Joseph Choe

Getting the Brown Out

At the beginning of the new year, I made a resolution to work on my writing. And over the last fifteen weeks, I’ve been writing an essay every week. Not all of them have been very good, but some of them have been okay.

When I lived in Los Angeles, I used to be part of an improv group. This was during a period of my life when I would try out all sorts of activities and hobbies to see what I liked, as so much of my life prior to moving to Los Angeles had been controlled by someone else that I didn’t know what I liked doing beyond reading books. I don’t remember why exactly I chose to do improv, but I met many funny, interesting people as a result, so I’m not complaining.

Our improv coach would start off each practice “getting the brown out”. It meant we had to perform the dumbest, worst ideas we had as soon as we had them for about fifteen to twenty minutes before we finally moved onto other things.

It was his way of saying that everyone had gnarly, barely formed ideas floating around their brain. But our desire to find perfect ideas so that we would seem smart and funny and creative, coupled with our tendency to self-edit and self-censor, meant that while seeking those perfect ideas we would be stuck with indecision.

Therefore, it was best to get those out of our system, because it was okay to look dumb and stupid and maybe even unfunny. We needed to get out of our heads and just do things, and if it worked, great! But if it didn’t, that was okay, too. It was just the dumb stuff getting expelled from our brains, so that something great could be created spontaneously.

That philosophy really stuck with me as I’ve moved away from improv and onto other phases of my life. Because not every idea I’ve ever had has been good. Most of them have been bad. But sometimes I forget that it’s best to be vulnerable and try something out rather than be frozen with self-doubt and indecision and do nothing.

I’ll keep writing each week, even when I don’t know what to write about, and even if I may look dumb in the process. Though I may have to go through a lot of brown before I stumble upon something great.