Sunday, March 18, 2012

'Yes, and...' A Valuable Tool for Creative People

I've heard Chris Grabenstein's presentation on his days as part of an improv group twice now, and each time I come away inspired. One of the techniques the actors used was to tack on "Yes, and..." to anything their improv partners said. So if Chris and a pal were doing a skit about stuffed animals, and the second actor said, "My teddy bear owns an elephant," then Chris would reply, "Yes, and that elephant is purple. I love purple elephants." Or whatever.

When you're involved in the creative process, there're a lot of "Oops" moments. Times when things don't go according to plans. My sister, the art teacher, has counseled me not to give up too quickly on my artistic endeavors. Instead, Meg says I should see what I can do with what I've already done.

Chris uses the "Yes, and..." technique in his writing. I'm trying to do more of that. I'll admit it certainly adds to the unpredictability of any plot! I think it will, ultimately, make my work more lively and interesting.

Recently, I used the "Yes, and..." technique when working on my Zentangle designs. I tend to think of ink as permanent, don't you? Well, it's more maleable than you might think. I learned this while trying to correct a tangle with a white ink pen. You can use the white ink over black ink AFTER the black ink dries. Of course, you can't always tell when black ink IS dry, so that's a challenge. And then because I was so "into" what I was doing, I forgot I was working with ink and not with pencil! I tried to smear the ink the way I would graphite. And guess what? I had a "Yes, and..." moment! I learned that you can smear white and black ink!

Here's a sample of my process:

I was disappointed with this tangle. It's an attempt at "Punzel," a tangle that takes practice.

I defined the ribbons a bit more and added circles to the outside of "Punzel," the main tangle. I've started the shading process with those lines in the upper right circles.

Okay, now I put white ink over the black lines and smeared the two inks with the paper blender and my finger. I also used graphite to shade around the bottom of the circles and of Punzel. Finally, I thought the shading on the fourth ribbon from the bottom was too heavy so I went back over it with my white ink pen. Ta-da! Much better I think!

So I'm curious...can you think of ways you can use "Yes, and..."?


Linda O. Johnston said...

Positive thinking is a great way to help any creative endeavor, Joanna, and saying "Yes, and..." sounds like a good method to encourage it!

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Chris pointed out that accepting our detours can make for more interesting writing. I think he's right!

Julie said...

Thinking about it, I realized I've been doing the same thing in different words, as long as I've been writing. It's "What if? And then what it? And then..." Etc., etc., ad infinitum. A lot of those "what ifs" end up being blind alleys or other detours, but examining those negatives, clarifies where you do want to go, doesn't it? Very good advice, thank you.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Chris writes a funny series with a quirky set of characters, so "what if" and "Yes, and..." allow his imagination to roam widely. Elizabeth Lyon talked about this at a SinC into Good Writing seminar. She suggested that we occasionally "over-write" by letting ourselves riff on a subject. In another book, Louise Penney admitted doing the same. I think the point is...sometimes we keep too tight of a rein on our work, and that can result in boring copy.