What's in the box?

A lesson from improv comedy.

Open Cardboard Box On White : стоковые видео (без лицензионных платежей)  32554141 | Shutterstock

I soon plan to take improv classes.

Why? Not because I want to become a comedian. But because a creative person is always creative in many spheres at once. Rarely it’s the case that you are a talented writer – and that’s all. We can all learn from multi-disciplinary creative training.

One of the best improv teachers at Stanford, Patricia Madson (who is also the author of “Improv Wisdom”) has an exercise called “What’s in the box?”

She asks her students to imagine a white box. With a lid on the top. Then she asks the students to open the box.

“What do you see inside?”

Different students see different things. When I opened the box just now, I saw a pin. Yesterday, I saw a Taro card. And the day before yesterday, there was a frog.

What you see in the box matters less than the fact that there is always something there.

As creatives, as writers, we can learn a lot from this exercise. The lesson is a straightforward one: there is always something in the box. The Muse always delivers. The professional creative trusts that once she sits down to write, something will appear. Even though she hasn’t prepared or doesn’t know what she is going to write that day.

Our job, as creatives, is to merely open the box trust that we’ll find something inside. This trust is blind. It’s scary. But that’s the job of a creative.

Open the box by sitting down to write each day.


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