As a blogger of three and a half years and a writer since age three and a half, I’m quite acquainted with the spell of writer’s block.
Sometimes you just can’t think of a damn thing to say. The ideas in your head don’t sound cool or cohesive enough to type out. You doubt, you judge, you check Facebook and you start over from scratch. THE WORST.
I’ve been there, and I’m not saying I haven’t checked Facebook already while writing this post. But I’d like to share with you a secret that has helped me tremendously in combatting writer’s block:
(And no, this scene is so not what it looks like.)
Falling into a similar category as The Fro Enlightenment is my recent eight-week Level One Improv course, which also changed my perception of life and self in major ways. I could go on for hours about the life-enhancing merits of doing improv – and sometimes I do!
Every Tuesday night I indulged in a three-hour play session where the core principle is to say YES. See, when you’re doing an improv scene, the goal is to move that scene along: to figure out who you are, where you are, some level of plot, and to figure out relationships with the other players. The way to do this is to say “yes” to everything and anything that happens, then build from there. For example, let’s say you walk on stage holding something obviously appears to be baby, but your teammate points and says, “HEY, nice tomato!” Then guess what. It’s a tomato, and you’re probably up for some serious high-level tomato award. Had you responded, “Wait, it’s not a tomato this is my child!” Womp wompppppp.
Without YES, improv fails. It’s about trusting your gut. Never doubting anything that has happened, and instead thinking, “How can I make that the most amazing idea ever?”
The topic of improv is sure to pop up more than few times here on Before and Afro, so for now I’m sharing with you just one particular gift that improv has given me:
A more free-flowing ability to write.
Our kick-ass teacher Rick Andrews has been doing improv since age twelve. When he got to college and started writing papers, his classmates would always complain about writer’s block. Rick would chime in, “Yeah, writer’s block stinks! Boo the block!” But upon coming into a little bit of self-awareness, he realized he had just been playing along all along. He didn’t even know what writer’s block felt like. Rick had been doing improv his whole life; the idea of trusting his gut and saying YES to his thoughts were ingrained. He never doubted his writing, because writing is just another form of improv. He’s never. Had. Writer’s block.
Wow. Ever!? I had sought out improv as a fun new activity to build conversational spontaneity and confidence, but this just opened up a whole new can of words.
Since I’ve been blogging again (all seven days of it), my writing feels different. I just continually say YES to myself as my fingers pad away on the keyboard, and try to just let it all out stream-of-consciousness style, releasing all my weird thoughts, imperfect sentence compositions and typographical diarrhea. Yes. Yes. Yes. YES. Just keep saying yes!
This is not to say I don’t go back and edit afterwards. Editing is part of the fun for me – getting to go back and make sentences sexier, rearrange paragraphs, thesaurus-dot-comming-it for some new jazzy vocabulary options, throwing in a pun or two if I’m feeling lucky… yeah that’s right. I like my puns and I’m sticking to it. But that first major uncensored go at it is really the one you have to count on – otherwise you’ll never get anywhere.
I should also mention that I have felt the effects of improv on my writing in other ways, too: Learning the best way to start a scene (in the middle of the action!), the thing the audience cares about most (what do the characters care about most?) and so much more.
Don’t take this personally, but I think you need an improv class.
Whether you’re a blogger like me looking to churn out ideas faster and in new light, or you’re a human being of any other classification, I couldn’t recommend improv more highly. I start Level Two next week!
And yes, wearing the afro for the big finale show was 100% good luck.
My Level One Improv stars! Check out the Magnet Theater to have this kind of scheduled weekly fun. The class options, free class trial days and show schedules are all listed.
Photography: Carol Lapidos, except for the fourth one (Michelle Goldblum), and the last one (Rick Andrews)