Improv gives us the opportunity as artists to create something and then immediately move on to create something else. This gives us enormous freedom to suppress our judgement of our work as there is no time to edit it. This is liberating and taps into the flow state which so many of us crave and strive for. However, most of us will also be trying to create more permanent works whether it be music, writing, dance, art or any other medium. Suddenly, when faced with the possibility of being able to go back and refine our creative splurges, we are back to the dread of the blank page and the frustration of deleting that first sentence over and over. I have already done that with this blog. The flow state seems like a distant nirvana.
I have tried to learn to keep my creator and my editor in different rooms – sometimes literally. I have a physical space I can explore, throw paint at a canvas (metaphorically) like Pollock, or splurge a Ginsburg-esque Howl. Composers whose works we now have in a frozen snapshot rarely started at the first note and finished at the last. Rather they jumped in and created a whole bunch of ideas and then tried to record and polish those that stuck. This is where Improv allows us to practise that creative state of mind, and at a dazzling speed. Digital media has given us the power to record our splurges in real time so we are not slowed down by the pen. I can record myself just playing in a free flow state and then return to it, sucking at the end of my pencil, crossing out and reworking the bits I did not like. I have used this as a creative process many times and I could not say whether the final results are qualitatively better, but they certainly have less painful conceptions.
This is not to say, of course, that we can’t enter a slower flow state where we are more aware of our output as we go. Writing a physical diary is a very different experience to typing and allows our brain to slow down and craft our words in a different way. Playing the piano and writing music down is not possible simultaneously, but again we can get our brain into a slower speed and stay in flow.
There is nothing new in this advice, but it is still something I return to when I have blank-page-a-phobia. Just get in there and improvise. Are the quick scenes at the start of a rehearsal any good? Well sometimes maybe but on the whole they are warm ups for the creative process. Are the little musical doodles when I first sit at the piano the seeds of my first symphony? No but again I’m easing myself in. So write a load of crap and keep it coming, play some rubbish, dance like nobody’s watching, sing like you are in the shower and lock your editor in another room for now is the time for flow.