Live Forward, Understand Backward Through Creative Experience

3 min readOct 29, 2022

We can improv our lives — and tell new stories through engaging with the creative process

“Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forward,” according to the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard. Storytelling is one of the most affirming and healing ways to “understand backwards,” to gain perspective and make art out of what we have experienced. The meaning of an experience can change over time as new information and insights come to us, and we fully recognize its impact on our identity. But most importantly, through storytelling we take an active role in shaping the narrative of our own life.

Sharing the story completes the circle.

When we listen to other peoples’ stories we might hear just what we need at that moment. An article published on Harvard University’s Health Blog cites several studies demonstrating the impact of stories to inspire and illuminate issues, foster connection and promote well-being.

Improv is living forward. In improv no one knows what is going to happen. We agree to play within a set of agreements, and when we treat each other like the geniuses and poets we are capable of being, we discover what we can create together in real time. Both improv and storytelling produce a connective energy that is empowering and seemingly magical.

Creativity has a magical quality we access through direct experience. A shift in awareness — even a subtle realignment of focus from the “default setting” of self-protective defensiveness to a greater degree of openness to the moment — is all that is needed to tap creativity. What’s tricky is staying open long enough for the new perspective to gain some traction. The group energy of improv has a kind of magic to it that helps us hold that tension — and have some fun in the process.

The reward of having fun matters because magic is hard work. It is so hard that it is tempting to just give up and go back to the old familiar. To retreat rather than expand. Creativity has the power to reframe ideas so that we understand them in an entirely new way, or to shape reality, and that can have a transformative impact on our inner and outer life. But that transformation is disruptive.




LCSW, CGP, CPAI, writer/performer, storyteller, storytelling coach. Improviser on team AURA at Magnet Theater in NYC. Storytelling coach for individuals & orgs