Creating Physical Writing Space as a Grad Student/Parent

I’m cramming all of Week One of Wendy Belcher’s book into one day. I might even start on Week Two. We’ll see.

Anyway. She’s got a part about identifying the physical sites where you’re doing your writing and what you need to do to improve them.

Here are the potential sites I listed:

  • Nursery/playroom
  • Kitchen
  • Public library
  • Basement
  • Coffee shop

I have fifteen hours of childcare a week and fifty-six hours of school-related commitments (including my assistantship), so obviously a lot of work has to happen outside of traditional office spaces. I work on the queen bed or in the glider we have in my son’s nursery/playroom. I work at the kitchen table. I meet a friend for communal writing time at the public library. I work at the dining table we have in our basement. And when I need a treat as motivation, I work at a local coffee shop.

With five “offices,” investing too much time, money, or effort in improving any one of them doesn’t really make a lot of sense. So I keep it all in a go bag or mobile office. This isn’t a new idea, but it’s something I’ve had to get okay with in a new way.

Here’s what has to be in my bag for me to be able to work:

  • laptop
  • charger
  • tablet
  • stylus
  • notebooks
  • pens
  • highlighters
  • readings

And then, in the nursery/playroom, at least, I have to have a lapdesk with me.

I’m a piler, not a filer, so I often have all my work stuff spread out around me and if I believe I will return to it, I just leave it out. (I’m usually wrong. I almost never return to it promptly enough to merit leaving it out.) So another shift to my process thanks to parenthood is that I’ve got to pack it all up every time, or I may find myself in bed next to a sleeping toddler with all my work stuff in a different room.

My Feelings About My Experience of Writing #12weekarticle #AcWri

In my doctoral program, before you can take your comprehensive qualifying exams, you have to submit two journal articles for publication. I’ve submitted exactly zero, in spite of two independent studies in which my plan was to create work. In one of them, I ended up doing a poster presentation instead; I’m still working on the other, as it ended up falling in the semester with my parental leave.

I have a thing about revision. I never revised my Master’s paper. I get paralyzed by it. But I’ve got to revise before I’m ready to submit, so when I wrote my learning contract for my dissertation hours this fall, I included revising one of those independent study papers for submission as one of the deliverables. So here we are.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about academic writing lately, especially academic writing habits and process, and consistently everyone recommends Wendy Belcher’s (2009) book Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks. I purchased this years ago, when I was first trying to revise my Master’s paper, and I’m pulling it out again.

So here we are. You, Internet, are going to be my writing partner sometimes. I won’t share drafts with you, but I’m going to blog about my process.

Belcher says, “One of the reasons that academics do not talk about writing is that it involves talking about feelings… So, let’s get started with a very broad question. What feelings come up when you think about writing?” (p. 2). Belcher recommends discussing this with a classmate or colleague, or composing an email to a friend or family member. I’m composing this blog post instead.

Here we go.

I’m the type of writer who dreams and plans for weeks, then churns out a draft in a matter of hours. I used to think my writing process was bogus, that I needed to be drafting non-stop. Last semester I realized that this isn’t quite true. As Raul Pacheco-Vega talks about, I need to be moving my writing forward, but that doesn’t mean drafting. Sometimes it means freewriting, memoing, or reading. So this is the kind of writer I am: I read, I think, I plan, I freewrite, I memo, and all of that takes a long time. And when I feel saturated, then I write like the wind. I turn out a paper that I usually think is hot garbage, but which professors often say are just a few revisions away from ready to submit for publication.

And this is where I get paralyzed, and I’m not sure why. I think it’s overwhelm. Overwhelm at the thought of having to figure out the literature. Of the possibility that my data is old and needs to be done again. At the notion of cutting down all the writing I’ve done into something manageable. I am paralyzed by overwhelm and anxiety, and there are just so many other things that need my attention that I give myself a break, and that’s why I’m sitting on five unpublished manuscripts.

I love writing.

