Mastering Creativity: lessons from improv

Fresh from his critically acclaimed one man show at this year’s Edinburgh Festival, Claire Bridges speaks to Max Dickins, stand-up, writer and improv performer, about how he works and what creatives can learn from his process

Claire Bridges: Max, you put yourself on the line every time you step on stage. Can you tell me how do you shut your personal inner critic up? 

Max Dickins: I am not sure you can ever shut it up entirely, but you can turn the volume down. You can also focus on something else entirely.  In improv we try and act ourselves into the future. By which I mean, when we try and make something, rather than trying to produce something fantastic straight away, we simply start making and know the answer will emerge in the process. When you improvise you walk backwards through the scene: the scene is moving forwards dramatically, but it is only as it does that you know what it is. You have an ‘aha!’ moment: ‘So that’s what this is about!’ When you know what it is, suddenly you can pour petrol on the fire. But you don’t know the answer at the beginning.