Start From Yes

When writing in a collaborative setting, I feel a room is far more productive when instead of “starting at no” and running a crucible of ideas where only the “best” survive, folks “try to get to yes” and ideas get supported and built upon until they’re sharpened and clear.

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The latter is much harder to do than you’d think. Writing is weird in that to get anything on the page and show it to other humans you have to have a healthy dose of ego, but to edit and improve and shape your drafts you need to remove yourself from it.

Collaborative writing is even harder. It’s easy to SAY we don’t attach ourselves to our ideas and will accept or remove pieces based on objective judgement, but so much of the finer points of the craft is subjective gut feel and emotional impact.

Our own ideas are familiar, their logic clear to us. There’s also the ego and bias of ownership. Other’s ideas often don’t mesh, or our biases (pro or against) a contributor color our assessment.

Sometimes everyone in a room is on the same page and you hit that flow state. More often it’s a struggle. But if the starting mentality (especially in a blue sky brainstorm phase) is “what if yes” instead of “is that good enough,” it gives wild and poor ideas room to improve.

Some of my favorite choices and ideas and stories and projects started from “bad” ideas that could’ve easily been rejected. Instead it was explored and the collaborators together made it better than its originator could’ve done alone.

Collaboration is hard and often has painful moments, but the feeling of building something greater than the sum of the parts is amazing. It’s why I write for theater, why I work in games.

Next time your knee jerk reaction is to say no, try just imagining if it were yes. What doesn’t work? What could make it better? What IS exciting about it? Sometimes an idea IS just weak or doesn’t work. But exploration yields far more fruit than rejection.