So, I've been reading about Improv and trying to relate it to writing, which was my lecture topic at Vermont College when I graduated and is something I delve into (when I get the chance) during school visits.
I've blogged about this every once in awhile in the last ten years, and I always seem to come back to it. Late at party on Saturday evening, a lovely, brilliant nonfiction writer was asking me about process and I explained that I am typically more of a pantser than a plotter, which means I revise a lot, but I'm okay with that because I'm a kick-butt reviser.
Anyway, it's amazing how Patricia Ryan Madson's Improv Maxims, apply to writing and life and love and all that sexy stuff, but I'm just looking at writing right now.
Her first maxim in Improv Wisdom (New York: Belltower, 2005) is basically, "Say Yes."
In improv, when two characters are doing a scene, both characters have to be positive, to say yes to each other's suggestions. If one guy stands up there and says, "Let's go party." And then the other guy says, "No way."
Well... the scene falls on its face and everyone goes home saying they hate improv and the improvers think they suck and everything is just BAD, BAD, BAD.
So, writing is like that too.
When our characters want to take us to new unexpected places in the plot, we just have to go with it. If we don't our story stagnates. We have to be willing to say "yes," to take risks with our characters and our plots and our language.
According to Madson, "Saying 'yes' is an act of courage and optimism; it allows you to share control. It is a way to make your partner happy. Yes expands your world."
I could go on about this forever.
Like, How we get in ruts. Such as, My characters always have a love interest. And it's always a boy. How cool would it be if the love interest were a cat?
Okay. I know. Banned book.
Or, how we get into habits with our writing just like we get into habits with our lives. How cool would it be to break a writing habit and make a better writing habit? To get out of the safety of routine, change our process and expand? To just say yes?
And our lives? How do we break the ruts in our lives? That takes such a huge act of courage.
Please, if you can, look at your ruts, your life, your friends.
While we are still here, try to just say yes and become the person, the writer, the friend, the random social media user, that you are meant to be. And if you get stuck, please take that leap and ask for help if you can. That's another way of saying yes.
Last night, someone I care about, someone who is a light in this world even when he briefly meets people he becomes - he just becomes a gift -- that someone had a cry for help on a social media site, and his friends and colleagues jumped to help him. People from all across the country broke from what they were doing to make sure that his cry was heard and answered. They embraced him with action and with love. It breaks my heart that someone I look up to for his talent and humor and empathy is going through this, but all his friends who were spurred to action despite time and distance? Those people remind me that there is good in this world. I am so thankful to them and him. I'm going to try to say yes a lot in honor of all them, because that's what they did last night and are still doing today. They said yes and helped and cared.
Say yes. Say yes to others when they need help. Say yes to adventures, to big ideas, to love, to empathy, to writing. You can do this. Just say yes.