Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Improv Wisdom: Don't Prepare, Just Show Up” as Want to Read:
Improv Wisdom: Don't Prepare, Just Show Up
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Improv Wisdom: Don't Prepare, Just Show Up

by
really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  1,597 ratings  ·  156 reviews
In an irresistible invitation to lighten up, look around, and live an unscripted life, a master of the art of improvisation explains how to adopt the attitudes and techniques used by generations of musicians and actors.

Let’s face it: Life is something we all make up as we go along. No matter how carefully we formulate a “script,” it is bound to change when we interact with
...more
Hardcover, 160 pages
Published May 3rd 2005 by Harmony (first published 2005)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
really liked it 4.00  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,597 ratings  ·  156 reviews


Sort order
Deb
Nov 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
**Living well = Improvising wisely**

Ohmygoodness. Is this book ever a gift!

I actually checked this book out of the library a few years ago, and life happened, and I never got a chance to read it before it was due. But then, the Universe sent me a gentle reminder (thanks, L!) that this wisdom was just what I needed to read. Right here. Right now.

Right on.

Just looking at the book's table of contents (which has an uncanny overlap to my own working draft of How To Do Life) was soul-jolting:
1. Say ye
...more
Jane Stewart
Not what I expected. This is more about adding variety and enjoyment to your life.

She gives suggestions like go to bed 1 hour earlier, get up 1 hour earlier, walk a different way when going someplace. For one day smile at everyone you see. Say thank you frequently and with details. Mistakes are good.

My favorite improv rule is say “Yes And.” Don’t say “Yes But.” Also don’t say “No.” I heard that before I read this book, and I was hoping for more ideas like that, which I did not get. I was also ho
...more
Eleonora
Oct 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Eleonora by: Dave Pollard’s blog.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Scott Wozniak
Mar 24, 2014 rated it liked it
This isn't really a book about improv. It's a life philosophy inspired by improv principles. Mostly, it can be summed up as relax, say yes more often, be okay with mistakes, and be present in the moment. It's not bad advice in general. It isn't particularly powerful and it certainly isn't original.

She most often quotes other Zen thinkers, along with a few other sources. She shares her story (from careful rule follower to free spirited improv teacher) and it's both relevant and fun to learn.

It w
...more
Tim Holme
Apr 20, 2014 rated it it was ok
The first half is good, and inspiring as it hits the high points of improv -- say "yes", for example. That's the best tip in the book, and unfortunately, I already knew it, so I didn't find much new here. And the second half of the book loses its way into the self help pathos, which was a downer after the excitement of the beginning.
Betsy
Jun 18, 2014 rated it it was ok
There's a lot of good advice in this pop psych/self-help book - but it is a pop psych/self-help book. I wanted more substance, more depth. It's an interesting take on pop psych to use the rules of improvisation to give life advice, but it is lite, lite, lite. (Spelling, here, is deliberate.)
May-Ling
there's so much wisdom in these 160 pages, and although it may sound improv-focused, the content really applies to your whole life. what's great about this book is that ideas are simple and concise, really packing all of the author's thoughts into the fewest words possible - it's an efficient book.

