Today more than ever the opportunities for improvisers are abundant. There are so many classes to choose take, groups to be a part of and places to perform — which can be a blessing and a curse.
That’s why it’s important to map out a vision for your career before you get in too deep.
Do you want be on the writing staff of The Daily Show? Perform on Saturday Night Live? Tour the country as a stand-up? Direct, produce or teach or be a screenwriter or start your own improv theater or just be a great improviser? All of these are great goals, and to get there, it helps to be clear about your vision.
For me, creating a vision isn’t just about thinking about where I want to go. It’s about writing down my goals and getting suggestions from other people about how to achieve them. It’s like creating a road map for your improv career. Just know that it will never be a direct route to your vision. You will find obstacles and opportunities all along the way, and that is the fun part.
I did this when I was creating Improv Nerd, and I have to tell you that the results have turned out pretty well so far. About two and a half years ago, I sat down with a couple of friends and came up with the idea for a show where I would interview improvisers. They suggested that I improvise with the guests, but I was reluctant, probably because I was scared. But I listened to them, and now that is one of the things that really makes the Improv Nerd podcast stand out.
Here are three steps to take to create your vision:
Step 1: Ask two trusted friends, and not over beers, to sit down with you and ask you this question: “If time and money were no object, meaning you had at least $10 million in the bank and all the time in the world, what would like to do?” Spend about an hour or so talking about your vision while your friends write it down in as much detail as possible. Don’t get caught up in how it’s going to come true. That’s not your business. It will never happen the way you think it will happen anyway. Just get your vision down.
Step 2: Ask your friends to give you simple action steps to start working towards your vision. They should give you about five to ten things that are fairly easy to achieve. If your vision is to write for the Daily Show, for example, and you haven’t written in years, one of your action steps may be to write jokes for five minutes a day. Another action step may be to look into classes that can help you put a writing packet together. The action step isn’t to take the class, it’s simply to look into it. Remember to be gentle and keep the action steps realistic. They are there to build your confidence.
Step 3: Now here’s the hard part. Start taking the actions. For me, I can’t take any action alone. The problem is I think I can, but then I end up taking no action at all. To make it easier, call a friend before and after you take each action step. If one of the action steps they give you is to watch The Daily Show every night for next four weeks, ask your friends if you can call them and leave a message after you watch each episode. This ensures that you’ll actually do the actions steps. Some people call this accountability.
Even if your action steps are very small, you’ll start to feel a shift just by taking them. Feelings may also come up, some positive and some negative. As I moved toward my vision with Improv Nerd and accomplished more, feelings of anger and sadness came up, not the joy and the excitement you would expect. If this happens to you, don’t let those negative feelings stop you. They’re growing pains, and a sign that you’re heading in the right direction.
You may also find that as you move toward your vision that other things that you thought you wanted don’t become as important. This is ok, too. Your vision is flexible. For me, as I moved forward with Improv Nerd, I realized that auditioning for TV commercials wasn’t as important to me as it had been before, and I’ve decided to let that part go.
“Hey, Jimmy, but what if I’m just starting out in improv and I don’t have a vision?” That’s ok! Just know that in a couple of years you might want to have a vision for yourself. For now, let fun be your guide. Pay attention to the things that you do in your life that you enjoy doing and make you totally lose track of time, and know that those things might be in your vision someday. I know for me, when I teach and write I have such a great time that I am unaware of the time – a signal that those two things are probably part of my vision.
Remember, this vision is not etched in stone. It’s a starting off point to help you get some clarity on what it is that would really make you happy in your career. Yes, it may change, and just like any good improv scene, you gain more clarity as you continue making discoveries.
OK, here is your first action step to help you get started on your vision. (Kind of scary isn’t it?). Let us know what you vision is in the comment section of the blog below. What would you like for your improv career if time and money were no object? I look forward to reading them.
STUDY WITH JIMMY CARRANE
TWO-PERSON SCENE WORKSHOP, JAN. 4: Good two-person scenes are the foundation of any good show. No amount of cleverness or fancy editing is going to fix bad two-person scenes. To polish your two-person scene work, sign up for Jimmy’s one-day workshop. Spots still available! For more information, click here.
FUNDAMENTALS OF IMPROV, JAN. 6-FEB. 10: Learn Jimmy Carrane’s unique method of the Art of Slow Comedy. Suitable for those who have never improvised and seasoned improvisers looking for a new approach. For more information, click here.