I typed the title of this little essay and immediately realised that I’d become one of those insufferable improv people who uses performance clichés in every day life. Although it is very fitting when I get into the matter at hand.
‘Follow your feet’ is a simple saying with a simple meaning – if your body is telling you to do it, do it. In improv it is a bit different; when you’re stood in a backline watching a scene unfold before you, you have the chance to get involved and develop the world (or, more usually, the madness). This idea will pop into your head and you instinctively take a half step forward.
Then the sensible part of your brain goes “wait a minute, that idea is crap. It doesn’t make any sense?!” and you stop your legs before you get involved. At this moment, someone shouts “Follow your feet! Go with the idea!” and you feel duty bound to go ahead with it due to peer pressure. It may go well, it might die on its arse, but you did it.
And that’s what I wanted to write about today. That compulsion to follow your idea, to step out and just try, and the constant battle against your analytical, sceptical rationale that will always add in that little “that idea is crap” thought.
If you believe the idea has legs, or even if it’s just a half-idea, you jump in. If you can’t complete the world on stage then your scene partner will be able to, and if not them then someone else will jump in to help. Improv is a game of collaboration, you will almost never go out from the backline with a fully fleshed world and idea in your mind. If you do, then amazing. If you go out there with just a premise and an opening line, also fine. If you go out with half a premise but a sort-of-kinda plan of where you think the scene might end up; great.
I’d argue the same goes for life. If you have an idea, follow your feet and give it a go. It may not work, perhaps you’ve only got half the premise, but someone will be there to help you shape it as you go and turn into something creative and wonderful. It might not be exactly what you had in mind when you stepped forwards, but it’s still something and it’s yours.
I don’t use this philosophy (lol, wanker) for everything in life, but enough to keep it exciting. Looking at maybe seeing that band? Follow your feet. Want to start taking a course? Do it. Asking for a promotion you half-think you deserve? What’s the worse that can happen?
I’m currently debating something in my head that I probably can’t talk about yet, and today made the decision to take the first steps and talk to people about it, get things moving. It’s a half-idea, maybe even more chaff than an idea, but I’ve followed my feet.
I don’t really know where they’ll take me, but it’s going to be fun holding on for the ride.