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by Darren Held

by Sonnjea Blackwell

Sometimes Nate and I have text conversations that aren’t entirely Emojis, and yesterday we had a talk about giving up… so I’ma share it with you. A cardinal rule in improv is don’t bail. Meaning that, no matter how shitty your scene might get, you stay in it. You commit, and you agree, and you add information and you play your heart out.

There’s time when it’s over to analyze it, but while you’re DOING the scene, you never give up and walk away. You don’t leave your location. You don’t throw up your hands and look at your teacher or director and say, “I have no clue what to do now.” In short, you don’t quit.

This same philosophy could be applied to your improv training in general (or to anything you do in life, for that matter). At some point, if you do improv long enough (say, longer than 2 hours), you WILL get frustrated. Improv isn’t easy, and many of the skills do not come naturally to most folks, and when you hit that first wall of frustration (or the 2nd, or the 100th), it can be tempting to bail. After all, it’s not like you’re ever gonna get rich from doing improv, so why bother, right?

Wrong. Well, I mean, probably “right” about the getting rich part. But 100% wrong about the “why bother” part. First and most obvious, if you quit when you get frustrated, you’ll never get better. You’ll go out on a low note. You’ll never know what you could have done.

But more importantly, you will have bailed on yourself. Bailing on your scene partner is bad enough, but bailing on yourself is no way to live. It’s not admitting defeat – there’s no shame in losing, and we all lose sometimes; that’s life – it’s inviting defeat. It’s slamming the door on any possibility of victory. It’s selling yourself short.

We can’t all continue doing EVERYTHING we’ve ever started, clearly. But I’d argue that if you care enough about something that you get frustrated when you struggle with it, it’s worth struggling through that wall… not for the sake of learning the thing so much as for the sake of learning to believe in yourself and learning that you CAN push through the difficulties. I think of the struggly times as tests – not of my skill, but of my determination. You have to pass those tests of determination to get to the next level of ability.

And then, not only do you reap the reward of being better at improv or whatever you’re learning, but you get the satisfaction of knowing that YOU did that. You stuck it out, and you worked your ass off, and you didn’t give in to the fears or frustrations that came along to pull you off course.

You win.

Darren Held
About Darren Held
Darren is the CEO and Creative Director of Held2gether, Improv for LIfe. He has been teaching and performing improv for 15 years, and has performed with H2g, the Groundlings, UCB and Second City. He loves Moto, red wine, and Madonna.

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