What Victor Hugo Can Teach Us About Improvisation

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I went to a group singing workshop last night, and we sang a song with lyrics by Victor Hugo. (That's the guy who wrote Les Misérables.)

Be like the bird,
Who halting in her flight
On a limb too slight,
Feels it give way beneath her,
Yet sings,
Knowing she has wings.

At first, I was interpreting this as "you have everything you need to deal with the unexpected", and that's true.

But as we sang, I realized that it's bigger than that.

The unexpected certainly can be scary. But when you put it in perspective, it's actually pretty paltry compared to your ability to deal with it. And so the unexpected, even mistakes, shows you how powerful and amazing you are.

Have you ever seen a really top-notch dancer make a mistake?

I have, many times. If it's a small mistake, she pretends it never happened, and the audience quickly forgets about it, if they notice at all. But if it's a noticeable mistake, the dancer laughs.

She doesn't laugh because she's embarrassed, but because she is amused by that tiny, paltry little mistake. And we laugh with her, charmed by her grace and confidence.

Next time you improvise, stay in that mindset.

When you mess up, notice what happens. Not only did the world not end, but moments later, you're still creating something beautiful for the audience. (Yes, even if it's not your best show ever, it's still beautiful.). And you're doing it right there in the moment. And that's *amazing*.

So glory in what that says about you.

It's not just that you can deal when your branch breaks. You can *fly*.

Leave a comment:

How do you usually respond when you make a mistake? What do you do? How do you feel?

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