Over the summer, I took an improv class at The Vintage as a way to help me think on my feet. Call it a step closer towards modeling myself after Liz Lemon. I’ve always admired comedians and improv seemed like a lot of fun (and it was!) so, I gave it a try. It was incredibly rewarding and in the spring, I’m looking to take the next level of the class, taught by the awesome Conor O’Brien of Unorganized Business.
P.S. If you want to see us in action, see the clip below – I’m in the blue and green flowered dress playing “Pet Peeves”. Before the fire alarm went off.
But besides being a great experience that had me laughing and smiling for hours on end, I actually took away some great rules that I can apply to other things, like blogging.
Here are the five core improv rules I learned in my first class – and how they apply to making your blog even better.
1.) Don’t Deny
Denial is what makes a scene go south and that was the first rule I learned in improv. When you refuse an offer made by your scene partner (e.g. the scene is in a Starbucks and you say, “No! We’re on a football field), the scene falls flat and you both look bad – and the scene doesn’t go anywhere. In blogging, don’t deny can work on two levels. First, don’t deny your voice and who you are. Know your brand, what’s important to you, and know that you are always on – and you have to flow with that if you want to be a good blogger. Secondly, don’t deny your readers by not allowing for them to share in a conversation, or by not blogging consistently, or by mistreating them (yes, there are bloggers that do this). Treat your audience with respect and they’ll help you. Finally, always do the “yes, and…?” I read somewhere to ask yourself five times “yes, and…?” to gain more clarity on what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, or what you’re saying. The same rule can be applied in both improv and blogging. Ask yourself, “yes, and…” to keep things going in a post you’re writing, an idea you’re developing, or a scene you’re performing.
2.) Don’t Ask Open Ended Questions
Don’t get me wrong – this is an essential things for interviews, but looking at this idea in the light of improv, keeping questions tight, or rather, keeping blog topics tight, allows for the audience to stay with you. When you start a post with nothing particular in mind, rambling usually tends to spill out. It’s tough for the reader to enjoy rambling, so it helps to know what you’re going to write about going in. I keep a running list of topics in note pads, or if I have a few moments, I start a draft and jot down a quick outline or a few words or sentences that I’ve already thought up. That way, when I sit down, I know where I’m going. How I’m getting there is half the fun.
3.) Don’t Always Go for the Joke
I’m a ham. I really, really am. As a sometimes actor, I tend to gravitate towards comedic roles where I can make people laugh. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed. With improv, I had to flex my muscles to not go for the joke, which was a welcome exercise. When you force yourself to be funny, it so often comes off as not so. I want to be authentic when I’m in a scene for improv and I feel the same way about my blog. If I’m funny, it’s because it’s real. I try really hard to not insert humor on purpose. Anything I write is pretty much exactly what the voice in my head is saying. Sticking to the character, sticking to the scene, and staying present in the moment makes for humor naturally – and that’s what I’d like to go for here, too.
4.) Be a Good Partner
The people I worked with as part of my improv class were fantastic. They were so open, so eager, and so willing to try anything, which made for a great class. When you’re in a scene, you want to support your partner as much as possible so that they look better and as a result, you look great too. The scene works when you both feel comfortable, confident, and totally at ease with each other. For my blog, it’s about not making it too much about me. Yes, I’m a “life” blogger, but I always want to encourage others to share and comment on what I’m saying. I like conversations and I hope that this blog is a place for that. As a blogger, you want to tell a story, but you also want to spark a dialogue and hopefully contribute something meaningful.
5.) Tell a Story
This is what we do as people. We tell stories. In improv, we do it through words, movement, voice, character, and presence. In blogging, we do this by crafting words around topics that we feel compelled to write about. We write or we do scenes because we have something to say and we want to do it in a way that’s interesting – and gives something back to other people. I blog because I want my voice heard, but I also blog because I want people to enjoy what I’m writing. It’s a gift, a challenge, and a joy to be interesting.
If I get a comment, a visitor that stays for awhile, or a smile, or a laugh, or even just a moment of reflection on something I’ve written, I’ve done my job – and it’s just as rewarding as seeing an audience light up or totally engaged.