There is a lot of guts that goes into being creative.
At least, at first there.
You have to have the courage to start, and the courage to continue on, even when things get difficult. As a result, as we’re starting out down our creative paths, it can be harder to say yes to the journey ahead, the journey unknown.
I’m here to tell you to say “Yes” to the journey.
In improve, the idea is to not only say “Yes”, but to add “and” to the equation. You might have heard of this “Yes, and” business.
I want to talk about how you, as a writer, can and should use this method.
When we have an idea and we say “Yes” to it, we are opening ourselves up to possibility. I feel like this is very akin to looking for a sign.
Law of Attraction & Saying Yes
This is often something that’s used to teach the Law of Attraction. I’ve come across it in Pam Grout’s book, E2 and have also read about it in Gabriel Bernstein’s book, Super Attractor. Neither of these individuals are the first ones to write about it.
The exorcise is to assign something to be your sign. Bernstein uses a blue butterfly. And so when she asks for a sign that she should do something, she waits to see the blue butterfly. In Grout’s book, she sets you up to train yourself to see signs by telling you to pick an unusually colored car, and see how many you would see in that day (I picked burnt orange and ended up seeing nearly 20 of them).
This could be a sign, and I don’t want to take away the magic if that’s what you’re reading this as. However, it could also be that you’re opening your mind up to noticing that particular thing by saying you’re looking for it. We do this all the time. Ever learn a new word and then you start to notice that word is used everywhere?
I don’t have any scientific backing for this, nor research. However, it seems to me that in saying that we want to see a sign, we’re telling our intuition—that is, the subconscious part of our brains that notices patterns—to make a decision for us. If we’re trying to determine whether or not something is the right course of action for us and ask for a sign, we’re essentially asking our subconscious to bring forward that which it notices if our intuition (or one could even say our Highest Self) thinks that it’s right for us.
If we don’t see the sign, it could be that maybe we don’t want the thing as much as we think we do. Or, it could be that maybe there are a few things that are blocking us (like fear and resistance) we need to work through first, and thus our subconscious is blocking us from noticing our sign.
What does this have to do with writing?
What does looking for signs have to do with writing?
When we tell ourselves that we’re looking for a sign, we’re also telling ourselves that we are open to seeing that sign. We are open to a possibility.
When we say “Yes” to something, we are opening ourselves up to new possibilities. Those possibilities might even have been there in the beginning, but because we weren’t allowing ourselves to be open to them, we weren’t seeing them.
I mentioned earlier that I looked for burnt orange cars. It wasn’t that those cars weren’t about before. It was that until I told myself I was going to look for them, I just didn’t notice them. I wasn’t open to them.
When we say “Yes”, we notice what we didn’t notice before.
Saying Yes to Ideas
As writers, we churn out ideas. We are idea machines. And it’s sometimes hard to know what ideas to say “Yes” to, and which ones we should leave alone.
There are lots of pieces of writing advice out there that say you shouldn’t start on a new idea before you finish with another, or some that say you should. I am not here to tell you what you should do in that regard.
However, what I am here to tell you is to say “Yes” to ideas in general.
Some of us are Pantsers, some of us our Outliners, and some of us are some form of mixture in between. All of these are great and work well for different people. All of us will suffer, at some point, the crossroad where we make a character zig or zag. Or perhaps, should they do neither and zonk instead?
When we come to these moments, it’s hard to decide which direction to take. Why not say “Yes” to all directions?
When I’m at this point, I will open a new document and perhaps journal out what might happen with all the options I’m looking at. I might even take it a step further, and start writing out the scenes.
I find that when I do this, the one that I like will prevail by keeping my fingers going. I won’t find a comfortable stopping spot. I’ll just keep writing.
Creative Opportunity in Adaptability
When you deviate from the original plan, this allows for creative opportunity. It allows you to see what new directions you can take your story, but it also gives you a creative challenge of trying to bring it back to the original outline. That is to say, to work it into the original outline, if there was one to begin with.
This is a lesson in adaptability, which is part of the creative process.
Creativity is, of course, the ability to create. However, there is also adaptability, which is creativity in active play in the real world.
Adaptability allows us to recognize when there is an obstacle and work with it or get around it. More often, it has to do with changing the nature of something in order to work with another thing.
This is essentially the “Yes, and” philosophy in one term. “Yes there is this obstacle, and this is how I’ll incorporate it.”
In life, this skill is essential. And thus, it is essential in your stories as well. It is essential in any planning. We need to be able to see a problem and if we can’t fix it, work with it. The first step is to acknowledge that the problem, block, or whatever is there so you can know how to move around or move with it.
When you say “Yes” to ideas, you’re exploring ways in which to be adaptable. You’re training yourself to see obstacles in a new way, and thus helping yourself to develop this thinking both in your creative life and in the real world.
Saying Yes to Detachment
Part of saying “Yes” to ideas, is saying “Yes” to detachment. After all, if we have a well-structured and planned outline, and as we’re writing, a new idea comes along which will take us from that outline, then we need to be able to have the openness and curiosity to explore that idea. This might divorce us from that initial plan.
Thus, we need to move through our work with a level of detachment.
This isn’t just in our practical writing. This is in everything.
When I first learned what ghostwriting was when I was in high school, I couldn’t understand why someone would want to write something for someone else only to not get any credit from it.