I fear revising.

Those are my feelings on the matter.

Breaking the compulsion to check for notifications

I have turned off push notifications for most apps on my phone and tablet, so that I won’t constantly be disrupted. But I, like many of us I suspect, still compulsively check apps for notifications: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram. I’m trying to wean myself away from this behavior, as it eats up a lot of time when I could be reading, writing, watching, listening to, or playing other things. Just today I remembered the simplest way to handle this: turn on email notifications.

I have WordPress set up to scrape my posts elsewhere and import replies as comments, but that doesn’t handle tags/mentions and event invitations. From now on, all that stuff will pour into my email inbox, giving me only one place to check compulsively. I find little value in scrolling my feeds these days, but am unmotivated to prune them. This will allow me to get the interactions I’m most excited about while cutting down on time spent checking in, I hope.

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Doing my part to fix the internet

I happened upon this tweet from my friend Whitney the other day:

It links to Vicki Boykis’s post, Fix the internet by writing good stuff and being nice to people. Boykis articulates a problem that I’ve been chafing against recently, that I had chalked up to nostalgia. In the early days of the web, and even as the web came into what I consider its adolescence, she writes:

People used to write blogs. Long blogs. Rambling blogs. Blogs they weren’t sure anyone was reading. There was a LOT of noise. But there were also blogs that had fun stories, long posts about how to do something, analyses of government issues, of cooking techniques, of the Civil War. People used to write stuff other people wanted to read.

And then traces the process of consolidation of content and the move of the web from a medium where content was the product to a medium where content is the wrapper and eyes on ads are the product:

Whereas before content used to be spread out on numerous domains in numerous ways, content now mostly makes its home on the three domains that are most hostile to thoughtful human discussion: Twitter, Medium, and Facebook.

Now, she says, those of us who use these services are generating content that they are leveraging to make money off of us. Theoretically, we’re getting their services in trade for this content, but we aren’t where they make their money. We trade our content to them, and they trade our attention to advertisers.

The internet is broken; this is how it is broken. And, she insists, it is in our power to fix it. She identifies five steps we can take to do so:

  1. Write your own blog on your own platform.
  2. Share good content.
  3. Acknowledge creators by paying them.
  4. Use adblockers.
  5. Engage in dialogue with people who are different from you.

In the comments on the post, Chris Aldrich mentions that this advice aligns well with the IndieWeb movement. Well, I fell down that rabbit hole, and here we are: I have put all the tech in place that I need to, I think, for my publishing to happen here at kimberlyhirsh.com, go out to my various social places, and then have responses come back here. This post will serve as sort of a test to find out.

So tell me: are you seeing this post somewhere in the world? Where? 

Of course, that process really only addresses Boykis’s first step. I took a social media hiatus recently and tried to remember how I used to use the internet. And it really was blogs, forums, and LiveJournal. I’m certainly not going back to LJ, and so far I haven’t found forums that satisfy me, but good blogging is still happening, so I loaded a bunch into Feedly. Then I returned to social media a bit more consciously, and I do think I’ve been sharing good content then. But – you guessed it – now, I’m going to share that good content here.

As for the third step, I do this a little bit already, via Patreon. There I support Kim Werker, Emm Roy, and Kate Allan. I keep an eye out for other creators I like to support directly. Serendipitously enough, two posts came across my radar on Feedly from Geek and Sundry introducing their new partnership with Nerdist, Project Alpha. It’s a subscription platform providing exclusive content and other content in advance, and I think I’m going to try it out. I’m also probably going to try Seeso, too.

I have been taking a break from adblockers, but I definitely feel it’s time to get them back into my life.

As for number five, here’s where things get tricky. I can track down good blogs and engage in conversations there. But some of the most important conversations in my life are happening in proprietary spaces: Facebook Groups, Twitter, and Tumblr. As a new mom, Facebook Groups are an invaluable resource. As an academic and professional, Twitter is where many of the important conversations in my areas of interest happen. And fandom, well – it kind of lives on Tumblr these days, doesn’t it? If you have managed to move to engaging these platforms almost exclusively via your own hosted platform, how are you doing that? And are you doing it on mobile devices? Because that’s where a lot of my internetting needs to happen.

