Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Day 58: Humility

I love feeling stupid.

Not in the condescension/humiliation sense (I'll leave that kink to other folks), but in the I-love-being-surrounded-by-people-smarter-than-I-am sense.  Or if not necessarily smarter, then more well-read, more experienced, more talented and/or better skilled at things than I.  I love to be challenged; inspired to do more, read more, become more.  If you aren't surrounded by people like this, it's too easy to become passive.  And passivity is the ultimate enemy of the human experience, at least according to a playwriting classmate (and likely also Chekhov, according to our class discussion tonight!).

The Playwright's Guidebook: An Insightful Primer on the Art of Dramatic WritingTonight was my first playwriting class with Stuart Spencer, the man who wrote  The Playwright's Guidebook.   It was a humbling experience, on two levels.  One, I felt stupid.  Spence sets a very high intellectual bar that I find compelling, refreshing, and inspiring.  He speaks off-the-cuff about Aristotelian theory and the difference between protagonists and central characters; refers to plays by Sophocles, Shakespeare, Ibsen, Ionesco (yes, I had to look up how to spell that), Beckett, Williams, and more.   While I had heard of every play he mentioned - and read or seen many of them -- there were a few I hadn't ever read or seen.  And that was just the first class!  I realized that I have a lot of reading I need to do if I'm going to be serious about this craft of playwriting.

The other humbling element to tonight's class was the complete opposite of the "feeling stupid/challenged" kind of humbling: it was the humbling that is related to the feeling of honor at someone else's praise of your work; the "really, do I deserve that?" feeling.   I was told that I have a real skill for writing well-developed, well-crafted scenes with nothing extraneous; scenes that "land" with the audience; that I created a very vivid character in a mere page and a half; that two of my scenes were so highly specific that the words felt like they could have only been spoken by those two people and no one else; and that I made one woman choke up by page two.  She was mystified as to how I managed to do that (so am I). 

These kinds of humility inspire me.  I am so inspired to figure out what the next scene of my play is, but unfortunately it is extremely late and I have a very long day tomorrow.  I'll be humble and beg of you not to hold it against me for not writing on my play today.
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