It wasn’t until I found myself in the position of ghostwriting—something I had to say “Yes” to in order to start doing in the first place—that I was able to truly experience detachment. Because I was writing someone else’s outline and someone else’s plot, I wasn’t as attached to the outcome. It was like filling in a coloring book. I might have the artistic liberty of how I filled it in, but essentially, the drawing itself wasn’t mine, and thus, I didn’t mind if I didn’t get the credit for it. I was just filling in the word count.
After writing over 40 books in this way, I learned to apply this detachment in my own writing, at least, when I need to meet a deadline.
I could write out an outline, and then see it as a drawing in a coloring book. I was just filling in the lines. In doing this, I was able to work through my project quickly and efficiently. This helps to get words on the page in a timely manner. I don’t worry about formatting or if it sounds good, I just get it out of my head and onto the computer.
It isn’t until I get to the editing stage, when I need to make everything look prettier and to my liking, that I attach myself again.
Lessons in Detachment
There will be plenty of times when you deviate from your outline, or when you find you have to abandon a character or plot. Essentially, when you have to “kill your darlings.” And that’s just part of the process.
Loving what you create and being attached to what you create are two different things. Though it’s, of course, not to say that they don’t go hand in hand. Loving something is allowing it to grow and evolve without trying to make it fit into the box you want it to be in.
When we can let go of what something “should” be, then we are letting go of the attachment of expectations. I assure you, things get easier, then.
Furthermore, when we practice detachment, we can detach from the outcome of something. When we do that, then we are focused on the moment of creating it, which can eliminate a lot of the pressure we put on ourselves. And when it comes time to submitting our work, it saves a lot of stress and obsessive email refreshing as well.
You also don’t have to commit to a new direction you’ve tried with your work. You can always go back. You can write it in a different file and save it for another project (saying “Yes” to projects is something we’ll get into in just a minute). You can practice detachment with the things you try just as much as you can practice detachment with the outlines you create.
Again, detachment doesn’t mean that you care. It means that you’re willing to give what you’re working on the space it needs in order to grow and find its own way. To help with this lesson, you can consider what the Empress in the Tarot has to teach us.
Detachment allows us to move more fluidly through life and through our creativity. When we don’t obstruct the flow, then we open ourselves up to more possibilities and avenues. The dripping tap of creativity opens to a flow, which then begins to erode the dam. Let the water flow.
Saying Yes to Intuition
As mentioned in the Possibilities section, your intuition is the part of you that notices patterns. This is a part of you that, in my mind, connects your subconscious to your conscious. It’s like the speaker between the two. When we say “Yes” to intuition, we’re saying that we trust what we’ve subtly picked up.
When we have an idea, or a nudge to take a story in a different direction, there are two things at play:
Your creative mind just having fun
Your intuition is telling you that there is an inherent need in your story.
An Inherent Need
Many writers study story structure so they can bring what they already know works to the forefront of their conscious.
I know, that’s a big claim. But I’m not stating anything new here. This is essentially what Joseph Campbell pointed out in his vast explanation of global stories: there is a structure that generally works and is adhered to, found during many different ages and all over the world. This is the Hero’s Journey (this of course isn’t the only story structure. Listen to my podcast episode about The Heroine’s Journeyhere).
There is something that we recognize makes a good story. When a plot doesn’t hit certain marks, the consumer is left with uncertainty and dissatisfaction. For example, the Deus ex Machina ending will almost always leave an audience unhappy. This is because story structure needs to set up the ending in the beginning. It needs to come full circle, or complete a character arch.
Unless we study story structure, we might not know this specifically. However, when we see it, we know that it just doesn’t work.
Gail Carriger goes into this a little bit in her book, The Heroine’s Journey, when she talks about combining a hero’s arch with the Heroine’s Journey, or vise versa.
When your intuition is guiding you in a different direction, it might be that the plot that’s outlined doesn’t quite hit the story structure mark, and your subconscious is letting you know what’s up.
Practicing listening to and trusting your intuition will help with this.
When we’re saying “Yes”, there are different aspects of ourselves that we are saying “Yes” to: our minds, our creativity, the world around us, the expansive possibilities of the universe. Sometimes saying “Yes” can be difficult.
But there is a little bit of a hack that I’ve learned: each of these areas corresponds to a different element that corresponds to the Tarot: Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Spirit.
As a result, I’ve developed a course that will help you to tap into those elements to enhance and support your creativity and creative projects.
In each lesson you’ll learn
Trust and Surrender with Spirit
Igniting your passion and opening to possibilities with Fire
Generating and capturing ideas with Air
Connecting to your intuition and creativity with Water
And moving creativity through your body and grounding creativity with Earth
All of these lessons have been specially designed for your own self-study and with a woo-spin. It’s my goal to help you develop the tools you’ll need for any of your creative endeavors through connecting you with your own spirituality.
All of the lessons come with:
A video talking you through each of the elements and how they connect to your creativity
A workbook containing
Over a dozen journal prompts
A segment on the corresponding Tarot cards and the lessons they teach
Book recommendations for continued exploration and learning
A spell, meditation, or ritual to help you connect your creativity and that element
The Elemental Writer Course is designed to take place over the span of five weeks, allowing a week for each lesson. However, you can work through it at your own pace.
The goal of this course is to open you to possibilities and ideas, help you develop a love for your art with out blocking yourself with attachment, and to help you develop your intuition to guide you through your creative journey.
This course will be live January 1st at full price. However, early bird pricing will exist beforehand! Fill out the form below to keep up to date and be alerted when the course is open this 29% discount!
In the meantime, what have you said “Yes” to this year? What do you plan on saying “Yes” to in 2022?