It’s December, and in case you hadn’t noticed, it’s nearly Christmas time!
That means the Christmas movies are on 24/7, the Christmas specials of all the soaps and long-running series are being aired, and Sky Arts is bringing us yet more cultured goodness.
I am currently enthralled by Sky Arts’ drama, A YOUNG DOCTOR’S NOTEBOOK AND OTHER STORIES. I got into the first series last year, and was really impressed by the development of actor Daniel Radcliffe. His character grabbed me with the perfect blend of naivety and black humour, and I was hooked.
If you have not seen it, and don’t want to be spoiled, look away now.
The first series charts the experiences of the Young Doctor (played by Daniel Radcliffe) and his first job at a Siberian hospital in 1917. Fresh out of medical school and still very proud of his scores, the Young Doctor quickly realizes that life in the Siberian wilderness is as far removed from his old life in Moscow as the moon is from the sun. Meanwhile, his older self, played by Jon Hamm, is paying for the choices that the Young Doctor made. While undergoing treatment and morphine withdrawals, he revisits his memories of being the Young Doctor through the discovery of his old journal.
Based on the autobiographical and semi-autobiographical short stories of Mikhail Bulgakov, author of THE MASTER AND MARGARITA, the tone of the series is darkly humourous and filled with a twisted poignancy that stops the physical comedy of some scenes from devolving into jarring slapstick.
Mikhail Bulgakov, c.1930
The idea of being able to physically interact with your own memories, unseen by any of the other characters but physically present and able to communicate and physically fight with your younger self is an intriguing idea.
I think what fascinated me most about this series was not just the concept but the construction. Stories within stories have always fascinated me as a writer. I like to experiment with narrative techniques and story construction, but my novels and novellas are really not ready for anything other than free viewing. When I do have something publishable, I will let you know..
I’ve been watching Sky Arts’ Portrait Artist of the Year, too. The composition of the portraits and the vastly different styles of the artists have really inspired me to think about my own work – with words – in the same way as the artists use their medium to capture moments and create art from life and life from art.
Watching the artists work, some sketching first, others applying paint straight onto canvas. The strokes and techniques and colour palette differed dramatically, and the end results were so varied, but I loved the images and portraiture they created.
I think writing is a lot like that. Everyone composes their piece differently, everyone has their own ways of putting things down, whether you plot or pants, or do a bit of both. And sometimes you get a brilliant idea, and sometimes your layers drown out the central themes. Sometimes it all works out, and sometimes it doesn’t.
But inspiration is everywhere, and when you find something that really excites you, channel it and figure out why you like it so much and what makes it so good. That’s how growth happens!
Christmas is a pretty great time for inspiration, and this is what I want for Christmas:
I’d love to write something like a portrait. Something with the depth and psychology and composition of one crystallized moment, layers of carefully chosen strokes of the pen building up to make a complete picture which surprizes me when I take a step back.
I want to write something conceptually interesting, that engages the reader with few characters and a well-crafted situations that read like they all ‘just happened’.
I want to learn how to write. And I never want to stop learning.
So here’s to Christmas telly, and all the inspiration of the season!