We’re Never Ready

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This was a lesson drilled into me this past week at iO. If I try to wait for the perfect moment to edit, the perfect character to enter my head, the perfect line of dialogue for the scene, or the perfect instant to reveal my true idea/motivation/plot point – I will never act at all.

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The adventure begins

I’m in Chicago!

I’m here taking the summer intensive at iO, one of the big improv theaters in Chicago, which is the improv capitol of the world. It’s a five week course, I’m thrilled to have the chance to do this. I almost didn’t come because the timing wasn’t great. Then my sister pointed out that there will never be a convenient time to spend five weeks studying improv. She had a point, and here I am.

Be forewarned- I’m going to be posting a LONG post for each day of class. You might want to avoid reading the posts if you aren’t a huge improv geek because they will bore you to tears. Really. They will. However, if you wish you were here, or are thinking of coming next year, they will (hopefully) give you a good overview of what we are doing and learning.

Recap: Week 11

One Million Words Challenge

Recap: Week 11

This has been a much better week. I don’t know if it was publicly admitting that I was failing, accepting that my writing was going to be bad and getting on it anyway, a natural end to a slump, or a combination of the three. Really, I don’t care.

I’ll take it.

Plus, first week yet where I have gone over my weekly word goal! A step out of the hole I dug myself.

Here are my totals this week–

  • Journal 4,092
  • Brazil 5,360
  • MPs 6,804
  • Letters 435
  • Blog 778
  • Black Dog* 8,580
  • Total 26,049
  • YTD 152,065
  • Where I should be 210,980

*Black Dog is a story I started by accident but I am enjoying it so much that I am going to keep writing it. I woke up with two paragraphs in my head, waiting to be written down. I made it twelve pages that day. I don’t have a plot or a genre, and no idea of where it is headed. My favorite type of writing.

I’m back

As you can see, blogging is a habit that is not coming easy for me.

On the other hand, that means I don’t spam your inbox! That’s a plus.

This is not really a post, it’s more of a notice that posts are coming.

Consider yourself warned.

Baby steps to improv, Bob. Baby Steps.

I try to go to a local improv jam on Thursday nights. I can typically only go every other week due to having church small group two Thursdays a month, but I go when I can. It’s a good opportunity to practice being on stage and, perhaps more importantly, to practice failing miserably.

I haven’t been doing improv very long but I know enough to know that most of what happens at the jam is terrible. Really terrible. It’s a bunch of random people doing random things, selling each other out for a laugh and resorting to bathroom humor if a scene dying. Which is often. I have seen a few scenes that weren’t bad but they are few and far between. Anyway, getting up and being a part of that is hard, yet if I’m perfectly honest I know that if it wasn’t ok to be terrible I’d have no place there, I’m not yet good enough to play with the big kids. And as I said, it’s actually been very useful in learning to fail.

To fail and keep going takes practice. To say something stupid and then step up to talk again; to do something that doesn’t make any sense and then to do something else, knowing it probably won’t work either; to be terribly embarrassed and feel like the most awkward human being who has ever walked the earth and then step into another scene; to know before you get on the stage that you are going to beat on yourself on the way home and then get on the stage anyway- it’s great practice. Or the sign of a sick mind. I suppose you could argue that either way.

Last week I felt stupid and clumsy and unintelligent. I stammered and blanked-out and said really inane things. So, of course, I rewound all of what I did and scolded myself for it while I drove home and then I went to bed. The next day I was doing my morning pages and writing through all the stuff I’d done and how I felt about it (I’ve found that to be really helpful, once I’m away from the emotions of the moment. I look at what I did, good and bad, and I’ve started to find patterns.) when I had a revelation- I’d done stuff.

No, really. I’d done enough to have a long list of what I’d “done wrong”. The very first time I did the jam, back in the first week of November, I was so scared that I froze on stage and did not say a single word for the entire set.

Not one word.

30 minutes of standing on the backline staring at our five audience members. Yep. That wasn’t awkward at all. I remember the next time I went I forced myself to speak in one scene, but I didn’t say much. Just a line or two. This time, only two months later, I’m beating on myself for saying stupid things in every scene I did.

