“A great mind is one that can forget or look beyond itself” – William Hazlitt
I just finished a Stanford continuing studies course called Adult Play: Improv Techniques for a Better Life. Dan Klein was the teacher, and he created such a fun and safe place for play! If you ever have a chance to take this course, or any courses taught by Dan, I would highly recommend it.
I had a couple “Aha!”s through the course of the class. One is to remember to say Yes! and build on ideas instead of shooting them down. It creates an environment that welcomes more new ideas. Another is to make your partner look good. This is key in making a scene and a connection move along. Going in to critical or combat mode is easy, coming up with new supporting ideas and details is more difficult, but also more fun to engage with. A third realization for me was to let go of outcomes. To relinquish control of where things go. It is way more fun to let go and enjoy what comes next.
They all tie back in to art for me, but one final realization particularly releated back to my artistic process. I realized how important it is to “lose” yourself in the play. I would get flustered or lose my timing during an improv game as soon as I started wondering if I was funny, or wondering if I was going to think up something clever next time it was my turn to speak, or wondering why the audience was laughing. I would “drop out” of the flow of fun and spontenaity. However when I just relaxed into the play of it, totally willing to make a mistake but just ready to play with the other improvisers, I would lose my sense of self and really start having fun. I think this is also true when I paint a mural. I love to lose my “sense of self” in the creation process. Big murals require a certain amount of physical exertion, and that helps me get completely absorbed into the actual painting, mixing colors, moving around quickly according to which areas I want to work on depending how the paint is drying or what color I have on my brush and palette. I am not running past or future stories through my head, trying to prop up any identity, I am just painting. And it feels like so much fun. With murals, I don’t overthink things. I just enjoy the process, and what comes out.
How can I spend more (most?) of my time losing my sense of self when I am not painting or doing improv? I’ll get back to you on that one!