Last year I started taking improv classes after a not-so-subtle suggestion from Guideposts’ Editor-in-Chief Edward Grinnan. To my surprise, I ended up loving it. So much so that I continued taking classes and performing in live shows. In fact, I’ve just passed my one-year improv anniversary!
It’s funny how so many of improv’s rules also apply to “real life.” About two months ago, I took an improv class and the teacher kept stressing the importance of getting out of your head. “Don’t prepare things ahead of time,” he said. “Just react to the other performers and see what happens.”
See what happens?? Easier said than done. I’m kind of an over-planner/preparer/thinker. (Seriously, you should see my vacation itineraries!) Even though improv is all about performing on the spot, I often find myself thinking of backup ideas in my head right before a scene. You know, just in case.
The teacher had the class do an exercise where you walk out on stage–by yourself–and react to what the teacher says. He didn’t explain the context of the scene or the rules of the game or what he was going to say. Nope. You just had to step into the unknown and embrace it.
I’ll admit, at first it was super awkward. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be doing. But once I got the hang of it and stopped thinking so much, it was thrilling to perform without a backup plan.
The following week, at our class show in front of friends and family, I had to do that super-awkward exercise again. “Just go with the flow, see what happens,” I told myself. I did. And it was such fun. Freeing, really. In fact, the only part that didn’t go smoothly was when I got stuck in my head again!
Since then, I’ve been trying to go with the flow more. Does that mean I’m suddenly super relaxed and have bid adieu to all of my to-do-lists? No.
But every now and then I remind myself, “Just see what happens.” After all, you never know what wondrous things might unfold when you get out of your head.