I have heard many descriptions of what it feels like to begin an improvisational comedy scene: jumping off the cliff into the dark abyss, hang gliding with no hang glider, entering a mystical and imaginary world full of wonder and possibility. I guess those are pretty good, but the reality is a little less dramatic: One person typically walks forward and begins to speak. Most improv scenes start with a small movement or word, which leads to the next one and the next one, and three minutes later you realize, not only did we start—we're already finished.
I don't mean to minimize how wonderful it is to begin a great improv scene; it can be full of exhilarating unknowns and wide-open possibility, but for our purposes and from a much more practical point of view, it simply begins.
That's what jumping in means. Just begin.
There is some value in taking the grandeur out of starting. I've asked a lot of people about why they won't start something—and for many of them, it's because they are turning a single small step into a big, hairy, risk-filled, life-changing decision. I've noticed that we can associate that single step of beginning with all of the possible rights and wrongs that could happen after it. Perhaps that's why we unjustifiably put so much pressure on that first moment. We are not really afraid of the first moment; it's all of the things that could ...