I love to write. I’ve written stand up jokes, songs, short stories, novels (as of this writing none are finished, but I will finish one soon), sketches, video game ideas, pilots, short screen plays, full length screenplays, fake speeches, corporate comedy sketches/jingles/workshops and probably other things I can’t think of. Oh, well…blogs. I write blogs too. Duh.
So, I would like to write my life, please. You see, in addition to being a writer, I’m an improviser and improv teacher. And I realized that I’ve been improvising my life. The problem is, I’m not nearly as good at life improvising as I am with on stage improvising. I’m halfway decent at the latter. The former…well, let’s just say after filing my taxes (Thank you for all your help, Mom!) I discovered I made less money than the poverty line last year.
Don’t panic. This isn’t a blog asking for money or even complaining about it. That’s just an indicator of how my life could possibly be better than it is at the moment. No need to worry. I don’t feel bad about it. I actually feel better internally than I can ever remember. Things are good, even though circumstances aren’t perfect.
So, using money as an example, if I wrote my life, I would make my character a billionaire. Or at least someone who could consistently make more than $20,000 a year. How would I do it? Lots of ways. I could write a scene in my life where I get cast as a spokesman for some big company like Snapple or one of the thousand insurance companies who seem to spend more on advertising than any other industry (I don’t know that as a fact, I just feel like I see more insurance commercials/ads than any other type).
I could win the lottery, finish and sell my novel, get cast on a sitcom, sell a pitch, etc. To me there are endless ways to imagine myself making money. But let’s go deeper shall we? Let’s go back and write a new Rich Baker narrative from…middle school. Why then? *shoulder shrug* Why not? Gotta pick sometime. I feel like I could have made a lot better choices back then.
First of all, I would write myself as learning that I was lactose intolerant earliery in life and that I actually made the choice to avoid dairy as opposed to eating ice cream and cake frosting and cereal and all the gooey delicious cheese. I miss it so much. When I was young, I was told that it wasn’t good for me because my body didn’t produce a vital enzyme for dairy digestion. Did I listen? Nope. Caused a lot of medical problems. I didn’t kick dairy completely until five years ago.
What would have been different? Maybe I wouldn’t have struggled with so many stomach pains and would have stayed in shape longer because I didn’t have the excuse that ‘my tummy hurt to much to workout.’ Maybe I wouldn’t have gotten as sick as much and would have kept singing after high school. Maybe my adherence to a dairy free life would have sparked an earlier interest in health & food and I would have not eaten Jack In the Box all the freakin’ time when I was in and during my first year after college.
What else? Going back to middle school, maybe I write that I stuck with the piano lessons and made a real concerted effort to become great at it. What would that have gotten me? Maybe I would have been a double threat as an improviser and a music director (if you don’t know the improv world, this is a person who plays improvised piano or guitar or whatever instrument to aid in improv scene work, become stand alone music pieces in the show, or even score a whole improvised musical). Maybe I would have been able to play for a piano bar or on a cruise ship or something like that and that could have changed the whole course of my life?
Maybe I write the middle school version of myself as someone who wants to read more and watch MTV less. I mean, it wasn’t even that good. Looking back I realized I was just depressed a lot and watched TV as a drug to help me escape the thoughts of me. And on that note, I would write myself as not ever suffering from depression. Or if I did still write me as depressed I would write in someone to properly diagnose me and get me some good therapy to teach me how to deal with it. Real life me didn’t get therapy until I was 33 (six months ago).
How different would my life had been had I felt less depressed and therefore did more with my time? The possibilities are endless. Just changing that one thing might have automatically fixed or lead to the fixing of some of my other character flaws
Fictional middle school me also wants to learn Spanish, get a Dallas agent and try to book commercials as a teen actor, encouraged my parents to send me to some kind of camp at some point so I could have the camp experience. I went to summer camp once. It was awesome. I was 17. How much cooler had it been if I had the summer camp experience at age 11?
Fictional middle school me writes every day. He writes in a journal and/or on a piece of fiction. He establishes a good work ethic young, so that he can become more successful in life. He spends less time caring about what is popular and judges things by whether or not they actually make him happy. He realizes that girls really are just people and there’s no reason to be super nervous or scared of them. Just talk to them. Some are really cool.
Fictional me doesn’t make fun of his best friend, because some popular kid was doing it so he decided to cave into peer pressure and join in. Fictional me shows more respect and appreciation to my parents and my brother and many other amazing people I took for granted. Fictional me is still obsessed with the Simpsons. That was a good call. Fictional me reads great authors who aren’t assigned in school like Douglass Adams, Jack Keruac, Noam Chomsky, Charles Dickens, Frank Miller, Garth Ennis, Carl Sagan, and so many others.
I could go on. When I think about it I would write a version of me who gets a lot of the stuff that I get now, but does so in middle school. And by doing so, I would have likely made a slew of different choices.
But at the end of the day, I can’t write my life. I honestly don’t know what I would do if a magic genie granted me the ability to transport current day mind equipped with all memories and coginitive abilities into middle school me. Part of me says, “Yeah, change it up. Make everything awesome.” And then part of me realizes that doing so would erase all the experiences I’ve had. They would still be memories, but not actual events. Because in the new middle school me those haven’t happened yet. And because I’d be changing things up, they likely never will happen to me. At least not in the same way.
I doubt there is any magic genie (or magic anything) that could ever grant me that ability. So, I’m not too concerned with how confident I am in my ability to know what choice I would make. But with what little thought I’ve given it, I feel 50/50 that I would take him up on his offer.
My point, however, is that I know something now that I’ve never known before. Well, I’ve known it in a sense. If anyone would have asked me about it I would have had an answer. But I didn’t have it in words or on the forefront of my mind. And that something is that I have the ability to write the next phase of my life. I still don’t know the future, but I know how to manipulate myself so that I increase my chances of a particular outcome. For example, If I want to be a guy with a completed manuscript for my novel then I know I have to write everyday. I haven’t done that yet. Currently, I’m writing more often than I ever have on a long term consistent basis, but I know that it’s not good enough. I need to make it a daily habit. So, I’m working on it.
I’m writing my own life.
The ironic thing is that I tell my improve students that their best chance of success on an improve stage happens when they get to a point that they have no idea what’s come next. But in life that doesn’t seem to always be the case. I think more people would want to write their lives than are currently satisfied to continue improvising their lives.
Because in order to improvise (at least in the way I define it) you cannot know what’s going to happen. The minute you think about what might happen or how you could make it so something particular will happen, you’re not improvising. You’re what I call “insta-writing.” You’re writing a line or two (or even as little as a word or two) ahead of what you’re doing and saying. Insta-writing isn’t a bad thing by any stretch. I personally don’t think it’s the best way to perform improv comedy, but I have to do it when I improvise rap. And many people do it when they speak to others in a social setting. My point is not to judge one over the other, but to say that in their definitions they are incapable of cohabitation. You can’t improvise and write ahead by definition.
But in life, I think there’s a balance of both. I think some insta-writing is good. Like when you apply to colleges in the hopes that you’ll one day graduate from college. Or when you propose to someone hoping that one day you’ll have children with them. I think there are many good reasons to write ahead.
Yet at the same time, I think being completely mindful of the present moment and not looking ahead can be used for other situations. Maybe when you talk to your friends, or watch a movie, or read or meditate, etc. it’s better to purely improvise and not think ahead at all.
My problem is I haven’t been writing enough of my life and I’m also not a terribly great improviser when it comes to my life.
So, my new goal is to find that balance. It’s going well so far. I’m not there yet, but I’m writing my story to say that I will find it. And that’s helped. =)