One of the most vexing problems facing the beginning improviser is how to deal with the Voice of the Inner Critic. While you’re in the middle of trying to perform a scene, this pesky voice has a seemingly limitless supply of criticisms to launch:

What I’m saying sounds stupid. (Variations: I look stupid. The scene is stupid. My fellow performers are stupid…)
This is slow. Repetitious. Boring. Cliched. Not believable.
I’m afraid that this scene is like that awful performance I gave last night.
I don’t like the lighting. The music. I made a mistake. I knocked over a piece of the set.

Etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. ad infinitum

It is actually equally detrimental to have an Inner Praiser:

This scene is going great! I love that last idea I came up with! This is really funny/moving/well-done…

The Inner Praiser, like the Inner Critic, takes you outside of the scene and into a critical view of the scene, which weakens the scene.

Actually, any stray thoughts which comment on the performance or worry about the progress of the scene are detrimental:

Aren’t we supposed to be ending soon?
I wonder if my boyfriend is enjoying this?
Is my voice loud enough?

The problem of the Voice of the Inner Critic is that it makes you doubt your own impulses and your intuition, and good improv technique consists of absolutely trusting your impulses and your intuition.

The technique of overcoming the Voice of the Inner Critic does not consist of suppressing the voice, but of knowing how to interpret it. It is a waste of energy to try to pretend that the critical voice isn’t really there, when that voice is a natural part of you. Good technique consists in knowing what that voice is really saying to you.

The point I’m trying to make is: there are a million different forms in which that voice makes its criticisms, but it’s always really saying the same thing: Feel More. There’s Not Enough Feeling. What you’re doing is Half Felt. So the solution becomes: go deeper into the feeling of whatever you’re doing.

Anything that seems bad or unconvincing in a scene seems that way because it is only half-felt. When something seems like a cliche, if you feel it fully it becomes an Archtype. When something seems slow and draggy, when you feel it fully it becomes Majestic and Grand. When something feels overly intellectual, when you get into the feeling behind it it seems richer and fuller.

For a beginner, the first instinctive reaction to the Voice of the Inner Critic is to run away from the material you are playing and look for another, better idea. “Oh, this storyline isn’t working at all,” we think, “I’d better try something totally different.” Or “I hate being stuck inside this whiney character, I’ll change her to make her more vivacious and exciting.” Etc. etc.

Actually, such a reaction is always counterproductive, because it takes you directly OUT of the emotional logic of the scene, destroys the throughline and the continuity, and plunges you into the weakened position of trying to “think of ideas,” which means you’ve lost the power of your intuition and your instincts.

It is always a better tactic, whenever you hear the Voice of the Inner Critic, to interpret that voice as having said to you “Go Deeper Inside of whatever you’re doing.” (Regardless of what the voice seemed to be saying.) Thus, if the material you’re working on seems silly, go deeper into the silliness. If it seems slow and draggy, go deeper into the slowness and experience it with your whole being.

Whatever the material you’re working on happens to be, when you go deeper inside of it, it will become fuller, richer, and more genuine, and thereby become much better theater. It may also naturally transform itself and change into something else, except that the change will not be desperate or arbitrary, it won’t be the result of running away from the scene, it will be the next logically organic step of going deeper into the scene, and thus it will assure the audience that the scene you’re playing does indeed make sense, has it’s own integrity and logic, and is taking them on a journey into an interesting place.

The journey into the Next Place in the scene is always by going deeper Inside of what you’re doing.