metaphors

Polishing your diamonds

CC, Parent Géry, Wikimedia Commons

I keep thinking about something I read in The Boiling Point a while back.

 Your weaknesses never really go away. …when you have more reps, you’re able to lessen the effects.  I believe your weak spots will always be weak, but there are degrees of weakness.  With a ton of rust, your trouble spots just feel much larger.  With practice, you can manage their symptoms.

In other words, everything you’re bad at now, you will always be bad at, sorry.

…..

I think we all come into improv as big chunks of ore with little diamonds in our rough– little talents that were already there to start with. And with training, we can extract and polish all those diamonds into exquisite gems. But when we don’t already have a specific diamond there in the rough beginning, we can’t just make it appear. We can distract from the missing diamonds by showing off our polished gems, or we can throw some of our non-precious ore into a rock tumbler and show that off too, but we can’t polish a diamond that was never there.

Wikimedia commons, CC, 88pathoffroad

Tumbled worthlessness = very pretty worthlessness

Almost since I started improv, I’ve focused on polishing my non-precious ore, because frankly, any improviser should. I don’t want to rely on crutches and bad habits.

cristal de diamant sur conglomérat - crystal of diamond in conglomerate

But it’s so frustrating– no matter how hard I polish, all the ore is still rough and worthless. Worthless, everything I have is fucking worthless.

And then I remembered that I DO have some diamonds.

So right now, I’m trying to spend some time polishing the little diamonds I’ve been neglecting, and take some time away from the ore.

Is this something I would recommend? No. It’s a crutch. A bad habit.

But don’t forget about your diamonds.
Diamonds

 

 

All images used here are released under a Creative Commons license and link back to their source.

And please note: Everything stated here is just my own dumb opinion.

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Salt and pepper

Salt and pepper - Macroscopic Solutions

Our substitute practice coach gave us a metaphor this past week.

 

—–

There is a lot of salt in the world. It’s a mineral. It’s in the earth, it’s in the water, it’s easy to come by, it’s cheap, and it’s necessary for life (to some extent).

Mounds of salt in Lac Retba, Senegal - herr_hartmann

 

 

There is not so much pepper in the world. It has to be grown from a plant, cultivated, watered, tended, harvested. It’s comparatively expensive and harder to come by.

Peppercorn rows, Phu Quoc - Katie Yaeger Rotramel

 

When you’re cooking, usually you’ll use more salt than pepper.

They are both important for adding flavor, but the salt sort of functions as a base grounding for the flavors in the dish, while the pepper adds a little bit of kick.

Salt & pepper pork chops - hermitsmoores

 

You can think of improv scenes this way, too. The base reality, the grounding, the basic human nature and relationships of your scene— that’s the salt. That comes first. Unusual things, weird shit, crazyness— they’re the pepper. They work best for an additional punch of flavor after you’ve set up your base grounding of salt reality.

Salt and pepper - Charles Haynes

 

If you only use one or the other, the dish won’t taste right, but together, and in the correct proportions, you can make beautiful meals.

Salt and pepper, beautiful together! - Jeannine St. Amand

Salt and pepper, beautiful together!


(All photos here are hyperlinked back to their Flickr pages and shared with Creative Commons licenses)

Running and improv

I keep finding parallels between running and improv. I haven’t been doing either one long enough to be particularly proficient, but I have a three-year head start with running.

Running has given me heartbreaking injuries and heart-bursting awards; I’ve been incomprehensibly frustrated and ecstatically giddy and everything in between; after three and a half years of semi-serious pursuit, I feel like I have settled into a good groove. And almost every time I run into a mental block with improv, I realize I’ve already figured how to deal with an analogous problem in running.

  • There will be good days and off days. The off days will make you want to quit, especially for the first year or two. Power through those days (gently).
  • Even when the hour or two you dedicate to the session is totally miserable, remember that you’ll feel better later. Short term, you are producing all kinds of delicious neurochemicals (e.g. endorphins and adrenaline), and long term you are slowly establishing new and better cellular pathways, which will eventually make you a stronger person.
  • If your warmup sucked, and 20 minutes later you still feel shitty, just go easy on yourself that day. It’s okay. There will be other days.
  • Just building volume is important at the beginning, and simply doing it, whether the session is good or bad, will let you have more opportunities for good days. And the joy of the good days is why you do this, right? Remember that joy.
  • Everyone does this for a different reason. No reason is better or worse than the others. Don’t judge or feel judged.
  • Stop comparing yourself to everyone else. Everyone picks things up at different speeds, and for all you know, they’ve been doing this a lot longer.
  • Be patient with yourself. Nobody is 100% successful 100% of the time when they’re learning a new skill. (And if they are, they’re a freak.)
  • If you hate it, constantly, always, don’t fucking do it.