For the time being, I think my long form writing will happen exclusively here, but it will probably be a process to move short-form here.

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Self-Care in Difficult Times

We live in a scary time. Many of us have been living in a scary time for hundreds of years. Some of us are only recently becoming aware of how scary life can be. And some of us always knew, but were able to set it aside. There are valuable discussions in the world about privilege and how it enables you to act like the world isn’t as scary as it is, but this isn’t one of those. This is about, wherever you are in realizing the world is scary, how you might handle it to keep yourself sane and whole in mind. I will acknowledge up front that some self-care techniques involve material goods. Please know that I’m keenly aware that all of my ideas are not accessible for all people. I don’t believe that makes them worthless. Do what you can, when you can.

Lately, I feel my resilience is strained. I imagine it as a wide rubber band. As it gets stretched, it gets thinner and thinner. It threatens to snap, and if I don’t deliberately create some slack, it will snap. Here are things going on with me that make self-care both difficult to achieve and especially necessary:

1. I am a graduate student. And being a graduate student is hard. It’s not intense physical labor, but it is intense mental labor. It is time consuming. It is never off in the way that some jobs are. There is always more work to do, and in my case much work leftover from the past. I am constantly filled with a sense that I am not being productive enough. Even as I write this post, I’m thinking about other things I could be reading and writing.

2. I am a new mom. I’m so lucky to be a new mom; it is a blessing that came as a happy accident after I had basically given up on getting to be a mom. I struggled with polycystic ovary syndrome for years before falling pregnant; I so appreciate this gift. AND YET. Being a new mom means my body belongs to someone else in a very real way. It means that at almost any point in time, I might need to stop any activity I’m doing – and this activity is usually schoolwork, food prep, or laundry – to attend to a tiny, helpless human’s needs.

3. I am a research assistant on a project focused on equity. My work that’s not for class is focused entirely on promoting cultural competence and culturally sustaining pedagogy, ensuring equity in schools, especially as it relates to race.

4. I deliberately chose my coursework this semester to require me to encounter issues of equity. Because I know that this is an area where I need to grow, I registered for a course called Decolonizing Methodologies and am serving as teaching assistant for a course called Information Services in a Diverse Society. These courses require me to grapple with issues of colonization, inequity, and intersectionality.

5. My usual take-a-break spaces – social media – are (rightly) full of news and protest. I’m a cat videos, cute doodles, and friends’ jokes girl. I would not suggest that we should remove the politics from our social media feeds, but I am not used to the current ratio of news to cat videos. I think it’s excellent that people are using these tools for resistance, and I myself have followed many organizations and people of late to increase my awareness. So I have deliberately transformed the ratio in these spaces for me. BUT it means that what used to consist of taking a break is now more getting aware. So I need to take a break in different ways.

So. Now that I’ve explained what’s straining at my resilience rubber band, let me share what I’m doing to give it some slack.

First, I’m staying engaged so that I feel in touch with the world. I have followed the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Teen Vogue on Twitter. While the combination of new motherhood and chronic illness keeps me from feeling confident in my ability to physically show up for protests, I am engaging in craftivism; I crocheted a pussy hat for a friend who was going to the Women’s March. I am going to make one for myself, as well; I’m also planning to contribute to the beanies for this Black Lives Matter march in Seattle and the crafted hats for the March for Science. I signed up for Kim Werker’s Craft + Activism newsletter, which sends me things to read and do. I sent emails and postcards to my senators; I used the Ink Cards app so that I could send the Women’s March postcards while nursing my baby.

