My mother gave me ‘The Writer’s Tale’ by Russell T Davies and Benjamin Cook for Christmas, and I started reading it a couple of days ago. It’s an account of a year in the creative process of Russell T Davies, told through a series of e-mails between the authors. It’s a very honest account, bones and all, and is completely fascinating and compelling (do those words both mean the same thing?) reading. I could spend all day, if I were able, working my way through it, devouring each little detail about the workings of his brain; finding out how the ideas developed. Some of his ideas for ‘Doctor Who‘ are new, inspired by other people, other ideas are those which have been hiding at the back of his mind for years.
But it is his struggle to get through the writing process that surprised me. Of course, I realised that working under pressure and to deadlines must be very hard, but it seems that he has these intense periods of, I can’t think what else to call it other than brain fog, where he is unable to write a thing. I identified with him whilst reading that. Obviously (as you will know if you read this blog with any regularity!) I can’t aspire to call myself a writer, but I have known times where I have suffered a similar lethargy, where to do anything productive seems to be beyond my capabilities. Also similar to my own, past, situation, is his account of how he procrastinates by doing anything rather than his writing. In this, I am certain he is not alone. How many school children and students have spent unprecedented levels of time tidying bedrooms rather than revising for important exams? I know I have! Well, it is this same panic, diverting the mind from what is most concerning it, almost in a form of self-preservation, that leads him to delay the start of writing a script by hours, days, weeks sometimes.
I love the openness and authenticity of this book. I’m only half way through, but already I’m longing to finish and find out more of what he thinks. I love the intensity and directness of Ben Cook’s questions, and the willingness of Russell T Davies to answer them. I love the way RTD still gets star struck. I love the lack of censorship of the original e-mails which is so evident by the (sometimes surely uncomfortable!) honesty in the commentaries contained in the pages. And I love the way that he is so willing to lay his whole self open to scrutiny; his writing technique as well as his style; his previous successes and failures; his self doubts but at the same time his self confidence.
I think it’s safe to say I’d recommend it! I’m sorely tempted to take some late night walks around Cardiff Bay to see if I could spot him, and then let him know that I think he’s brilliant. And then the mother side of me wants to let him know that he’s not alone, and that other people feel the struggle he feels, even if in different areas, but that it is all worth it because so many people absolutely adore his work. How many people in the UK must have structured their Christmas Day around the screening of the Doctor Who Christmas Special for the last three Christmases?
I’m sad to see you leaving Doctor Who, RTD, but given the amount of stress you’ve been under, maybe it’s what you need? And I’m really looking forward to seeing what you come up with next. (If you could write something that could include David Tennant in a tuxedo, that would be great!)