Looking back on Robin William’s amazing career, I didn’t realize how much of it was improvised. Producers like David E. Kelly and writers from “Mork and Mindy” would often leave room for William’s to put his own spin on TV and film lines. It was his brilliance at seemingly flawless ad-libbing that marked him as a genius, much like Beethoven did with music.
Since we all have basically the same physical brains, what is it about Robin William’s brain that made him so different? Basically his brain was always in a constant state of “flow”, a concept that was developed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi of the University of Chicago. According to Csikzentmihalyi, flow is a state where you lose your sense of self and your sense of time and become focused on a challenging creative task, and do it at peak performance. It’s as if time has no meaning as you become one with your work.
It’s a state where you get immediate feedback, such as a jazz musician who improvises. They can immediately tell if it’s working or not. With Williams, he would either gets laughs or not. It was an immediate type of feedback. And he thrived on it.
It takes a certain amount of confidence in your ability to be able to reach that flow stage, and succeed without editing. And that confidence comes from skill, knowledge, and practice. Beethoven knew he had a skill that few other musicians had, and that was the ability to improvise, and to do it prolifically. Robin Williams also knew his craft inside and out. He had the skill, the knowledge, and the practice.
Another element you must have is the passion, and the willingness to be challenged over and over again. This is when artists create their best work. And it almost feels effortless. Robin Williams had that passion in everything he did.
The irony is that his most amazing asset was also his downfall. The artist, and the man will be greatly missed.