Second, I’m escaping as I need to. This looks different for everybody, but for me it has meant watching old seasons of Project Runway, trying out the new CW series Riverdale (it’s not good and yet I’m enjoying it anyway), listening to Pop Culture Happy Hour episodes both old and new, reading Mark Waid and Fiona Staples’s Archie reboot, and reading Glen Weldon’s The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture. (I’m just sort of generally fueling a new crush on @glenweldon. My husband was all “But he’s gay so don’t expect it to be requited” and I was all “That really doesn’t matter because a crush is not a thing that needs to be requited anyway what with me being happily married to you and all. And him being married too. And famous.”) Check your library for access to escapist reading material, y’all.

Third, I’m trying… a little… to take care of my body. I’ve gone for a few walks. I’ve cooked my own meals. I’ve delighted in warm beverages. I’m still not showering often enough (#thanksbaby) and I haven’t gone for a swim since probably September, both of which would make me feel immensely better, but still. I brush my hair most days. I live in my body so I should really care for it, and I’m making at least some effort. For a person with clinical depression (even in remission), this is an achievement.

Anyway. These are the things I’m doing to care for myself. Self-care can be an act of resistance, so please don’t tell yourself that it is unimportant, that you are unworthy, that there are more important things in the world. If we’re going to have the stamina to fight the good fight, we need to give ourselves a break from time to time.

The best I can do is not a fixed point.

Still reading the advanced reading copy of the @unfuckyourhabitat book. There’s a whole section called “The Perfection Paradox,” about letting go of your perfectionism, and not using perfectionism as an excuse to not get started on something. I don’t consider myself a perfectionist; I, in fact, chafe when other people do. I’m a graduate student and my advisor called me a perfectionist once and I was all, “No, that’s not the problem!”

And it’s true: I don’t mind things being imperfect. (A Latin teacher maxim: “Perfect means finished,” because perfect tense is the tense we use for completed action. We don’t want to be perfect, because then there’s nothing left to do, and what a sad state that would be!)

So I’m not a perfectionist. But I’m a do-my-bestist, or some more elegant way of expressing that idea. I feel like if I’m going to bother doing something, I don’t want to half-ass it. I want to give it my very best, or why bother. But if it’s not perfect even after I’ve given it my best, that’s fine.

The problem is, I conceive of “my best” as a fixed point, my best ever, not the best I can do right now. I struggle with chronic illness and right now I’m 38 weeks pregnant. One of the lessons that pregnancy has taught me that chronic illness never did is that my-best-right-now sometimes needs to be good enough; my-best-ever is not always attainable. I am only really internalizing the lesson here at the end, though, and I have this section of the #ufyh book to thank for that, partly.

My best at a given moment is defined by a number of factors. How much sleep have I gotten? How much physical pain am I in? Is there anything going on in my social or emotional world that is eating a lot of my attention? My best is variable. I can only do the best I can do right now, and I need to not compare the best I can do right now to the best I could have done at some other time. Before I got pregnant, I was doing really well healing my chronic illness; it wasn’t gone, but I was barely symptomatic. I had plenty of energy and almost no pain. I could churn out a solid, well-written ten-page paper in two days, no problem. I would just sit down and write for six hours, go to bed, then get up and finish it the next day.

Once I got pregnant, things shifted. I often had to choose: is this reading for class going to be done thoroughly, or am I going to skim it and then take a nap? Or take a nap and then skim it on the bus on the way to class, even?

I wish I had learned to be this gentle with myself when I was ill; in the long run I would’ve gotten more done. When I was at my most symptomatic and working as a librarian at two different middle schools, and was supposed to give each of them 50% of my working time but desperately wanted to give each of them 100% of my energy, as soon as I realized that what I wanted was unattainable, I shut down. If I couldn’t do my best, I would do only what had to be done. Because, inexplicably, I would rather do simply what is sufficient than something beyond sufficient but not my best. I guess because I think that people can tell when you’re doing the bare minimum, and somehow it’s less upsetting for people to think you’re just getting by, than for people to think you’re trying hard and you’re not getting it done? I don’t know. Brains are weird.

