First and foremost, let me just say that it takes about 3 months to develop a habit. I’m not a scientist or researcher or whatever, but I truly believe that once you pass that that 3 month slump, whatever it is you’re trying to keep up or quit, after 3 months, it’ll be a cake walk. With that said, let’s see if I can make it to the gym consecutively for 3 months. If not, at least I have Ben and Jerry’s in the freezer.
One of the goals for this year was to read at least one book per month, and I have actually been keeping up with it; and honestly there is no better feeling than accomplishing a goal for the month and finishing a book at the same time. It’s wrapped up in one awesome little package. So when I finished my book early last month and had a mini-hiatus from reading. I felt weird. I felt like I had to be reading something. I had become accustomed to carrying a book around and having something to do while waiting for certain things that I felt naked without one. 3 months, folks. 3 months was all it took to make something a habit. Make something be a part of you, so much that you feel off without it.
Anyway, for the month of March I read Tina Fey’s Bossypants.
After Hunger Games I needed a little pick-me-up. The book was hilarious and Tina Fey’s voice was always in my head while reading it, but truly the best part of the book is when she talks about how improv can be applied to your life.
The Rules of Improvisation That Will Change Your Life and Reduce Belly Fat* by Tina Fey
The first rule of improvisation is to AGREE. Always agree and SAY YES. When you’re improvising, this means you are required to agree with whatever your partner has created. So if we’re improvising and I say, “Freeze, I have a gun,” and you say, “That’s not a gun. It’s your finger. You’re pointing your finger at me,” our improvised scene has ground to a halt. But if I say, “Freeze, I have a gun!” and you say, “The gun I gave you for Christmas! You bastard!” then we have started a scene because we have AGREED that my finger is in fact a Christmas gun.
Now obviously in real life you’re not always going to agree with everything everyone says. But the Rule of Agreement reminds you to “respect what your partner has created” and to at least start from an open-minded place. Star with a YES and see where that takes you.
As an improviser, I always find it jarring when I meet someone in real life whose first answer is no. “No, we can’t do that.” “No, that’s not in the budget.” “No, I will not hold your hand for a dollar.” What kind of way is that to live?
The second rule of improvisation is not only to say yes, but YES, AND. You are supposed to agree and then add something of your own. If I start a scene with “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you just say, “Yeah…” we’re kind of at a standstill. But if I say, “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you say, “What did you expect? We’re in hell.” Or if I say, “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you say, “I told you we shouldn’t have crawled into this dog’s mouth,” now we’re getting somewhere.
To me, YES, AND means don’t be afraid to contribute. It’s your responsibility to contribute. Always make sure you’re adding something to the discussion. Your initiations are worthwhile.
The next rule is MAKE STATEMENTS. This is a positive way of saying “Don’t ask questions all the time.” If we’re in a scene and I say, “Who are you? Where are we? What are we doing here? What’s in that box?” I’m putting pressure on you to come up with all the answers.
Instead of saying, “Where are we?” make a statement like, “Here we are in Spain, Dracula.” Okay, “Here we are in Spain, Dracula” may seem like a terrible start to a scene, but this leads us to the best rule:
THERE ARE NO MISTAKES, only opportunities. If I start a scene as what I think is very clearly a cop riding a bicycle, but you think I am a hamster in a hamster wheel, guess what? Now I’m a hamster in a hamster wheel. I’m not going to stop everything to explain that it was really supposed to be a bike. Who knows? Maybe I’ll end up being a police hamster who’s been put on “hamster wheel” duty because I’m “too much a loose cannon” in the field. In improv, there are no mistakes, only beautiful happy accidents. And many of the world’s greatest discoveries have been by accident. I mean, look at the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, or Botox.
*Improv will not reduce belly fat.