Creative Thinking: Party of One

My favorite thing about improv is that it must be done with people. Without people it's just me talking to myself in different voices, which I promise is more scary than entertaining. (I'll save that version of me for when I'm age 75+).

So many of us are freelancers and spend our days working from home or at kick-ass co-working spaces with unlimited coffee, beer, and "spa" water with citrus fruits (I'm talking to you, WeWork! Can't wait to start there this fall). Yet, no matter where you type on your computer or what beverage you drink, working alone can be lonely. It is hard to feel inspired and creative every day. You don’t have a trusted team to share ideas with and not worry about sounding ridiculous. My improv team and I can't be together every day either, so I do some improv-inspired exercises to keep my brain alive and kicking.

One of my favorite things about NYC is that I can walk anywhere and something is always happening. When I walk I don't listen to music instead I take the opportunity to observe people and things around me.

One exercise I do is stream-of-observation (I totally made up that title). For example if I walk by a tree I make visual and verbal connections in my head allowing my mind to wander and be free. It might sound like this:

There’s a tree, kids climb trees, my friend broke her arm falling out of a tree, when I was a kid riding bikes around our street was the ultimate freedom. No one had helmets, danger wasn’t something people worried about. Dogs pee on trees. There’s bark on trees, and dogs bark, I wish I had a dog, though I’m never home, but I love really small dogs that can fit in purses. Why doesn’t anyone say the word "purse" anymore? Everything is a satchel, a tote, a handbag. I wish I could fit everything in my pocket like a man.

My brain started with the sight of a simple tree and progressed toward more complex gender issues. I never judge my thoughts, which is the key to improv and creative thinking. This exercise is easy to do during your commute or sitting in your apartment - grab an object and go. Write down* your thoughts and see where they take you. You'll surprise yourself. 

*Challenge: Time yourself (3 min or less)