Regardless of what was going through my head at the height of my illness five years ago, I’m realizing that now, as I embark upon motherhood at the same time as I am pursuing a graduate degree, I’ve got to learn to settle for my-best-in-this-moment. It is actually the literal best I can do, and it’s better to do that than to shut down or, alternately, to be very unkind to myself and rail at myself for not doing as well as I would have liked.

How I Bullet Journal, Summer 2016 Edition

I’ve been bullet journaling for almost two and a half years, and I finally feel like I’m hitting my stride with it. I take so many notes for graduate school that I fill up two Moleskines a year. I thought I would take the opportunity of switching to my second volume to share how I use the Bullet Journal system, and which parts I leave out. You can find pictures to go with these on my Instagram account.

My notebook of choice is the Moleskine Classic Collection Large Hardcover Squared Notebook. I began with a lined notebook, because when I first started I wanted to use something that I already had on hand; I wasn’t sure this system would work for me and I didn’t want to invest money in something I wasn’t going to keep using. I switched to a softcover squared notebook for my next journal, but I’m pretty hard on my journals, shoving them in purses and backpacks where they might be near drinks or food that could spill on them, so after the pocket on that softcover gave up the ghost, I switched to hardcover. I love Moleskines for their simplicity and sturdiness.

I love having an index, but I found that with monthly pages and collections all in one index, I was having a lot of trouble finding collections. For this reason, I’ve now divided the index; months go on the left, collections on the right.

In the bottom right corner of my index spread, I have this key. I found that I didn’t use the signifiers Ryder Carroll originally suggested such as an asterisk for priority or an exclamation point for an idea, so I just stopped including them in my key. I never left enough space to the left of my bullets for them anyway.

I tend to use the event bullet when I’m making a daily list; this keeps me from getting too ambitious and giving myself too many “today to-dos.” On each day, I set out specific tasks from my larger monthly list that I want to do; I leave a blank line and then items after that blank line are my rapid-logging for the day. I fill in the event bullet when the event is over.

When I started, Ryder was using boxes for tasks and bullets for notes; I actually like this bullet for tasks and dashes for note system much better.

You’ll notice there’s no bullet for migrating a task backward to the Future Log. That’s because I don’t use the Future Log; I tried but I never looked back at it, so I stopped including it.

Similarly, I usually would forget to refer to the monthly calendar; it wasn’t a good planner because I wouldn’t check it, and it wasn’t a good log of what had happened since I would forget to add things to it after the first of the month. I use Google Calendar for tracking future events, meal planning, and setting reminders. I also refer back to it when I need to know what happened in the past. So my monthly spread just begins with the task list.

I’m a doctoral student, so my work-related collections tend to focus on revising papers for publication, designing new studies, and the grant-funded project that will support my assistantship for the next 3 years. You’ll notice that in my “To Revise” list, I’ve used threading to point to revision notes in an earlier notebook.

School is out right now, and I don’t really feel like going back to my old notebook for examples of these, but I plan to write another post in September about the way I handle specific spreads and collections in the school year: weekly reading, notes on readings for literature reviews, and data collection and analysis.

Effortless Clarity

I experienced a rare moment of effortless clarity in improv practice yesterday. I’m on DSI’s hip-hop improv team Versus, and yesterday we were practicing infusing our scenes with emotion. 

Our director, Rose Werth, instructed us to get on stage, choose an emotion, play in silence for about 15 seconds, and then speak when we were ready.

I got up on stage with Kit FitzSimons. Our suggestion was stargazing. I sat down. I chose “curious/confused” as my initial emotion. I knew, having played with and watched Kit for almost a year, that in that 15 seconds of silence he was going to commit to some very detailed object work, and I didn’t want to do my own object work that might conflict with what he was doing. So I gazed up at the stars. Looked over at him. Watched him fiddle with knobs on an invisible object. Looked back up at the stars. Looked back at him. Watched as he looked through an invisible eyepiece. Realized he was putting together and testing a telescope. Looked back up at the stars. Looked at him. Stood up. Cocked my head to the left. Took one step toward him. At which point he said,

“I’ve got it.”

