The first playwright I stumbled upon in high school was Eugene O’Neill. I knew nothing about him: he was the playwright who influenced me most, and I was later told my plays sounded like his.
Perhaps people who want to become writers must first learn form from someone. I, wanting to be a playwright, turned to O’Neill, not because I recognized his greatness but because he was available. It was O’Neill, as it turned out, who more than anyone else changed my life; or to be more specific, the closing of a production of Long Days Journey into Night in the middle of a run by Baylor’s president led me to follow the drama faculty to Trinity University and to the woman I married. Even at Trinity I was under the influence of O’Neill. It seems as if I couldn’t totally break free; and after a while I began to feel guilty about that. And as to a writer needing a crutch…I by then started having doubt about my ability to write; when perhaps I should’ve marveled at how far I had come. I still wrestle with doubt. I’m not satisfied with “write the best you can,” and I suppose I’ll never be satisfied.
I’m not sure if I understand what it takes to be a great writer. In the last month or so I have been able to take ideas about Shakespeare found in Ron Rosenbaum’s THE SHAKESPEARE WARS and apply them to acting in what I think are unique ways. Original thought, I am told, is impossible; however, as I test these new ideas out, it excites me no end to know that I came up with these ideas on my own, that I hadn’t heard or read about them. And these ideas in my mind are as revolutionary and useful as Constantin Stanislavski’s method. No shit. And sometimes I’ve found the same level of excitement from my writing.
The trick is and has always been how to capture and hold onto this excitement. It’s generated from working, isn’t it? That was a lesson I learned. It was something I sometimes forgot. It was a lesson I learned more than once and seemed to forget between the lulls of my creativity. It’s the process I relish. Here I’ve changed tense because I do relish it. That one fact makes all the effort worth it, and is what turns effort into effortless. I have said, “I write because I enjoy it.” If I hated it, I don’t think I would write. Simple reasoning like this doesn’t erase my dissatisfaction. I seem to have that built in me, but luckily I’m into it for the long haul.
Good afternoon, Randy Ford