Improv Wisdom

Don't Prepare, Just Show Up
by Patricia Ryan Madson | Bell Tower © 2005 · 160 pages

This is one of Steven Pressfield's favorite books. When I heard that, I immediately got it. Brilliant. Patricia Ryan Madson is Emerita of Stanford University where she taught for three decades in the Drama Department. We'll have fun looking at her 13 maxims for improv living from this quick-reading, fun, smart, practical book.

God has given each of us our ‘marching orders.’ Our purpose here on Earth is to find those orders and carry them out. Those orders acknowledge our special gifts.
Soren Kierkegaard

“A good improvisor is someone who is awake, not entirely self-focused, and moved by a desire to do something useful and give something back and who acts upon this impulse. My students wanted to know the password for joining the society of such people, to play fearlessly, and to work with greater ease.

Here is the password—it is yes! Understanding the power of yes is easy; practicing that acceptance and affirmation in daily life becomes our challenge.

I’m writing to encourage you to improvise your life, please. I want you to take chances and do more of the things that are important to you. I’m hoping that you will make more mistakes, laugh more often, and have some adventures…

What is missing in your life? The paperweight on my desk challenges me to ask the bumper-sticker question: What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” What would you do?

As improvisors we discover we don’t need this unrealistic guarantee to begin. The only real failure is not doing anything. Why not explore, get moving on your life, kick-start your dreams, paint outside the lines? This book will provide inspiration and practical suggestions. Try them.”

~ Patricia Ryan Madson from Improv Wisdom

In Turning Pro, Steven Pressfield describes an exercise from Improv Wisdom and says that this book is on his short list of indispensable books.

Of course, I got it immediately. Anything that makes that list is something I’m going to read. :)

And, here we are. Improv Wisdom rocks. So does Patricia Ryan Madson.

Patricia is an Emerita of Stanford University where she taught for three decades in the Drama Department. She integrates the wisdom of two primary, extraordinary teachers/philosophies: Keith Johnstone’s Impro goodness + David Reynolds’ Constructive Living mojo. (Check out the Note on Constructive Living; it’s the best little book you’ve never read!!)

This book is a down-to-earth, inspiring, quick-read featuring the thirteen maxims of improv living. It’s packed with Big Ideas and practical exercises (Patricia calls them “Try this!” and they’re great). You can get a copy of the book here!

Here are the thirteen maxims: say yes + don’t prepare + just show up + start anywhere + be average + pay attention + face the facts + stay on course + wake up to the gifts + make mistakes, please + act now + take care of each other + enjoy the ride!

We’ll explore a handful of them now.

Let’s jump in!

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About the author


Patricia Ryan Madson

Improv teacher who loves to paint.