My Brain Is On Fire

Thinking and  Teaching

The MissImp Improv Beginners course is going well. We have a week off with the bank holiday so I need to send them some homework later on (!). Parky and I have fallen into a natural complementary rhythm of teaching; I’d forgotten just how much you can find to say about a scene and about improv in general. Sometimes I find that slightly challenging because I am not a cognitive improviser at all. Some of the MissImp gang do a good deal more thinking during scenes than me, but I just can’t. We re-blogged a post by Heather from@MusicImprov this week which talks about ‘being in your head’ – that familiar experience of trying to work out what to do with a scene rather than just doing it. It also talks about ‘rolodexing’ as a way of flipping through your related thoughts and ideas. I can’t do it, which makes me abysmal at warm ups which rely on relating concepts.

by Viktoriya:

Personal Learning Styles

That’s okay though, as a trainer and learner I’m very aware of how I learn and it’s not through Q&A, or formal learning. For me everything comes alive when I’m talking – discursive’s where it’s at baby. Damned Parky continues to mock me for being unable to do the Pointless questions “words ending in -ice” (for example). I tend to say something like “ice” or “spice”. It would take me literally hours to get to his daughter’s instant answer “prejudice”. The more I think about anything the harder it gets (no, not like that). If I stop thinking about it (which is difficult once he’s put the bloody thing in my head) and just talk, or write I’ll find one pretty quickly. Have you ever tried concentrating really hard on breathing and thinking about how you actually do it? It makes me struggle to breathe at all. Autonomic functions do work best when you don’t think about them. I need to kick back, relax my brain and let it run out of my mouth (or fingers) – the silt it dredges up often proves useful.

My experiences of ‘rolodexing’ are awful. I get the first word, then the next sheet is blank, and the next one, then the next. After a few of those I’m panicking and my mind is now associating with ‘blank’, ‘failure’, ‘doom’ and so on. I find it hard to plan rhymes. A lot of musical improvisers are able to plan out their rhyming schemes and then fill in the lines as the sing. I envy their joyous mental fluidity. As soon as I start to do that it fucks me up. I doubt I shall ever be able to do a Hoedown without being terrified and not rhyming. My preference for dealing with suggestions and ideas is to bury it in my mind and leap into action. Once the mind is primed with a suggestion, which we then kick away from, it’s bound to come back to it, or at least inform the consequences.

Open Your Mind

Something that I’m finding I emphasise while teaching the beginners is opening ourselves to the range of possibilities. Many questions and situations appear to be black or white – yes/no are the instinctive answers. For beginners the instinct is often to say no. It’s easier, it shuts down opportunity and it feels safer. But there are a literal infinity of possible answers or responses for any situation. Making those available to us, and quickly, can for me only be accomplished by thinking as little as possible. Everything I think of shuts down a thousand alternatives; everything I do opens up a million possibilities.

Re-blogged from: where Nick burbles a bit about improv each Monday but forgets to link it to

Whaddaya think?

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