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Improv Wisdom: Don't Prepare, Just Show Up [Hardcover]

Patricia Ryan Madson
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 3 2005
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 people with scripts of their own. Improv Wisdom shows how to apply the maxims of improvisational theater to real-life challenges—whether it’s dealing with a demanding boss, a tired child, or one of life’s never-ending surprises. Patricia Madson distills thirty years of experience into thirteen simple strategies, including “Say Yes,” “Start Anywhere,” “Face the Facts,” and “Make Mistakes, Please,” helping readers to loosen up, think on their feet, and take on everything life has to offer with skill, chutzpah, and a sense of humor.

Frequently Bought Together

Improv Wisdom: Don't Prepare, Just Show Up + Improvise.: Scene from the Inside Out + The Improv Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to Improvising in Comedy, Theatre, and Beyond
Price For All Three: CDN$ 59.56

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Drama teacher turned self-help advisor Madson learned the hard way that playing by the rules doesn't always mean you win-despite doing all the right things, she was denied tenure in the job of her dreams. The acting teacher learned to jettison the script and improvise her life-and she ended up teaching at a much better university: Stanford. If you improvise, she says, you "will make more mistakes" but you'll also "laugh more often, and have some adventures." Here she offers 13 maxims to guide the fledgling improviser. "Say yes" with the ecstasy of Molly Bloom: it will open up new worlds. "Don't prepare": in focusing on the future, you might miss the present. "Start anywhere": take any entry into a problem, and once you get inside you'll have a better perspective. Madson offers little exercises drawn from improv acting that are easy and eye-opening, such as look at a familiar environment and notice something new in it. Or make a list of important places in your life, put down the book and just go to one of them. Madson's prose radiates the joy of living, the pleasure she has found in taking things as they come. Most self-help books offer a forced sense of inspiration; Madson is genuinely inspiring. "Say yes" to this book.
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“A marvelous guide to freedom and delight. Improv has become a wisdom tradition of its own and Patricia shows how its lessons can bring out the best in us.” —John Tarrant, author of Bring Me the Rhinoceros

“Patricia Ryan Madson is one of Stanford’s truly inspired teachers; she has changed the lives of thousands of students over the past twenty-eight years. In her smiling book, Improv Wisdom, she reminds us that being alive is like riding a bicycle—we always feel a little off-balance and insecure, but ‘in the act of balancing we come alive.’ She makes you want to get up and do something—try it out, make mistakes, laugh, play, and try it again.” —Charles Junkerman, Associate Provost and Dean of Continuing Studies, Stanford University

“Reading even just a few pages of Patricia Madson’s book might change your life forever. That’s what has happened to me. These pages are chock-full of wisdom, clarity, and helpful techniques on enhancing spontaneity in everyday life. Read this book—you will be glad and so will everyone else in your life.” —Nina Wise, author of A Big New Free Happy Unusual Life

“I have witnessed Patricia Madson’s magic touch in both her classes and her performances. Her students often describe her as a ‘goddess,’ but that may be an understatement. I rejoice that her wisdom is now available to new audiences.” —Philip G. Zimbardo, author of Psychology and Life and Shyness

“The premise of Patricia Madson’s book is astonishing: to practice the basic rules of improvisational theater is to walk a path toward a spiritually satisfying life. Her underlying claim is simple and sound: if you are willing to be completely present, making full use of whatever happens, you will find goodness in any situation. This is a lucid, wise, and free-spirited book.” —Norman Fischer, founder and teacher of the Everyday Zen Foundation

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Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Improv Wisdom indeed Sept. 8 2009
It would be helpful to have some experience of improv to get the most out of this book. I can't imagine really "getting it" if you haven't been "doing it". But I'm happy to be wrong on that count. This is a little gem of a book. It takes the rules of improv (say yes, add something, do what comes next) and applies them to life. And it's a really good match. She's a good writer. I highly recommend it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars totally... awesometacular Feb. 18 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Really great book and so helpful for getting people out of their shell -- easily. Fun to read and quick but not wasteful. A GREAT read -- thank you!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Improv Wisdom: Don't Prepare, Just Show Up Oct. 22 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A way of life: Improv Wisdom is not just for artists, it is really a new way to look at our life and a real inspiration!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Helped with my confidence Aug. 5 2013
By jayspin
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Really got into this book. Between this, and listening to improv comedy I feel like I've relaxed a lot more in social situations. I would sometimes freak myself out and "prepare" conversations before going out with new people, or even close friends. This book gave some solid advice on just entering situations calmly and with a smile.

