One of the best pieces of advice I ever received from a full-time writer and theatre-maker was this: just say ‘yes’.
“Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go”— T.S. Elliot
Just say yes…..These three words carry with them not just a positive attitude and a hungry spirit but also a tremendous bucket of risk. Writing, no matter what, is a risky business. And if you don’t feel that, then maybe it’s time to go looking for projects that do make you feel a bit like you’re stepping off a cliff.
And this post feels like it could fall off a certain cliff into a certain graveyard of platitudes and dreary “mentor quotes” if I’m not careful….
I really do mean it. Heartfelt. Try things. Say yes.
Several years ago, oh who am I kidding, 25 years ago— a woman rang me to ask if I would mind auditioning for a play already in production in which one of the actors had just dropped out. At the time I was working crazy hours in the Japanese wedding industry (another story, another time, ok), and possibly the last thing I needed was to spend my ‘spare’ time trying to fill in the shoes of a missing character, in the middle of a production in a crisis. A little voice in my little head said yes, and so I just said yes.
After I did a bit of an audition, she said yes too. Then my life changed direction forever.
At the end of the production, the woman asked me if I would like to think about joining her and another actor in forming a professional theatre company. Without a second thought, I just said yes. Whatever possessed me? I quit my high-paying job, jumped in their car and we sped off into the life and times of JUTE Theatre company— amid all the poverty, hard labour, and sheer grit that entailed. I had literally everything to lose. But I didn’t lose anything; I gained everything. 25 years later, the company is going from strength to strength. It makes me so proud, I could burst sometimes.
Saying yes gives you enormous possibilities. It’s something we as writers need to practice.
This afternoon I got an email from a friend and colleague, a talented song-maker and singer, who also happens to be an actor and writer, as well as a very successful event coordinator. Yeah, I know, seriously —God whacked her quite a few times with the talent stick.
Her email was to invite me on board a project that sounds massive. Really. And somehow way beyond anything I’ve ever been involved in. That’s why I immediately and categorically replied yes, I’m in.
The more you say yes, the more you have to stretch yourself. And sure, some time or other you will end up getting involved in a project that will be a stone around your neck and perhaps you’ll get caught up in projects that fail. The subject of “art that fails”, crickey, don’t get me started because I think I’ve just mentally scheduled a whole blog entry on that.
Of course, I’m not really talking about over-committing yourself by repeatedly saying yes to project involvement. Yes, I know some artists who do that, and they do pay a big price for their insatiable appetite for work. But I am saying, especially if you are just starting out as a writer, saying yes to opportunities is the way to learn and grow, no matter how out of your depth you might think it will take you.
Just say it. See what happens.