For many improvisers, their only roadblock to the next level is REGRET.
Regret is many. Regret over the choices they made in the scene. Regret for saying No to an offer. Regret for saying Yes. Regret for being tentative. Regret for not jumping into a scene. Regret for jumping into a scene. Regret for a missed line. Regrets happen after a show, during the show.
Everyone has regrets. Your next conditioning is to not let regrets consume you.
Regrets, ironically, happen to promising improvisers. We train well, know the theories, and have solid experience. It’s because we have the knowledge, we know that we made a poor choice.
I think improvisers learn through these stages:
1. Clueless: “I don’t know what to do”
2. Regretful: “Why did I do that? :(”
3. Accepting: “Could have been better but ok”
4. Embracing: “Every choice is good”
I find many players first hit between Regretful and Accepting at around Year 2-3. At this stage, the most uncomfortable experience is to watch our own tape and to relive those regrets. We torture ourselves, “Ah, I should have done that!” because we did not find that “right” choice in the heat of the moment.
Newsflash, we don’t find the right choice in the heat of the moment at this stage.
We can only make *a* choice. In hindsight, there will always be better choices. But we can only make our choice with what’s on our plate right in the moment, and we make a decision. Boldly. That’s improv.
For years, I always kicked myself for not making the better choice. The wheels start to turn when I began to accept and laugh at my poor choices and can look back at my scenes without regrets.
Analyze your scene with no regrets
I believe you get better by self-analysis. Yet there’s too much emphasis on what could be the better choices. And not enough emphasis on why we made that choice in the first place. When you do a (self-)analysis, don’t strictly look for mistakes, but imagine what the thought process was. Be honest but gentle with yourself why you made those choices. When we are gentle with yourself, we train to push those regrets away. This is how we learn best about your habits.
It’s okay to contemplate about other better choices. It’s not worth it regretting our choices.
Fear of making mistakes vs. regret
Now I’m pondering if regrets are the same as fear of making mistakes. I think, they often go hand-in-hand with each other. The more regrets, the more we become afraid of making mistakes. And we become indecisive and freeze from making any decisions. Especially when you are trying to be “good improvisers”. So train to accept your decisions with no regrets, and automatically you become less fearful of mistakes. Hence the saying “there are no mistakes, only gifts”.
But I tweak it a little bit. It’s about no regrets, than about no fear. Because it’s good to have a little fear in your belly. With absolutely no fear, I play recklessly, or I don’t care about the scene. I like to play the best when there is a tiny bit of anxious energy — whether it’s a new crowd, playing at an international festival, or trying a new format. We know we’re playing for something. That fear keeps me sharp.
Go west, young improviser! Spare no remorse what happened in the east.