I think one of my favorite things about improv is how there is no real end to the process. It's always an opportunity for discovery and growth. No ceiling for me means I won't get bored and striving to continue to level up.
For some, the lack of ceiling and hard and fast level markers can be challenging. Staying motivated, curious, an open to growth might not come as easy.
To keep myself motivated and continually leveling up here are some tricks I have found to work!
Commit to the long haul and big picture
Knowing this is a journey of discovery helps when I'm feeling stuck. It's okay to be at a certain point in improv for an extended period of time. People new to the art want to get it all into their brain and then just be miraculously "good" or "funny" when they hit the stage. That's not how improv works. You have to spend a lot of time in the classroom, rehearsal space, and on stage just being mediocre. Then you'll find a spark, level up, and repeat! I tell my performers and players it takes commitment, dedication, and focus. It's very easy to lose any one of these three elements and the moment you do, you'll find you are no longer leveling up and in fact, looking elsewhere for validation. If you truly want to continue leveling up then you need to make the long-term commitment.
Explore the human condition
I find going down YouTube rabbit holes on brain behavior, or sitting in a bookstore scouring books on various topics that spark my interest feed my motivation. Keeping engaged with humanity and the larger world around me inspires me to bring those ideas to life and explore them on stage with my scene partners.
Travel to other communities
This one can be difficult in terms of time and finances, however, if the opportunity is there and you can make it work, take it. Connecting with other improvisers who love the art form is important. You also get to learn new techniques and have new ideas since every community has it's own aesthetic!
Stretch your comfort zone
When's the last time you took a class or learned something you knew little to nothing about? Anytime we can do something new it reminds us to stretch our comfort zone and remind ourselves of the learning process. It also let's us meet new people and that can inspire us as performers for the next time we take to the stage.
Ensure you have an improv foam pit to play in
I wrote a blog post for AdLib on the importance of the improv foam pit. Knowing there is a safe space to explore and experiment is important to leveling up. It's even more important when you hit a plateau. The only way out of a plateau is through. Sometimes, to work through my own blocks and plateaus, I set aside extra time in my improv foam pit. Many times, I am asked to wear multiple hats and as a result the artist side of me gets neglected. This then leads me to feeling stagnant and cranky and that then filters into the theater since I have so much of the responsibility.
I want to make sure the community is getting the best experience they can and that requires me being able to give the best version of myself! I will set aside time for me to "explore" after rehearsals. I call them the "after rehearsals" rehearsals. I invite others in to join me with the understanding that this is my time. I do not give notes and I'm looking to fail. I work on everything from basic building blocks to pushing the boundaries of what my improv reality has become. I'll do it in short bursts of 4-6 weeks and then take a break to reflect and if I feel recharged or as if I've leveled up, I can put it aside for a bit. If I'm still feeling a bit of angst, then I keep moving forward.
These are just a few ways I keep myself engaged and on the path to leveling up. Perhaps some of these tricks will help you the next time you're feeling it's time to level up!