what I can do for you. Below is a cool word cloud representing my 2012. How was yours?
Are you ready to tap into an unending stream of creativity for your business, blog, or third thing that also begins with a ‘B’? The same skills improv comedians use onstage can help.
Unlike stand-up comedy that’s written, rehearsed and performed by a solo comedian – improv comedy is created by an ensemble, entirely on the spot, right in front of the audience. You may not have your own ensemble (or the same massive need for strangers’ approval that I do), but here are three improv performance techniques you can use to squeeze out more creative juice.
1. SAY ‘YES!’ TO YOURSELF!
Agreement is king in improvisation. Multiple actors = Multiple ideas driven by multiple egos. Even if the characters argue, the actors must agree. Are we brothers in a coffee shop? Fancy ladies in a park? The audience doesn’t want to watch actors negotiate – they just want us to be Fancy Ladies!
How many of your ideas never flourish because they don’t make it out of your head? That voice inside that says “NO”, “HARD”, or “DUMB” – that is your internal editor. Turn them off. Better yet, slit their throat and silence them forever. (Too graphic? Apologies. My internal editor’s been dead a long time.) With that nagging voice shut down, now you can get to work.
Write out all of your ideas. Not just the reasonable ideas – ALL of them. Even the dumb ones. No, ESPECIALLY THE DUMB ONES! There’s a reason you’re an entrepreneur and not wasting your genius in a boardroom. Dream up a thing or two that’s too unwieldy to implement. We aren’t making decisions yet – we’re creating. SAY ‘YES’ TO YOUR OWN IDEAS!
2. TAKE IT FURTHER!
In improvisation, the companion to ‘Yes!’ is always ‘And…’. ‘Yes!’ gets us on the same page, but ‘And…’ gets us to the end of the chapter. When I bring my dumb idea to the stage, I rely on my performance partners to agree (Yes!) and then add something (And…) to make me seem brilliant.
To harness this for yourself, simply look at all of the ideas to which you have already said ‘YES’ in STEP 1, and then make them work. (I know, “is that all?” Stick with me…) There are a million reasons why they won’t work. So? Focus on a million (I will settle for one) ways in which they can work. Say “What if…?” a lot. Be open to new avenues and different arenas. Velcro, Superglue and even pacemakers were all invented by frustrated scientists who were trying to create something else entirely. This entire essay began as a recipe for Chicken ala King. Your idea is often merely a starting point.
“Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless.”- Thomas Alva Edison
3. KEEP IT SIMPLE.
Improv comedians strive for an honest emotional core in our comedy – characters and ideas that resonate and draw the audience in. I don’t have to travel to Mars in a unicorn-drawn carriage to entertain someone. The audience will not care about my comedy if they cannot relate in some way.
Who cares if your idea has been done before? I’ll pay cash money for your take on it. Chickens were around a long time before Colonel Sanders gave us his delicious version. Keep it simple and tell your truth. Especially if that truth is Original Recipe™ with a side of slaw…Yum!
“The merit of originality is not novelty; it is sincerity.” – Thomas Carlyle
Improv innovator Del Close admonished improv comedians to exalt each other and their choices on stage. Start doing the same for yourself. Don’t think you’re creative? You are. Start thinking that you are. Then know that you are. Then just…BE.
“If we treat each other as if we are geniuses, poets, and artists, we have a better chance of becoming that onstage.” – Del Close
You won’t implement most ideas. Ideas you do implement won’t always succeed. (Be thankful it isn’t happening in front of a demanding, semi-drunk audience.) But ideas you dismiss before they wriggle out of your brain have no chance whatsoever. Don’t say ‘NO’ until you’ve said ‘YES’. Further your own ideas. Keep it simple.
“The key skill of the innovator is error recovery not failure avoidance.”
- RANDY NELSON, Pixar
“Do not fear mistakes. You will know failure. Continue to reach out.”
- BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, America
“A man, to be greatly good, must imagine intensely and comprehensively; he must put himself in the place of another and of many others; the pains and pleasures of his species must become his own.”
- PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY
“I think we are living in selfish times. I’m the first one to say that I’m the most selfish. We live in the so-called ‘first world,’ and we may be first in a lot of things like technology, but we are behind in empathy.”
- JAVIER BARDEM
8PM. Time to go to work.
I’ll make a few mistakes tonight. I always do. “The master weaver incorporated the mistakes of his students into a larger pattern.”
A pair of Master Weavers. I get to work with awesome people.
Time to head home. At least I got to wear sneakers tonight.
Late night cut-ups & hiccups. Nonstop hustle. All for the love of the game.
“The creative person is both more primitive and more cultivated, more destructive, a lot madder and a lot saner, than the average person.”
- FRANK BARRON
“Artistic temperament sometimes seems a battleground, a dark angel of destruction and a bright angel of creativity wrestling.”
- MADELIENE L’ENGLE
The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.
I want to write about the great and powerful thing that listening is. And how we forget it. And how we don’t listen to our children, or those we love. And least of all – which is so important, too – to those we do not love. But we should. Because listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force.
Brenda Ueland, from The Art of Listening.