Here is a lesson I learned many years ago from Dave Pasquesi, a brilliant Chicago-based actor and improviser. Our group was doing a long-form improvisation (a Harold for you in the know) in rehearsal and Dave was watching. It was tough because he was squirming and sighing with frustration during some of the scenes until finally he just exploded.
“Just f***ing kill the f***king guy already!”
(I don’t remember the details but I think we were hemming and hawing about hanging someone in an old west scene.)
“You knew you were going to kill him so just kill him already and find out what happens next,” Dave said.
He was absolutely right. We didn’t go through with the killing because we had no idea what was going to happen after that.
But that’s the best place to be when you’re doing improv. That’s when the real creativity happens.
The point is a very good one for improv, writing and for life. If you know something is going to happen in an improv scene you should go ahead and have it happen so you can discover what you don’t know. The same is true with writing. If you’re writing something and you have a great ending, try making that the beginning and see what happens AFTER that. Terrible storytelling talks a long time to get where you knew it was going. Great storytelling surprises you at the end.
Most of the time it surprised the writer as well.
I have a good friend from Seattle who never really committed to anything long term because he always knew he was going to someday move to LA and “sell-out.” He was going to write screenplays and television. About 22 years ago he did it. After 8 months in Los Angeles he realized Hollywood wasn’t interested in what he was interested in so he went back to Seattle and, unburdened by this someday dream, he became one of the most important people in the vibrant theater scene there.
With no regrets.
I have done a bunch of things immediately and I’ve put off a bunch of stuff. In college someone said to me that if you wait until you’re ready to start a theater you’ll never start one because you’ll never be ready. I took that to heart and started and theater right after I graduated when I had no idea what I was doing (30 years later it’s still going strong). Everything I put off I regret putting off.
What happens when you do it now is that you get it out of your head and into reality. Your vision may come true or it may die but either way it makes your life richer and it leaves room for other visions to grow.
Like the story of my friend from Seattle illustrates, sometimes the someday dreams you don’t take out can get in the way of you living your life. Sometimes the someday dreams can’t breathe real air and when they hit reality they die.
Sometimes that’s sad but often it’s a very good thing.
So if you have a someday dream, do it today so you can make room for the thing that comes next.
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