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play between the notes

Happy Wednesday! In Monday’s post - “surround yourself with good” - I wrote about the importance of surrounding yourself with supportive, encouraging people who want to see you grow and who celebrate your successes. Monday’s post got me thinking about a great growth experience I had and wanted to share.

Have you ever had an authority figure that really stood out to you and made an impact on your life? I had a bunch during my time at boarding school (including my late softball coach), a few during college, and a couple so far in my professional journey. One experience that specifically stood out in my mind was with my Advanced Screenwriting professor at USC.

Stepping into my first formal classroom setting since graduating from Villanova, I didn’t know what to expect. Most people I encountered at orientation thought I was younger than I actually was, which provided some comedic relief, but I still felt those first-day-of-school jitters. Do you know the ones I’m talking about where you’re so excited you have trouble sleeping the night before?

The goal of the summer program was to finish a first draft of a screenplay within the two month time period. The class, itself, was a mix of all different people with various genres of screenplays. The screenplay I began writing at the beginning of the course was vastly different from the finished first draft two months later.

It’s incredibly important to fall in love with the process and journey in order to achieve the best possible results, but there’s something else you need to do, too. As my professor said in an incredibly enlightening speech, you need to play between the notes and bring honor to the work. This stuck out to me for a number of reasons.

How many times do we get so caught up in the tried-and-true methods we know that we miss out on something we might not have thought of in the first place? I’m obviously someone who loves improv (given how much I write about improv and musical improv and how often I practice and perform), but I’d never heard it phrased as “playing between the notes" before.

Growing up I ran cross country and played the trumpet in the jazz band - an interesting combination I admitted during my most recent musical improv bootcamp, which my teacher explained is the reason I could hold notes for as long as I could. But so much of what we were taught during our time in jazz band was how to improvise: how to let go of the structure and feel the music.

Playing between the notes is part of the process. Sure, I do it regularly in improv comedy and even moreso in musical improv, but it happens all the time in life and we don’t even realize it. Take cooking, for instance. So much of cooking is being willing to fail and start over when a recipe doesn’t work or when your lack-of-recipe (because you love to experiment) leads to disaster and takes you back to square one.

We’re going to succeed and fail and win and go back to square one over and over in life. But, if you play between the notes and keep a positive attitude moving forward, you’ll have more successes than you do failures. And all you ever need is one big yes.

Play between the notes. Enjoy the process. And get outside and run if necessary. It’s good for you.

Thank you so much for reading, and, as always, if you have any pressing questions or if you want to discuss something further with me, please subscribe below, follow me on Instagram or Twitter, or reach out to me on the “contact” page. I’m so grateful you're here and that I’ve been getting a lot of really challenging questions and even better feedback from a community all over the world. I couldn’t do this without you! So THANK YOU! I’m here for you, and I love hearing from you, too! You’re the best, and you have everything you need inside of you! Please believe it! Starve your ego, feed your soul - and follow your heart!

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