And we were off. Over the course of the scene, we revealed that our characters were on a date and he was putting together this telescope as a gift for me, but I was constantly trying to help and provide advice and generally, in as polite and loving and in-a-new-relationship a way as possible, tell him he was doing it all wrong.

At one point, he said, “Well, I’m not a professional astronomer.”

And I paused, then said, “But I am.” And then proceeded to prove that assertion over the course of the rest of the scene.

When we were done, Rose and some of our other teammates said, “That was such a smart choice, for you to be a professional astronomer.” I really didn’t know how to respond, because in that pause before saying, “But I am,” I had thought, “There is only one best way to respond to what Kit just said.” So it hadn’t felt like an especially smart choice to me, but more the only one that made sense. So I just mumbled “Uh-huh” or nodded or something and then shared a look with Kit to sort of check in and see if he was thinking the same thing as me, which he seemed to be, and then practice moved on.

But after practice I continued to think about this moment, and why it had been so impressive from the audience when it felt so obvious on stage. I tried to imagine myself a year ago, in the middle of taking 401, watching more experienced improvisers. If I had seen that scene, would I have been impressed in that moment?

And I decided I would. I decided that the very act of effortlessly making that choice, of listening and recognizing and following what seemed like clearly the best path, doing that was impressive, especially because it was something that in the past I was so proud of doing consciously and with great effort. And I decided that it was a gift to have people outside the scene present to verbalize that I had done it, and it was also a gift to have a scene partner who had intentionally set it up and trusted that I would make that choice.

DSI founder, owner, and three-times-my-teacher Zach Ward often tells students (usually in 301) that to him, improv looks like all of that code from The Matrix. He sees the underlying patterns in scenes, not the details on top. And that often involves automatically recognizing the natural consequences of what has happened earlier in the scene. And, thinking more about that moment in practice, I realized: this was a Matrix moment.

I’ve struggled to create my own metaphor to describe that moment. In that moment I was on stage, all possible choices of how to respond to Kit’s offer were laid out before me like so many possible paths, like trails of light. The one I chose glowed brightly, and all the rest were so dim as to not even be noticed or considered. It was so clear and so obviously right. It was the answer.

I’ve also thought about what kind of ingredients go in to the improv cocktail that makes that moment happen. How can we manufacture effortless clarity?

Well, two years of practice doing improv certainly helps. Thinking about improv academically, reading all you can about it, reflecting on both what you do and what you see, all of that helps. It gets you to a place where you can recognize the underlying patterns that make comedy happen. 

But there are other components, and I think the most important, and probably easiest (but also most time-consuming) to manufacture, is the relationship between scene partners. Get on stage with somebody that you’ve played with a lot, preferably in a variety of styles (short form, long form, weird formats); that way each of you trusts the other to knock down anything you set up. Get on stage with somebody you’ve watched a lot; when you’re in a scene with someone, no matter how hard you’re listening, you’re focusing on yourself in a way that you won’t as an audience member. As an audience member watching the same players in a variety of shows, you’ll get to know their personal patterns of play and be able to respond to them on stage. And get on stage with somebody you’ve talked to about improv and how it works, a lot.

Probably you’re not going to become improv BFFs with every potential scene partner. But the closer you can get, the more effortlessly you’ll be able to apply everything you’ve learned about improv in the past.

Beginner’s Mind and Advancing in Improv

I’ve been trying to read the UCB Comedy Manual, and fairly successfully reading Will Hines’s improvnonsense Best Of, but I keep getting distracted by my own thoughts so I thought it would be smart to write them down.

By far, my favorite improvnonsense post is the “How do I get out of my head?” post, which should surprise no one.

