x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Life lessons: Sir Ronald Harwood

The playwright, author and screenwriter Sir Ronald Harwood shares his life's wisdom with M.

Sir Ronald Harwood, author, playwright and screenwriter, shares his life lessons with M. Silvia Razgova / The National
Sir Ronald Harwood, author, playwright and screenwriter, shares his life lessons with M. Silvia Razgova / The National

Sir Ronald Harwood CBE, 77, is a playwright, author and screenwriter who is most famous for his screenplays of The Dresser, The Pianist (for which he won an Oscar) and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. He was in the UAE last week for the Abu Dhabi Festival.

 

1. Take chances. This is especially relevant for an artist - if you play it safe you will never do what you're supposed to. People take jobs that make them feel secure, then try to write at night and weekends. In reality, the only job that would work with might be teaching because of the long holidays. Of course there are plenty of examples of people who have managed it, but if you want to write novels or play music, then just go for it. As Voltaire said: "Doubt is an uncomfortable position but certainty is absurd."

2. Keep a still centre. If something went wrong I used to thrash about. I don't do that anymore but rather I keep still and let it play out. I also never regret anything - I have made some terrible decisions in my life but never have I regretted one of them. I find that they always lead to something that you don't regret and something that is helpful.

3. Discipline yourself. I always call myself a casual labourer but I try to make it as little of the casual as possible. Get up at the same time, start work at the same time and finish at the same time. Forget about weekends until the work is done. That's what I've done for 60-odd years and that's how the work gets done, especially on long novels or plays. Mind you, I've never been good on holidays.

4. Say yes to everything. I say yes to every invitation I get. Sometimes when it comes to it, I don't go, but you never know where these opportunities will lead. Life is all to do with people, the people you meet and how you get on with them, what qualities they have and what your meeting leads to.

5. Love your family. That's what parents are for, to be there for their children, otherwise what's the point? The triumph of parenthood is if your children like you when they grow up.

 

As told to Helena Frith Powell