On the surface, improvisation may seem to be the furthest thing from writing. It looks like acting—like a heightened, specialized, and—honestly—terrifying form of acting.
Consider the type of improv that most of us are familiar with—short-form comedy improv, like what is featured on Whose Line Is It Anyway? In this show, the cast performs in short “games,” often as characters or in settings suggested by the audience. (“You’re both cowboys—who ride kittens—on Mars! Show us what your first date would look like—now!”)
But what really draws us to watching performers create something on the spot? We may think of them as particularly clever actors—but that’s not exactly the case, because acting isn’t the primary thing they’re doing.
We’re really watching people write—on the spot.
As writers, we understand the impact of language. We pour over each syllable, agonize over a “but” versus a “yet,” and spend hours deciding the best way to communicate a specific idea or narrative.
We know that a single word can alter how an audience feels, create moods, encourage action, or inspire people to change their minds.
Yet when it comes to discussing our writing career — even to ourselves — we often don’t put the same consideration into our word choices. Even more problematically, we may unknowingly be self-sabotaging our careers with our language.