I am continually trying to celebrate a failure. To throw my arms up in the air and shout with joy “Again! Again!” or “I love to fail!”
“Mistakes are gifts” and “celebrate failure” are two core improv principles. Over many years of improvising, I’ve experienced these to be truths, in fact to be multifaceted truths. Like all the life and business self-help books proclaim – failure is where we learn. The throwing your arms in the air exercise mentioned above are both used by many improvisors to help “get over” the stuck in failure moment. I find that it helps me get out of the spinning-monkey-mind going on and back into my body, at least for a moment. Sometimes that moment is enough to regain perspective and/or courage to continue.
There’s an interesting article in Nov 2007 New York Times about the mixed message in our culture about mistakes with some research focused on children in school. The heart of it is:
We grow up with a mixed message: making mistakes is a necessary learning tool, but we should avoid them.
Another aspect is having perspective on what is a mistake? In the collaborative world of improvisation, what seems like a “mistake” to me, might spark another person’s imagination (LP finds all kinds of things amusing or interesting that I wouldn’t have noticed from my adult perspective). Also everyone experiences those uncomfortable or embarrassing or lost moments. That is a rich foundation of the creative group process – creating together that hasroom to incorporate even chunky, gunky, silly, or stupid moments.
If I can approach my challenges with open arms and cry out gleefully “Again! Again!” when I’m stymied or struggling or just plain frustrated, my hope is that LP can embrace her mistakes and challenges more easily. Not necessarily achieve or learn more easily, but at least I can try to help her learn to get out of her own way. I’m not sure how literally I’m going to use it — I am going to experiment with the impact of that added to trying to hold that mindset.
Parenthood is so loaded with opportunities to feel bad about or question our choices and decisions. So is anytime we put ourselves out in the public eye to do something. This past week, I had what felt like FAILURES on both fronts that gnawed at me and kept me up at night. In both cases, I came up with new ideas/ways of thinking.
On the home front, LP has returned to putting everything in her mouth (it has been extreme recently probably because she’s getting her 2nd molars). In frustration, I ended up grabbing things away from her and not giving her the chance to give it up…by the end of the day, doing that even before she made a move to her mouth. One idea is to always, always, always remember to have some really chewy thing to snack on (strip of dried papaya, granola bar, etc) to offer as a replacement. That seems like such an obvious thing to do now that I’ve thought of it (another improv principle – “be obvious!”)
In the public eye was my drop-in Improv Stories group at Habitot last week that I just couldn’t get off the ground. I was overtired (tough night and previous day with LP) and realized big time that as an overtired mom, I need to support myself in the moment with better preparation. Preparation for improv? Yes! Yes! Yes! There are so many challenges in group storytelling, that getting a solid foundation structure so I can relax and trust the improv is crucial.
Since I don’t know the age of the kids in advance (drop-in group for kids up to age 6 – it is such a wide range not to mention not knowing how many) I need to plan a theme to unify the group and give a focus point that the improv stories can spring from. I also need to focus in on what do I want to see emerge in the group – is it physical engagement from the kids? verbal? what about the engagement of the caregivers & parents? My goal of creating stories together is do-able but I need to embrace some additional structure to make that happen. So I’ve been making props over the weekend (I’ve had a fabric seedpod factory going on our dining table)…I’ll see how they work as a unified jumping off place, how the kids engage with them and where the story goes from there.
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