Hello? I said things! In scenes, plural. I stepped out in three scenes with no idea of what they would be about or what I would say. Yes, this is one of the main parts of improv but it’s a part I deeply struggle with. I’m a planner. I like plots. I like control. This is why I write, I can clean things up an polish them before anyone knows I’ve even written. So trusting the process and stepping out scares me to death.

I did it three times! Instead of beating myself up for the admittedly terrible improv I did, I need to focus on the fact that I did improv at all.

Baby steps, Bob. Baby steps.

2012

This is going to be an exciting year! Admittedly, most every year of my life is exciting but I’m extra pumped for this one. Last year was a year of major changes and I am continuing to follow through on them this year.A few of my favorite memories form last year-

  • Moved 1,500 miles, from TX to MN
  • Learned to knit
  • Wrote a short story I’m actually happy with
  • Discovered improv
  • Got my teeth fixed
  • Joined a church

Most of those carry over to this year as well. I’m not planning to move again this year, I miss the South on a regular basis, especially New Orleans, but MN is my home for now. It’ll be weird to stay in one place for more than a year but I’m going to give it a try.

My knitting is coming along nicely but I’m not very good at finishing projects. And unfinished projects are useless, so I want to focus on getting things done. I got a drop spindle for my birthday from my folks so a goal for this year is to learn to spin yarn. We’ll see how that goes.

I have several more short stories in the works, at various stages of completion. I’ve dug out a couple I started in the past and I’m attempting to finish them. Again, I’d like to work on completing things instead of just starting them and moving on. My ADD side hates that, I love to dabble but sometimes I need to finish what I start. And a few of these old stories have good bones, they just need to be finished.

Improv. What to say? Improv was the number one surprise of the year, and possibly the highlight. I saw my first show in March, having NO idea of what to expect and hated ¾s of it. But the ¼ I didn’t hate captured my imagination and sparked this crazy passion I now have. I signed up for my first class, started in April, as something fun to try but with no thought of ever doing anything more with it. It has turned into so much more, and I love it. Expect to see a lot of posts this year about improv and what I’m learning through it.

My teeth were a big deal. I broke a notch out of my front two when I was in elementary school. They’d been broken so long that when I finally got them fixed this summer I felt shy and hesitant, convinced they were too big. They certainty felt too big! Now I’ve adjusted to them and love them, it’s amazing how such a tiny thing can have such a massive impact on my self-image. Seriously, I’ve spent my entire life smiling in a way to ensure that they didn’t show. Now when I smile in a picture I try to remember to not do that, and I feel like a different person. This spring I’m supposed to have all 4 wisdom teeth taken out, something I’m not looking forward to in the least. And then we’ll talk about braces. I’m still on the fence about those.

I joined Sovereign Grace Community Church this summer. First time I’ve been a member of a church since my teens. Sometimes it still feels weird but it’s a good weird. I’ve had to adjust to people caring about me and noticing if I’m there or not. Honestly, the first few times someone asked why I’d missed church the week before it made me angry. It’s none of their business. But God has been showing me that it’s OK to let people see me, to notice me. It’s part of being in community. Not an easy part for me, Ms Independent to the extreme, but it’s a lesson I need to learn.

I have a lot of big goals for this year, crazy ones. Sometimes I look at them and I look at how many hours are in a week and I shake my head. Still, I’ve wasted a lot of time in my life and I don’t want to look back at 2012 and see the same pattern. I want to do stuff!

So…

What did you do last year that changed your life?

What are you doing this year to change it even more?

Imagination Dogs

Seth Godin stepped on my toes last week. Talker’s Block. Go read that link right now.Ouch.

I know he’s undoubtedly onto something here- I’ve been doing Morning Pages for 2 months now, 3 pages every freakin’ day before I even get dressed, and I have to say that I’m already getting into a groove and not getting stuck like I was. Not that it’s easy most days. I can think of 150 things to do with that 30-45 minutes while I sit there, it takes stubbornness to keep my butt in the chair. It’s worth it though, so very worth it.I have been thinking about writer’s block a lot lately because I have a lot to say but when  I  go to say it nothing happens, I leave with a blank screen. Short stories stay in my head because I can’t seem to get them onto the page, nothing sounds right. I’ve heard the advice to just write, whatever. I’ll claim to do that but I don’t really- the voice in my head is tricky and it says, “I’ll pretend this is free flowing but secretly I’ll plan it so it’s witty and fun when it comes out”. Which never works. Improv has started calling me on that game. I can try to be smart and plan things out while I stand on the sides, but as soon as I step onto the stage the person I’m working with will fail to receive my telepathic signals that I have this great trash truck idea all worked out and will start yelling for me to rescue his hamster out from between the couch cushions. Busted, and now scrambling to catch-up.

