From time to time, my mind wanders back to choices that I made in earlier sets. It replaces those choices with new ones, and scenes emerge in the alternate universes of my imagination before my mind starts to wander elsewhere.

The reaction I get when I mention this to folks vary. Some subscribe to the belief that this type of thinking isn’t fruitful. They advise that because the set has already taken place, and there was only one way it could have gone, the exercise is for all practical purposes pointless. Others point out that this is the dictionary definition of being in one’s head, and being in one’s head is something that should be avoided. Still others contend that revisiting choices is a great way to write sketches. Whatever point of view one takes, my mind takes this detour, anyway, and often for scenes that I don’t consider sketch-worthy, so the pragmatic question I face is whether I can salvage something from the mental effort.

The conclusion I’ve come to is to let my mind do its thing and try to enjoy these mental meanderings. When my mind runs through these alternate universes, it’s doing similar work to what it would be during an actual improv set. Furthermore, if there’s a choice that I prefer in my mind’s eye to the one that I made in reality, then it can be edifying to think about why I favor one choice to the other and if something about my style of play predisposed me to make the choice unfavored.

What I do find harmful is berating myself for not having made a choice I prefer in hindsight. I’ve gained some proficiency in avoiding that pitfall, which is good because my mind started wandering to old scenes as soon as I read the following line in TJ and Dave’s new book: “It is unhelpful to respond to a lie.”

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