i especially love how "just show up" is in the title, as madson says a lot about how being in the room and also full present already goes a long way towards getting somewhere. i think back on this week
...more
Becca
Jun 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
Because of this book... I make my bed every morning!
Sofia Anwar
Sep 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
The subtle book explaining how to be Santuy (stay relax, everything will end okay) person. Here are what I got and I have been emplemented of:
1. Try to subtitute 'yes' on every agenda of life.
2. Planning impedes our ability to see what in front of us. I've implemented this while I stayed with 10 people in a home seized 21 m2 and all of them are girls. It worked well to dodge sentimental character women having while we are faced problems.
3. Showing up is a critical element. It is identifying the
...more
Kat
Jun 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is definitely not a typical self-help book: it's laconic, precise and not repetitive, and I found it very inspiring and full of helpful practical advice and exercises. Especially good for someone like me who is constantly making plans and writing lists and then gets upset when things (inevitably) take an unexpected turn.
For me the most important message of this book was about embracing uncertainty and insecurity and living a fuller and more colorful - unscripted - life. Which also reminds
...more
Alyssa Foll
Oct 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a gem of a book about improvisational acting and about principles of improv.
I wasn't reading it to learn so much about acting, per se, as I was looking for ways to apply the principles to my vocation of chaplaincy. Patricia Ryan Madson anticipates that many readers may be looking to do just that and has plenty of helpful "real-life" examples.
An enjoyable, quick read.
Santhosh Guru
Sep 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
A good, non-intimidating intro to the principles of Improv. In a very applicable wisdom, the author breaks it into entertaining and consumable chunks. This definitely lays foundation for me to tackle the works of Keith Johnstone and others.
Peter
Dec 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
Improv wisdom, by Patricia Ryan Madson, is a delightful book that invites the reader to apply 13 basic principles (or “maxims”) of improvisation to our daily life situations. While clearly rooted in the tenets of improvisation, the book also reveals subtle influences of Eastern thought including Zen and Yoga which, like improve, guide us to be fully focused in the present moment, and direct our thoughts and energies towards harmony, collaboration, and kindness. The maxims are:

1. Say Yes
2. Don’t
...more
Melissa McGowan
Jun 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is a wonderful introduction to the philosophy and methods of Improv. The author clearly illustrates how anyone can benefit from applying these methods to their personal lives. The concept of just saying yes, which is the key to improv, seems so simple. However, it can also be profoundly transforming. I highly recommend this book.
Ryan
Apr 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Have been taking improv classes and this book distills some of the great lessons from the experience and how it translates to the world. Remember when Tina Fey said in Bossypants that improv was key to her success? This book shows it. Yes and!
Kate
What a great little book! I had a feeling that working with improv could be a spiritual experience, and, sure enough, a friend pointed me to this little work. I want to try doing a spirituality group focused on the exercises here.
Adam
Jan 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Quick and insightful read. Think of this book and it's ideas as more of a manifesto or philosophy of life. Definitely gleaned some great concepts I intend to internalize!
Lessabouchard
Oct 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Great kick in the pants for any artist that enjoys process thinking- particularly about how their work-style and life-style effect each other. The kind of prodding that feels sooooo good.
Erik Ferguson
Jan 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: get-it-together
:-) :-) :-) Thank you, Jane!!
Libia
Jan 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Improv meets real life.
I a little Improv in your life. Not necessarily an Improv guide or handbook but touches on Improv and real life.
Angela
Jun 24, 2019 rated it liked it
I have mixed feelings about this book. But I guess I'll improvise a review for it.

I don't usually read self-help books. Or pop psychology books. Or whatever you want to call this. The book contains thirteen maxims for improving your life. These lessons are drawn from Madson's decades of experience as a drama professor at Stanford and are also influenced by eastern philosophy.

The book is a quick and easy read...but I did it wrong. Each short chapter has a few suggestions/exercises...which I most
...more
Jonathan Lu
Nov 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
I loved this book which is a human reminder of benefits of forgoing control in order to accept the adventure that is life. If life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it, the lessons from the world of improv are an astute guide to show us how we can learn to let go of ourselves and enjoy the 90%.

A few memorable quotes:
Life is an improvisation, and if we are lucky, a long one. [p14]

A good improviser is someone who is awake, not entirely self-focused, and moved by a desire to do some
...more
Alejandro
Sep 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: improv
The reading of Improv Wisdom is my first foray over Improv books, a subject that I'm very interested, as a mean to influence and transform my mindset and behaviors. Despite being the first book I read, I did it concurrently with Kelly Leonard and Tom Yorton, Yes, And, so I may have some basis for comparison.