I am attempting to switch that over into my writing and it works both beautifully and terribly. Terribly because it’s some of the worst writing I’ve ever done. Beautifully because it’s by far the best writing I’ve ever done.

Apparently good writing is like having these little imagination dogs living in my head. I feed them ideas and books and adventures and then they produce writing and leave little piles of it scattered around in my mind for me to put down on paper. Piles of imagination dog crap, with itty bitty gold flakes mixed in. The more crap I collect, and write down, the more gold flakes I get; but also the more crap I have to write down and then deal with. That’s one reason I now have a pile of legal pads by my desk, pages filled with inane ramblings and disjointed, repetitive thoughts. Getting out the crap.

Time to Refine

This blog is boring.

Why? Because even though I care about this topic I don’t really want to write about it. At least not in a deep, regular way. Not yet. Maybe someday when I have more perspective. There have only been a few posts on here that really wanted to write, and focusing on what I wish I could write when I would try to write has been illuminating.

Improv is my current obsession. I love it. I’ve loved it since the first time I went to see it live (back in March, I think?) and then I loved it even more once I took the class back in early summer. I’m currently taking another level 1 class on Tuesday nights at HUGE and starting next month I’ll be taking a level 2 class at ComedySportz on Saturday afternoons. I’ve always had a secret desire to act but I never had the faintest hope that I’d have the chance. Now that I’ve tasted it I am hooked.

Because of a writing group I’m a part of I’ve read my work out loud for the first time and had a taste of all the fear and junk that goes with that. And I’ve been forced to start critiquing other people’s work, something that is even harder for me than having mine critiqued. And because of having to go with nothing to share I’ve started writing more.

After writing group one day I met a woman who does story-telling contests. Attended my first one last month and was shocked by how much I enjoyed it! Something I want to get involved in this winter. It’s writing and speaking rolled into one, a chance to practice both in a friendly, open environment.

I’m doing Morning Pages again, every single day right after I get up. It’s killing me some mornings but it works, my output rises significantly when I do them. Doing them every day for less than a month has already led to pages more than average in my journal, tons of short story ideas, a few poems, and wanting to get this blog going again.

This is an excerpt from my first post here-

“I’ve put off starting this blog for months. I have thought about it, considered it, played with it, pondered it; I didn’t start it. I refused to commit. I didn’t feel sure of myself, I thought, “a blog needs a theme, a driving point- it needs to be built around something” and so I refused to start one.

Nothing has changed.

I still don’t don’t have a theme. I still think I need one. However, my refusal to start has more to do with pride and perfectionism than it does anything else. So I’m starting a flawed, vague blog that I will refine as I go.”

I am now refining that theme. I want to focus on improv and art and writing and story-telling; communication. The name still fits. Any improvement I’ve gained in learning to write and speak and act has been nothing more than persistence in failure, a determination to pursue these things even if I look and sound like a fool.

This has been my quote over this summer–

Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself.
~Charlie Chaplin

I repeat this to myself on a regular basis. No matter how ridiculous I look or sound or feel I am building into my life the skills and character I want to have in 20 years. Plus, in 20 years I’m certain I’ll still be making a fool of myself and the ability to not die of mortification will come in handy.

The Start

I’ve put off starting this blog for months. I have thought about it, considered it, played with it, pondered it; I didn’t start it. I refused to commit. I didn’t feel sure of myself, I thought, “a blog needs a theme, a driving point- it needs to be built around something” and so I refused to start one.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

Nothing has changed.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

I still don’t don’t have a theme. I still think I need one. However, my refusal to start has more to do with pride and perfectionism than it does anything else. So I’m starting a flawed, vague blog that I will refine as I go.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

Failing forward.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

It’s an idea I’ve been chewing on for a few months now. Failure as a means of advancement. There’s an uncomfortable thought. One that deserves it’s own post. Until then I will add only this- failure is a verb, not a noun.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

You and I fail, we are not failures.



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