I’ve had a whirlwind of a time in my brief time at DSI Comedy Theater. I started taking sketch in January 2014, and found my way (nudged by the delightful Paula Pazderka) into improv in May 2014. I took 101, 201, repeated 201, and took 301 basically back-to-back. In February 2015, I auditioned for the company and was placed in the short-form ensemble. This puts me on stage with improvisers vastly more experienced than me. 

In April 2015, I started 401.

So, given all that preamble, some thoughts.

In 101 and 201 (and even, to some extent, 301), I was a bold and confident improviser. My theater background and my delight at showing up carried me a long way. I was immensely flattered to receive comments from classmates like, “I always feel safe when I’m in a scene with you.” Being confident didn’t keep me from being eager to learn; I happily received notes and did my best to internalize them. (I did notice as early as 101 that I’m a lot smarter in class than on stage. I blame the adrenaline boost that bright lights and an audience inspire.) I happily initiated scenes when my scene partners seemed reticent. I fully committed. I mirrored the heck out of scene partners.

Before being cast in the short form ensemble, I had been away from improv entirely for over 12 weeks, due to another theatre commitment. I was shocked to be cast. But I had a blast at practices. Again, I was just so happy to even show up.

But something happened. I’m not sure when or how, but being up on stage with amazing, experienced improvisers – people I’d admired from the audience for months – turned me into the reticent scene partner, lacking confidence in my choices, assuming that everyone at practices was watching my scenes and thinking about all the things I’d done wrong (narcissism is a problem, y’all). I got less bold. I found myself questioning the director’s and coaches’ decision to let me in this ensemble. (I KNOW THIS IS SILLY. They wouldn’t put me on if they didn’t want me there.)

I felt myself making choices and then backing off from them. By late June or early July 2015, I was thinking that, despite the fact that I have the most fun at improv practice, more fun than almost anything else I do, maybe I was wrong to keep going with it.

THE STORY GETS HAPPIER FROM HERE.

I had some weird stuff going on professionally in early July that was maybe affecting how I felt about improv, I’m not sure. But I read that improvnonsense post, especially the email from Zach Woods, and something started to shift in me. I felt like okay, maybe I was right to want to keep doing this, even though I was feeling down and like I wasn’t doing a great job. Maybe I just had to move through it.

On July 11, I played in DSI’s Family Improv show with Kit FitzSimons and Vinny Valdivia, two incredibly gifted, experienced, and generous improvisers. If you ever want to feel safe on stage, get up there with Vinny and Kit. 

In addition to that, the entire audience consisted of my sister, my brother, and my mother-in-law. For that one day, we re-named the Family Improv show “Kimberly’s Family Improv.” That was immensely liberating, because I knew everyone there was going to love and support me and be delighted by basically anything I did.

And on top of being on stage with two great players and having an audience 100% composed of people guaranteed to love me, I had decided that my goal for this show was to GO FOR IT. Whatever choice I made, whatever I did, I was going to commit to it like little Improv 101 Kimberly would. (Figuratively little. I mean, I’m short, but I’ve actually lost weight since Improv 101.)

It was the right call. That show was a ton of fun and I left feeling good. My next show I was a kind of weird and slow scene partner, but that was because it was a show I had proposed and it was just the most magical and craziest thing for it to actually be happening, so I couldn’t really believe the glory of it. (I left that show feeling amazing, too. Just more because of everyone else in the show than because of anything I did.)

And then, because life is how it is, I went on a 3 ½ week hiatus with no practices or shows due to life stuff. But I’m going to get back into it within the next week, and I think I’ll stick with that GO FOR IT mantra.

All of this to say:

I need to remember 101-201-301 Kimberly. I need to trust that if I make a move that isn’t the move it should have been, I will only benefit by having more experienced improvisers on stage with me. They’ll shore me up. I need to remember that this is the most fun and that if I’m making the most fun choices, especially in short form, I’m probably doing it right. And that if I’m doing it wrong, that’s okay, because I’m going to keep doing it and I’m going to get better.