A couple of years ago, I signed up for an improvisational theatre class. At the time, I spoke very quickly, fumbled over words, and often experienced deer-in-the-headlight moments. I figured improv would help me think more quickly on my feet and also help bring the spontaneity back into my life that had been long drowned out by the 9 to 5 work schedule. What I learned from that class had more of an impact on my writing than my speaking.
My first class, which had about nine students in it, involved fun introductions, trust exercises, and the lesson of “Yes, And.” What exactly was “Yes, And?” It was the teacher turning to me and saying, “You are a post office worker trying to buy salt on the moon. Go.” The logical part of my brain was tempted to point out that we were in a studio not the moon and to question why a post officer worker needed salt. The “Yes, And” was to accept those conflicting ideas and create a fantastic scene built off that acceptance. We worked with partners and built scenes based off taking an idea our partner had and building off that idea. “Yes, And” basically means “I accept this and I will add to it with this, this, and this.”
I wound up studying improv for a while before auditioning (and receiving acceptance) into the improv troupe. Along the way, I learned lessons on characters, building scenes, and yes, speaking. However, it was the “Yes, And” lesson that helped me the most with my creativity.
It taught me that the illogical and irrational can sometimes come together to create funny, unique pieces. It also made me wonder: What if the writer that thought of the dead returning to life or the director that imagined someone being stuck in the dream or even Dr. Seuss listened to the rational side of them all of the time and negated their wild ideas?
Sometimes we get writing ideas out of the blue and, sadly, we sometimes dismiss them. Next time you get an idea that’s wild, that seems improbable, that makes you shake your head at your own audaciousness for the idea… do not deny it. Instead, simply say, “Yes, and” continue to create your story.