Guinevere Gets Sober

Recovery news, reviews and stories, by Jennifer Matesa.

Tina Fey’s Awesome Advice That May Save Your Life.

My husband gave me Tina Fey’s Bossypants for my birthday. Seriously behind the curve on this book, which was published in April and which both my sister and my friend P snagged within minutes of its release.

I should be rationing myself to like two pages per day, because the book has only 275 pages and I want the laughs to last longer than 2.5 days, but in classic addict-fashion (More Is Always Better) I’ve been steaming through it instead of doing other things I should be doing, such as grinding through every past-season episode of “Monk” on streaming Netflix with my kid (he likes “Monk”; also “Psych”; I’m OK with “Monk” because Adrian reminds me of me—I do crazy shit like straighten the pictures on the walls of other people’s houses—but “Psych” weirds me out ) or cleaning the toilets. Tina Fey’s payoff somehow provides more of an incentive.

Last night I read her rules for improv.

  • Rule No. 1: Always agree and say yes to everything that happens.
  • Rule No. 2: Add something to the conversation (say “yes, and”).
  • Rule No. 3: Make statements. Instead of speaking in questions all the time (which makes your partner do all the work in improv—if you ask the questions, they have to come up with all the answers), be responsible and make statements. Be part of the solution.
  • Rule No. 4: There are no mistakes. Only opportunities.

Rules No. 1 and 4 might save my life. (Along with her list of all the physical attributes a woman is now expected to possess, including “the abs of a lesbian gym owner” and “doll tits,” and her stories about the SNL writers who piss in cups) But the other two rules are good, too. Saying “yes, and” is important. It fosters conversation. It moves life along instead of allowing it to stay stuck. And making statements grows assertiveness.

Fey writes,

As an improviser, I always find it jarring when I meet someone in real life whose first answer is no. “No, we can’t do that.” “No, that’s not in the budget.” “No, I will not hold your hand for a dollar.” What kind of way is that to live?

If she were following her own advice, she’d make a statement and say That’s no frigging way to live. I’m familiar with that way of life. That way of life shuts down creativity and intuition and possibility and hope.

(Today’s experiment: Pick any one of these four qualities—creativity, intuition, possibility, hope—and you have today’s higher power.)

But saying “No, I can’t” right off the bat is the way I learned to live.

I’m unlearning it.

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8 Comments

  1. sadly, i know of those who treat these rules as rules – mechanically – so their ingrained habit of saying, “yeah, but…”, is morphed into saying “yeah, and…” – but w/ the exact same tone of challenge. *sigh*

    can i go w/ intuition and structure for today?

  2. “can i go w/ intuition and structure for today?”
    i say, hell yeah. 🙂

  3. I pick creativity for today. Great food for thought. On books, “Bossypants” is on my list, I love Tina Fey. I’ll get to that after I finish the book I am reading, “Boomerang”, and the book I ordered yesterday on Amazon, Joan Didion’s new one, “Blue Nights”. I’m sure I’ll need some laughs after reading that. As always, thanks for your insight.

  4. I love yes-and-ing! Comedians know about it and it’s a beautiful idea. Stephen Colbert’s commencement speech a couple years ago laid out similar ideas: http://blog.beliefnet.com/freshliving/2009/03/stephen-colbert-on-the-power-of-yes.html

  5. I favor number four. I need the reminder now and then not to batter myself when I screw up.

  6. A year ago, when Patti Digh visited here in Yakima, WA, she conducted an activity with an audience of at least 300 people. We broke in to pairs and were directed to plan a birthday party in about 5 minutes. The first time through, we planned the party with our partner using the “Yes, but . . .” model. The second time, we used the “Yes, and . . . ” approach. Zikes! The conversation dried up quickly when using the first model. However, when using the “Yes, and . . . ” model, the sky was the limit – and creativity was rampant!
    P.S. I, too, read Tina Fey’s “Bossy Pants” recently. There was lots of good stuff in it, but I eventually tired of her constant need to be funny, exaggerate, and “hyperbolize” (new word). In other words, I was longing to get a glimpse of the REAL Tina – and connect on a more intimate/vulnerable level. It’s just not ever gonna happen with Tina, I’m afraid – and it certainly didn’t happen for me in this book.

  7. I have serious crush on Tina. Gonna have to buy this book. Now.

  8. I am a “yes, let’s do it” person. I don’t like nay sayers and find I feel defeated and ask myself “why even try”. Go Tina.

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