7 Ways to Survive Improv

Yo, yo, yo, yo, I'm back. Wait, what? It's true. I'm not a ghost. I just play one on the USA Network. But that's over now, and I'm ready again to regale you with my blogging sass. Let's get started.

Last month, Clifton and Nick shared a story on the Facebook. It was such an important story that I saved it in my Diigo library, thinking, "Man this would be a good blog entry." Let's see if it still holds up like a good red wine.

The story is "Oscar Nominee John Hawkes Gives Seven Tips for Surviving the Film Industry," by James Kaelan. These tips, though, don't have to apply to just the film industry. They hold true for the improv world, as well.

1. Trust Your Gut -- Improvisation is about spontaneity, and the first ideas you come up with are usually the most honest ones (and sometimes the funniest).

2. All Arts Connect and Inform Each Other -- Go out and see more than improv shows. Go see some ballet. Visit an art gallery. Check out a church choir. The more artistically well-rounded you are, the better your performance and storytelling skills will be.

3. Loaf Occasionally -- I've know several performers who have taken an improv break over the years. If you're feeling burned out, take a breather. Improv will still be here when you get back. Promise.

4. Make a Vital Life Outside of the Business -- This tip similar to No. 2 offers a different focus. Do things that aren't improv or arts related. Perhaps volunteer at a homeless shelter. Maybe read to people at an assisted living facility. Just do something that gets you around non-improv people and learn more about life by interacting with them.

5. This Business Will Knock You Down -- Any type of arts community has the potential to erode individual self-esteem.  Take Chumbawamba's stance, though: "I get knocked down / But I get up again / You're never going to keep me down." The most successful performers are the ones who refuse to stay down no matter what odds they're up against or setbacks they've had in the past.

6. Be Kind -- This should be an easy tip to follow. Most improvisers I've met are nice, genuine people. The ones who aren't don't last long in this community.

7. Nobody Knows Anything -- Take what you want from all the advice you receive over a lifetime and build your own toolbox, because no one knows everything. Adopt a curious attitude, and you'll have fun the rest of your life.

Have any other tips? Please share them in the comments.