Seize the day: Things I wish I’d known when starting out (6)

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My formal education was not the best. I didn’t learn any classical languages, but in my informal education I swiftly learnt the translations of many maxims which still hold true to me, today.

Seize the day.

Fortune favours the brave.

My informal education was my true training, and one which I procured for myself. This involved reading anything I found which was in print, from takeaway menus and dodgy advertisements pushed through the door, to sneaking out Gunter Grass’s The Tin Drum from the adult section of a Birmingham library, aged twelve.

This training in understanding how (in particular) plays work came with reading widely – and the same play often. This began in my teens, when I read and re-read Shakespeare’s Hamlet and King Lear – the former a master class in structure and plot which I still use to teach classical Western dramaturgy to this day. Sean O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars and Juno and the Paycock gave me such a richness in characterisation, and made me conscious of the rhythm and texture of language. J M Synge’s Playboy of the Western World taught me that ‘In a good play, every speech should be as fully flavoured as a nut or apple’, and encouraged me to try and out-sing Synge.  Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  is still one of my favourites. When I first stumbled upon this script, it was a major revelation; I saw the danger in word play and how ‘reality’ can be tenuously constructed through imagination and spite. It revealed the power in language to lacerate and  how far humans will go ostensibly to finish a warring relationship, but really to ensure its permanence and continuation.

Reading these works – and many more since – I’ve been struck by their urgency, immediacy, freshness – even after centuries. There was something in that urgency which encouraged me to pay attention in the moment and to the moment – to re-examine a passage which I felt worked and try to work out why it worked – and to do that then, in that moment, rather than putting off until ‘tomorrow’ or some other day.

I thought about the necessity to commit words to paper – how these texts are available to me now only because the writers found the time to write, to polish, complete, and not put it off.  They taught me an essential lesson which I am still keen on today:

Don’t prevaricate.

7 responses to “Seize the day: Things I wish I’d known when starting out (6)

  1. “Fortune favours the brave.” Wise words indeed. I think I first heard these words from you. I couldn’t agree with you more about the power of words to lacerate in Albee’s play. On a side note, I was fortunate to perform some of my Americana music for Albee in NYC. He suggested that what we played was similar to Baroque music in terms of rhythms. I’m not really sure what he meant, as sometimes I forget to ask people why they say what they say.
    Talk soon.
    -Vincent

    • Wonderful to see you here – thanks so much for coming to have a look and then commenting, cuz. I look forward to hearing more of your music – love the cryptic but no doubt true comment about baroque music and Americana music from Mr Albee. I was fortunate to have him judge a play of mine some years ago for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize….
      Perhaps you did hear ‘fortune favours the brave from me’ first – I have a feeling it was on an all night walk until dawn in Galway, to the sea…
      My additional favourite quotation to live by – particularly for artists and creatives:
      Fortune favours the brave
      (but)
      Chance favours the prepared mind (Louis Pasteur).
      Hope our Cross roads cross soon.
      x

  2. I simply want to mention I’m all new to blogs and truly liked this blog. Almost certainly I’m want to bookmark your site . You really have great posts. Many thanks for sharing your web page.

  3. Sharing on VBA… blessings, Carley

  4. Reblogged this on Versatile Blogger Award and commented:
    Carpe diem…

  5. “Seize the Day” – also the title of an absolutely amazing novella by Saul Bellow, one of my favorite pieces of prose fiction. These are words to live by! I try, also… I try.

  6. Carley, thanks so much.

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