Saturday, October 20, 2012

Yes, and ...

In improvisational comedy, and also in good brainstorming, there's a rule that you don't say "no" to any idea.  You say "Yes, and ..."  It's a hard rule to follow.

Last weekend I thought about this rule as I was slogging through one of my bouts with my friend the Big D (Depression).  The Big D doesn't like to say "yes" to anything or anyone unless it's something that keeps me at home.  For example, both members of my writing group had to cancel.  One asked if it was ok.  The Big D said "sure."  The rest of me desperately needed the connection, but felt incapable of asking for it thanks to Big D's super powers of sluggishness.  Then, another writer friend, one I've never hung out with one-on-one before, asked if I wanted to go to a Wordstock event.  "No!" insisted the Big D.  But the rest of me stopped and thought, "This is an answer to my sadness over canceling writing group this week."  I said "Yes" and was glad I did.

This got me thinking about the application of "Yes, and ..." to life, and also to writing.  When you're writing a first draft in particular, or are stuck on a piece, applying the rule of "Yes, and ..." can help break through.  The editor brain often wants to say "No."  Agents and publishers are looking for reasons to say "No," not because they hate you but simply because they can't publish or represent everything.  But your creative brain, the one that writes the damn stuff in the first place, needs to be trained to say "Yes, and ..."  "What if my protagonist jumps out the window here?"  "Yes, and then discovers she can fly."  "Yes, and then crashes into a building."

In my other writing group, someone mentioned the plot strategy of "Therefore" and "But then."  I'm tempted to sit down and rewrite my whole synopsis using only these 3 transitional phrases after the first sentence:  "Yes, and-"  "Therefore"  "But then."  It's bound to make the plot go SOMEWHERE.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post, Cindy. I find my first answer is always No. I was raised to answer No, thank you to every offer. I said No to my children so often they stopped asking. When anyone asks me if I want anything, anything at all, even water, I almost always say no thank you without thinking -- no matter what my needs or wants are. A hard habit to break. So, your making this choice for yourself in the face of the Big D is a brilliant and brave choice, and I stand and applaud you. In fact, I will join you. Let's learn to say YES, please.


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