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Making Things Up As I Go

Making Things Up As I Go

I feel I have very little authority on the topic of improv. I mean, in various acting classes and shows over the years we’ve done fun improv games as a sort of warm up, and the way I stumble my way through life could be considered a kind of improv, but I don’t really know much about formal improv performance. But it doesn’t necessarily have to apply to the traditional image of an improv show. All performance has some element of improvisation because whether you’re onstage or backstage, live theatre is unpredictable and things always go wrong, so you have to just work with that. Sometimes you end up with something much more interesting and creative than the original plan.

But improvisation is not a strictly theatrical term. Anytime things are going off the set path is a moment that calls for improvisation. You completely destroy the painting you’re working on by spilling glitter on it? Improvise. You don’t have the ingredients for a meal? Improvise. You get stuck in a tree with a thousand carnivorous rabbits? Improvise. You undoubtedly know what I’m talking about, especially this year.

Let’s admit it, 2020 has been and continues to be absolute wild nonsense. This year just keeps throwing stuff at us like “You didn’t see that coming! Adapt, now!” No 2020, I don’t want to “yes, and” your wildfires, can we please just take five. As a college student it has been strange stumbling through this transition to zoom classes. It’s not all that difficult really, just weird and annoying. It’s like at first my classmates and professors and I all collectively chose to pretend we knew what we were doing even though nobody actually did, but now we’re just like “yeah, who really knows anymore. Why isn’t the volume working? Who’s to say? You heard about that stay at home order though? Not great… And hey if you need an extension on the exam just ask.”

So, what do you do when the world is changing like mad every day and you don’t really have any control? You improvise. You make things up as you go. In this way I have a lot of authority on the topic, not because I’m personally acquainted with any carnivorous rabbits, but because I often have no clue what I’m doing until I jump into it. And honestly, if carnivorous rabbits are the next murder hornets would anyone really be surprised?

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Olivia is a creative human who writes for IDEAS and reads many, many books. Got an idea for a guest blog? Email