Improvised Life » paths + processes If you can't hunt with a dog, hunt with a cat... Wed, 23 Apr 2014 01:41:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Piano Tree and Technical Difficulties: Please Bear With Us Tue, 22 Apr 2014 22:00:49 +0000

Fast Forward

Despite recent technical difficulties, we're still posting away. Dig this big fat miracle of improvisation (or magic) from our friend Fast Forward.]]> 0
Make a Map of Your Daily Life Mon, 21 Apr 2014 08:14:19 +0000

Becky Cooper of the tumblr Map Your Memories printed blank maps of Manhattan, gave them to New Yorkers and asked them to fill them out however they saw fit. What she got in return was some completely unexpected maps of New York (and of the lives lived here). It made us open our eyes wider to the many levels on which we can travel around a place. She’s compiled 75 of the maps in her book Mapping Manhattan: A Love (and Sometimes Hate) Story in Maps by 75 New Yorkers.//

Each map presents a completely original view of the city, and a life. Here are some of our favorites from Cooper’s tumbler: (more…)

]]> 1
Finding or Creating a Clear Space, Virtual or Otherwise Tue, 15 Apr 2014 08:11:48 +0000


Everyone we know needs a “clear space” they can retreat to to STOP, take a break from busy life, a breath or a shift of view, even just for a few moments.  Although we LOVE having a clear space right in our Laboratory —the bedroom with the pink wall is just that, no media, just quiet, artworks, and view — we know it is not always possible in this time of limited real estate.

So we’ve devised a number of options: clear spaces that don’t involve actually having one. (more…)

]]> 4
Embracing our Mortality to LIVE MAKE GROW Tue, 18 Mar 2014 08:12:39 +0000

Sally Schneider

In a recent New York Times, 36-year-old Paul Kalanithi wrote How Long Have I Got Left about his diagnosis of terminal cancer, and coming to terms with his doctor’s inability to tell him how much time he had left: The reason doctors don’t give patients specific prognoses is not merely because they cannot..[but because] ...the range of what is reasonably possible is so wide….Yes, you will die. But one wants a full pound of certainty, and that is not on offer.

Kalanithi eloquently addresses how he learned to live aware of but NOT knowing, with the gravest of uncertainties: (more…)

]]> 2
Productivity Practice: Do 1 Hour of Creative Work Before Anything Else Mon, 10 Mar 2014 07:54:34 +0000

Recently, while skyping with Improvised Life’s web developer Jason Lange, he told us of a technique he had been trying out to keep work moving forward on Share, a film he was making. For months, he’d been getting side-tracked by “paying-work”, expending all his energy on it during the day only to find himself without any creative juice left for what was most important to him. “A writer friend suggested I try reordering my day; I’ve been doing it for two weeks now and it WORKS.” (more…)

]]> 2
The Practice of Waiting is Part of Making Thu, 06 Mar 2014 09:06:43 +0000


Over the years, we’ve learned to embrace the practice of waiting — patiently — knowing that things will change and become unstuck, or simply are moving by another timing, that is not the one WE WANT. Sometimes, there is nothing else to do but wait.

Waiting is part of the many steps of making: a non-action that can very important action. But ‘non-action’ can be difficult to describe, since ‘doing nothing’ can be a time of hidden fermentation and unexpected ideas. So we looked up WAIT. In the definitions, we found words (in bold) that made a little poem: (more…)

]]> 0
Improvised Life’s Unfolding Path (+ Principles) Wed, 05 Mar 2014 09:09:46 +0000

Yoshinaga Yasuaki

I found this image from the great Miranda July in the early archives I created when the idea for Improvised Life was just forming. It’s from an installation called The Hallway that July made in Tokyo in 2008: a 125-foot hallway lined with 50 hand-painted wooden signs that act as an internal voice.  The signs raise questions that must have been on my mind as I contemplated a LEAP (more…)

]]> 0
The Thrilling Adventure of Familiar Frontiers Tue, 25 Feb 2014 09:42:33 +0000

(Video link HERE.) Mickey Smith is a surf photographer from Cornwall, England whose six minute video of wave riding in the ominous North Sea is a stunning, nail biting, vicarious experience for urbanistas and land-locked couch potatoes. But diving beyond the hair-raising visuals, listening to Smith’s philosophy of life is what makes this clip intriguing.

Smith says, “I never set out to be anything particular, only to live creatively and post the scope of my experience through adventure and passion… (more…)

]]> 1
Treasures Found from Permission to Read Randomly Wed, 19 Feb 2014 00:00:09 +0000

Heade Martin Johnson/National Gallery of Art

Smitten with Mark Halprin’s novel Winter’s Tale, we recently started reading his acclaimed In Sunlight and in Shadow//. We loved it at first, then slowed to a halt about 60 pages in; although Halprin’s writing can be glorious, there is something stopping us. Sometimes a book won’t let us in, or we’re not ready to read it or it just isn’t right for us. No loss. Over years, we’ve learned that we don’t necessarily have to read a book from front to back. (more…)

]]> 2
Olympic’s Hidden Victories (Views of Fear and Flying) Mon, 17 Feb 2014 08:59:04 +0000

(Video link HERE.) We’ve been riveted by the Olympics on Sochi which we’ve been watching on TV. What interests us most is the fierce spirit we see: contenders making unexpected mistakes, falling, going off-track and off-plan, and most often CONTINUEING their run anyway, valiently with no possibility of winning. There are many victories we didn’t know about. (more…)

]]> 0
Pursuit of the New: Surfing with Ice and Snow Wed, 12 Feb 2014 09:05:39 +0000

Yassin Ouhilal

A source of inspiration to us over the winter months is intrepid photographer Yassine Ouhilal, who documents surf culture in some of the worlds coldest waters. A surfer himself, Yassine is Canadian born but ventures further north to the far reaches of Canada, Russia and Iceland where a small number of like-minded surfers escape the hoards in popular areas.

His photographs show surfers poised under the Northern Lights, or catching waves next to mountain glaciers. We’re not used to associating surf culture with ice and snow – we didn’t even really know it existed. While we are all sheltering from the cold, they are actually (more...)]]> 0 You Are Not Lost + Beat Wisdom + an un-Kerouac Road Map Tue, 11 Feb 2014 08:31:05 +0000


This great sign reminded us of the Gary Snyder Poem, Off the Trail, which we think is an essential place to be at times: All paths are possible, many will work, Being blocked is its own kind of pleasure, Getting through is a joy…

It is the opposite of the 45-page manual of driving instructions to follow the EXACT 17,527-mile road trip that Jack Kerouac documented in On the Road, his great, transformative, UNPLANNED odyssey. Open Culture calls these Google-based e-directions “a map for our times”. We think, sadly, it is the worst of our time: completely planned, following someone else’s path, unwilling to just follow the road wherever it will lead.


]]> 1
Use the Right Tools for the Job and Hack Them If Necessary Tue, 11 Feb 2014 00:00:51 +0000

Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

This image exemplifies the great sculptor Alexander Calder; we feel the tactile sense of the massive tin snips that he customized with little bands of wire afixed with string to make them more powerful. The guy was fearless in his use of materials and tools; he just went AT them and made things. His output was immense, from monumental sculptures to light fixtures made of pie tins.

We get a similar feeling from this compelling video of a guy making a ring by boring a silver half dollar with an electric hand drill, using a variety of attachments, some seriously jury-rigged, (more…)

]]> 0
Pockets: What Essential Item Carries You Through Your Day? Mon, 10 Feb 2014 09:52:17 +0000 Pockets, a tiny treasure of a video by director James Lees made us reflect on what one treasure carries us through our day.]]> 2