Patricia split the book into maxims:
1) Say Yes,
2) Don't Prepare,
3) Just Show Up,
4) Start Anywhere,
5) Be Average,
6) Pay Attention,
7) Face the Facts,
8) Stay on Course,
9) Wake up to the
...more
Ahmad Al Tukhaifi
Aug 17, 2017 rated it liked it
Fun book, it has some inspiring stuff that made me think of changing a bunch of things in my life. The advice wasn’t as practical as I hoped, but it definitely is inspiring and motivating. Its more in the vein of the book saying “YOU CAN DO IT!” and you’re like “Nah, I don’t think…” and the book says “Yes, you can!” and you’re like “Yeah.. I.. can” and it says “YOU CAN and Will SUCCEED!! :D” and you’re like “YES I WILL SUCCEED.. what are the steps?” and then the book says “Erm.. YOU CAN DO IT AN ...more
Robert Federline
Jul 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One definition of the word "Luck" is when opportunity and preparedness meet. While the subtitle of this book instructs "Don't Prepare, Just Show Up" a certain amount of preparation is always necessary, even in the world of the improvisational actor. The point (which is very well made) is not to over-prepare. The best way to appear natural, is to be natural.

The book is built around thirteen maxims and the magic of the theatre. Anyone who has ever studied the thespian arts will understand immediat
...more
Serge Boyko
Sep 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Ever since I started to do some improv games with my friends and going to some improv classes I got interested in the implications of improvisation in real life. I already knew that saying "Yes, and..." is the fundamental principle. It's perfectly illustrated in "Yes Man" movie, starring Jim Carrey.

What I have found out from this book is that practically all principles of improv can be translated to real life. All of life is basically us improvising our way forward... The most profound principle
...more
ryan shiitake
May 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Loved the prologue, with her story about how she followed all of the "rules" for a successful career in academia, only to "fail" miserably. From there, the author does a great job of describing simple rules / concepts and their links between everyday life and improvisation. As an analytical engineer, the encouragement to "give up planning" was unorthodox, but powerful. The sentence, "We often substitute planning, ruminating, or list-making for actually doing something about our dreams" struck me ...more
Ronald J.
I enjoyed this look at improv, which people usually associate with humor, wit, or comic ability. But Madson points out that a good improviser “is someone who is awake, not entirely self-focused, and moved by a desire to do something useful and give something back and who acts upon this impulse. The password to this is to always say—Yes! Madson learned improv over three decades as a professor of drama at Stanford. She lays out thirteen maxims of improv: say yes, don’t prepare, just show up, start ...more
Eve
Dec 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Improv Wisdom is a nice little manual for self-improvement from an unusual source - improv! Written by a Stanford drama professor, the book examines the self-help, philosophical aspects of an integral part of learning the craft of acting. Improv, it turns out can be applied to many aspects of life. Organized into thirteen maxims, it enlightens, entertains, and energizes the reader, and is very positive and upbeat in tone. While it can be read in a very short time (only 148 pages), it seemed best ...more
Graeme Roberts
Nov 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Having plumbed the depths of banality and evanescence in the Self Help category, I avoid it like eating cheese from a platter alongside a man who licks his fingers. I wouldn't be so rude as to call Improv Wisdom: Don't Prepare, Just Show Up self help, but in its quiet, humble way it may well change how you live and the joy you find.

Patricia Ryan Madson taught improvisation to Stanford students for forty years. It took her twenty years to distill the ways in which the skills and understanding t
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Improv Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to Improvising in Comedy, Theatre, and Beyond
  • Impro for Storytellers (Theatre Arts)
  • The Temperament God Gave You: The Classic Key to Knowing Yourself, Getting Along with Others, and Growing Closer to the Lord
  • Harvard Business Review on Effective Communication
  • I Can See You Naked
  • Improvisation for the Theater
  • Improvise.: Scene from the Inside Out
  • The Second City Almanac of Improvisation
  • Set Your Voice Free: How To Get The Singing Or Speaking Voice You Want
  • Gift of a Letter
  • Truth in Comedy: The Manual for Improvisation
  • Deep Conversion / Deep Prayer
  • Discerning the Will of God: An Ignatian Guide to Christian Decision Making
  • Heaven's Song
  • The Gift of Peace
  • The Catholic Guide to Depression: How the Saints, the Sacraments, and Psychiatry Can Help You Break Its Grip and Find Happiness Again
  • Listen, Love, Repeat: Other-Centered Living in a Self-Centered World
  • The Comic Toolbox How to Be Funny Even If You're Not
See similar books…
“Fear is a matter of misplaced attention. Focus on redirecting it.” 11 likes
“If something is not to your liking, change your liking.” 9 likes
More quotes…