In many areas of our lives, we’re improvising without even knowing it. Even the most careful planners know that it’s extremely rare for any event to go exactly as intended. Even if we think we know what someone is going to say or how someone is going to react, the outcomes of conversations or events may surprise us. As Patricia Ryan Madson, author of Improv Wisdom: Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up, says, “we can count on chaos.” So, how do we better think on our feet, particularly in the midst of that chaos?
Improv Wisdom breaks down thirteen strategies used in improv that can help us show up more fully in our personal and professional lives. And it has nothing to do with comedic ability or wit.
Madson, who retired from full-time teaching at Stanford in 2005, draws on her decades of experience into simple strategies that you can start practicing, without ever stepping foot on a stage.
The book’s thirteen strategies are each broken down with exercises so you can practice each one and find the tactics that are most helpful to you. Some like “start anywhere” and “act now” are especially helpful for copywriters combating blank-page syndrome or not knowing how to begin working on a project.
With the “start anywhere” strategy, the idea is to start chipping away at any little piece because once you get into a project, you’ll have a much better idea of what’s needed and can start organizing your to-do list around what you find. In the “act now” section, Madson says, “you don’t need to feel like doing something to do it,” with tips on how to take action in those tough moments.
She also advises to pursue ideas that come to your mind first, which may sound antithetical to our copywriting brains. How often do you find yourself thinking, “this is my first idea, it can’t be the one I use” or some version of that thought process? Madson points out this is our brains throwing up unnecessary road blocks. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pursue multiple ideas, but we shouldn’t immediately discount our first idea just because it’s the “first.”
One of our favorite lines is where Madson says to stop trying to flee the “wobble.” The more we become familiar with the “wobble” or uncertainty, the less frightening it becomes.
So, with that, we’d encourage you to try some of the improv techniques in this book and see how they help improve your copywriting process. We have a feeling they’ll help not only improve your copywriting itself, but your mindset when it comes to pitching and talking with clients!
Your Turn! What are your tactics for dealing with uncertainty? Let us know in the comments below!
Last Updated on October 6, 2022
Alan Harrington says
I’ve always practiced the start anywhere approach,
I used to imagine a ball of string all tangled up, just find one end and follow that, work your way in, I need to get back to that mindset, I’ve become a bit discombobulated lately.
Tracy Yothsackda says
That’s a great analogy. And these last 18-ish months have left us all feeling a bit discombobulated!