About two years ago, I was struggling at my job reporting here at the Niagara Gazette. I had a hard time writing meaningful stories or meeting my own expectations. Words, for the most part, weren’t being friendly.
But things changed when I spent a summer in an improvisation acting class in Lockport. Working with Defiant Monkey — the fantastic pair of Andrew Spragge and Karen Eichler — opened my mind to a number of new philosophies and opportunities.
There’s a process improv actors quickly adopt as they set out to make themselves better, which is the subject of this piece. Like the plot of the Jim Carrey movie, “Yes Man,” the actor, when on stage, never says “no.” Saying “yes,” it’s taught, leads to more development or opportunity.
In the Carrey movie, the character takes it to a sometimes-comedic extreme. But it successfully opens his life to the world around him. For me, bringing a slice of the philosophy into my personal life helped flip my writing opportunities and opened the Niagara, Lewiston and Wheatfield communities up right in front of me. The results, I would argue, have been phenomenal. Defiant Monkey’s help led to an opportunity with the cast of the Marble Orchard ghost walks. Eva Nicklas, Tim Henderson and the entire crew of the Lewiston Council on the Arts have been a joy to work with and will forever be considered amongst my closest friends.
Work, too, has progressed positively since I bought in to the idea. Sure, there’s a lot of meetings I’ve covered, with excitement levels ranging from snooze button to snore-fest. It’s part of the job. Every time an opportunity came up to step out of my comfort zone I immediately took the leap. It helped having a staff encouraging me, including features editor Michele DeLuca, to never say “no,” even if it isn’t the most appealing.