I think that I have finally figured out why I was never good at improv. Total non-sequitor I know, but stay with me on this one! I trained as an actress for four years. In all of that time, I could never get the hang of improv. It’s not that I can’t think on my feet. I’m pretty dang good at thinking on my feet. It’s that I could never relax and go with the story at hand. Improvisation made me a nervous wreck and I could never figure out why. Well, I finally have. It’s because I knew I wasn’t telling the best story that I could. I was telling a story, but there was something better, lurking underneath that I hadn’t had time to come up with. And that is what I am good at. Pulling out the story that is lurking underneath!
My process is simple. I observe. I ask questions. I discuss. I research. Then I let all of it kick around in my head until finally my brain sifts through it all and says, “Aha! This is what is relevant. This is what is significant. This is the story that needs to be told!” And then I sit down and write. But I can’t write until my brain is done with the sifting. Everyone and everything has a story, you just have to dig it out. Excavate out all of the crap and detritus that have accumulated around what is really important until the crux and the anima of the subject at hand are revealed.
To do that takes time. In Improv you have no time. If you take time, your audience gets bored and leaves. This is why I can’t do improv. I need time. I need to reflect and sift through what I know. Ask questions to expound on what I don’t know and then sift some more. I am not built for improv. I marvel at those that are, because that is just not how I function. But that’s all right. It takes all kinds, and I have some research on heavy artillery used in the Civil War that is just dying to be read, kicked around and sifted through . . .