"Yes and" y'all!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars  84 reviews
45 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life 101 March 19 2006
By Rebecca Ryan - Published on
This book was recommended to me by a friend who's an improv genius, but I was taken with how broad the Improv Wisdom maxims are to everyone's life.

Ms. Madson organizes the book into 13 maxims, each given its own chapter. Samples include: #1: say yes; #2: don't prepare; #3: show up. Sounds simple, right? Although Ms. Madson writes in a tight, easy-to-abosrb style, she also looks you dead in the eye. For example, for people (like me) who just can't remember people's names, she calls it laziness. If you can't remember someone's name, she says you're breaking maxim #3. She doesn't stop there - she gives real improv exercises to build strengths in each maxim. (I tried her approach at the dog park yesterday when I met some new dogs - and their parents - and it worked!)

Improv Wisdom is my favorite new book for how to lead a creative, full life. (Move over, Stephen Covey!) I'm buying copies for everyone I care about and strongly recommend it to anyone who needs a refresher course for how to show up to their own life.
47 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Book to Read, Re-Read and Give to Others July 30 2005
By Jane Helm - Published on
I've had Patricia Ryan Madson's Improv Wisdom for a few months now. I keep re-reading parts and also buying additional copies for friends. It's enjoyable to read, but more enjoyable to use. My favorite chapter is entitled "Be Average," which sounds terrible (probably VERY terrible to the Stanford students who first experienced Madson's ideas) but it's freed me to write and do other things that waiting for perfection would have blocked. Moreover, the stress-reduction that goes with the principle improves the odds of being much better than average. It's a little book. Take it with you on your next trip.
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Useful Book with Practical Advice You Can Use Immediately Feb. 24 2006
By bronx book nerd - Published on
In a world where management gurus and self-help coaches profess the necessity of intricate planning, Ms. Madson's book presents a refreshing counterpoint. As someone once said - Life is what happens to you while you're making other plans. Approaching life from an improv angle, making it up, with others, as you go along, is a liberating notion. Being open to the present moment and what it brings, accepting reality and not feeling constant disappointment at the way things should be, can only result in a calmer, and perhaps paradoxically, more productive life. I highly recomend this book for anyone who feels deficient for not owning a planner the size of the Oxford dictionary, or like me, who has bought at least four planners over the last decade, and have made enough entries to fill at most one letter-size sheet.
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars O.K., This Book is Great! July 29 2005
By Diane Rachel - Published on
I found practical solutions to life-long problems, fun and inspirational ways to improve my talents and a twist of perspective on life that truly uses life's mistakes and challenges as fuel for even greater adventures. Forgiveness, compassion, acceptance, gratitude, action, attention, focus, productivity and let's not forget joy; all in a little book that's a seemingly easy read but packs a huge punch!
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Improv Wisdom - Inspiring, Entertaining, Motivating July 7 2005
By Lynn A. Timmons Edwards - Published on
Improv Wisdom is a list of life skills that are inspiring yet comfortable, like the author's favorite, fleece pajamas. Patricia Ryan Madson has spent her life teaching theater and exploring cultures and philosophies and she brings her observations, personal stories and the experiences of her students together in a book that is an easy, entertaining read. So often, self help books are overwhelming and academic publications daunting. Improv Wisdom is motivating and I find myself revisiting the chapters like mantras - always with a smile. I can't wait to give it as a gift to the people who make up the Improv of my life.
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