The Improv Handbook By Tom Salinsky and Deborah Frances-White

What is creativity and how can I be more creative in art and life?
People who can do improvised comedy are definitely creative and it is particularly marvellous that many of them developed frameworks to teach others this art and their creativity. Quite a few books have been written about Improv. I read years ago this book and found it invaluable resource for building a meaningful and creative life. We just need to substitute the words “game”, “theatre” etc with the word “life”

Cover of the Improv Handbook

Cover of the Improv Handbook By Tom Salinsky and Deborah Frances-White

I highly recommend to read the whole book as a wonderful guideline to develop personal creativity for everyone and I do not think I can say it any better but want to provide a summary

The first step is to abandon control and perfectionism and stop trying hard to be good. Creativity is passive, our creativity is there and will find us but we can not control or force our creativity. The harder I try to be creative, witty, artistic… the less it will happen, I would just jam my creative flow. Instead curiosity is a good starting point. Curiosity knows no agenda and is open. I must be open and willing to explore anything that I find in my mind, in your mind and in my life and in my surroundings, no matter how small, unoriginal or trivial this appears. The less I try to find, the better. A good cue if we are looking for ideas is to assume that they are already there in my surroundings right here and now and in what I experience every moment. Usually exactly this is correct and my efforts to find them just obscured it. A good improviser always assumes that he or she or the partners already gave a starting point for a great story and just tries to develop the material.
Another factor is boldness. This means the willingness to be passionate about things, the willingness to take a position and the willingness to risk failure. We all learn in our adolescence that it is prudent to qualify everything and be outright pessimistic. If I tell my friends that the movie I just saw “was oK, but…” I am safe whether they liked it or not. If I take a position, I risk disagreement and it takes energy to solve disagreements.
But qualifying and pessimism are deadly for ideas. “Well…Hmmm…MAYBE it would be worth to submit a few photos for this exhibition , BUT I am not very talented and I am not sure if I am qualified for such an important exhibition. If you really think, I could perhaps TRY.” With this statement I predict failure and avoid getting hurt or embarrassed if I should fail in the end but I set myself up for failure. With such an attitude it is almost guaranteed that the result is just meaningless and boring.
“Wow, i love your idea. Of course I submit my pictures. I really want to be featured!” This is a strong statement and sounds much more like success. Of course a clear “No” is absolutely ok if this idea is not for me. The problem with the first statement is not caution, caution is good. The problem is the qualification “Yes, but…” In this statement I announce failure, because if I announce failure I could justify, if I really fail in the end and avoid shame. But this attitude almost guarantees failure. If I would be really worried, I should just address my worries, decide and then give a clear heartfelt “yes” or “no”. If we then go ahead with a big grin on the face and the determination to succeed in our heart, this will be just awesome.
Boldness is not recklessness, fearlessness or shamelessness. Boldness is the ability, the strength to proceed and take a position while using fear and shame to identify and control risks.
Curiosity and boldness are crucial for finding own concepts of a good and meaningful life but still do not give a direction. If I can not try to be good and must let things just happen instead of forcing and achieving, I have no direction and I am just lost.
The direction is achieved by a collaborative attitude. The direction is the other, the direction is you. Instead of trying to be good and witty and shine a good improviser tries to be good to work with and helps the partner to be good. If I am good to work with and you are good to work with, we have a great collaboration and most likely the result will be good.
Some boldness and optimism is required once more to trust in others, let their ideas invade our minds and with this to collaborate effectively.

I think this is generally a good instruction on how to live creative and helps to find us our place and what we want to do. With such mindset i can easily find out whether I want to paint or act or take photos. And I can find out what I actually want to photograph. This is the biggest difficulty for many photographers. Many photographers tell you they shoot everything. People who talk about everything waffle and people who photograph everything also waffle.

We can apply this more specifically to taking pictures. We need to move away from doing and from trying hard to make good pictures. Instead we need to perceive and let our environment guide us. What do I see? Why is this remarkable? What do I feel when seeing? And what is remarkable about what
I feel? How can I express that?
We need to let the picture find us.

I will soon write more about Keith Johnston, the most influential teacher of Improvised theatre.  He is deeper but more difficult to approach.