On the Necessity of Writing Sabbaticals

restIf you’re, like me, an obsessive-compulsive writer who gets stressed out by not finishing things, taking a break can be difficult. This is especially true during November, or as most of you know it, NaNoWriMo. I have never participated in this insane push to write a novel from start to finish in one month, partially because the past six years of my life have been stressful enough without trying to write a whole book in such a condensed period of time, but also because the pressure I put on myself is enough to make me crack without additional external pressure. I seriously hate taking a longer than anticipated time to finish my projects; it’s stressing me beyond belief right now that I haven’t done much with my novel in two months, despite the fact that said lack of progress is due to moving to another continent and taking up a new job. Y’know, normal adult stuff that is naturally going to get in the way of side tasks in general. But something I’m learning right now is the benefit of taking a break from my writing. Not just one project, mind you. I’m talking all of my non-RPG projects. As of today, I’m on a complete writing break for a week. I find that when I’m having trouble writing and am unable to put words to paper, taking time off for a bit, even if it’s just a day or two, helps me re-exert control over the process. Suddenly it’s not that I *can’t* write at that time; I’m *choosing* not to write. That simple act of controlling the situation actually helps me with the writer’s block when I return to my work because then I’m in the mindset of “I chose to rest; now I can go back.” This only works if I take a sabbatical from writing altogether. No idea why, but that’s the tru9h of it. It also relaxes me by taking my brain out of freak-out mode and allows me to redirect my creative energies elsewhere, such as into dancing or learning Polish. If I try writing another project during a mental freak out, I end up just stressing out about how much I should be working on the other project and how annoying it is that I can’t progress any further. Sometimes, you really do just need to take a break. It’s okay to take time off (though maybe not this week, if you’re doing NaNoWriMo). Just make sure that you set parameters for yourself: how long the sabbatical will last, what other hobbies/projects you’ll work on during that time, and what you’ll start work on when the break is over. If you’re exhausted and haven’t gotten much writing done lately, take a break. Have a Kit-Kat. Listen to a Dalek Relaxation Tape. Your stories will thank you for it.

 

A Review of the new Doctor Who: Season 1

Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper as The Doctor and Rose

Doctor Who has been a beloved British television show for a very long time.  The series originally aired in 1963, and is listed in Guinness World Records as the longest running and most successful Science Fiction television show in history.  This being said, I believe that it is necessary to note that I have not seen the vast majority of these earlier episodes, and that my experience with Doctor Who essentially begins with the 2005 series featuring Christopher Eccleston as the ninth Doctor and Billie Piper as Rose.  For those of you not familiar with the overarching concept of Doctor Who the show features a series of actors as The Doctor, a time traveling alien who has adventures throughout the past and the future.  While this may not have been the case at the shows inception, the 2005 series portrays The Doctor as the last of the Time Lords, an ancient alien race who once policed all of time and space, but was lost in the Last Great Time War which saw the end of both the Time Lord and Dalek races.  This casts The Doctor as a tragic figure, alone in the universe.  Throughout the series the viewer receives many revelations about The Doctor’s past, and future.

Overall: 8/10

Overall this season is a fair start to an excellent series.  Doctor Who relies heavily on combining themes of tragedy, heroism, and insanity.  However, it does so masterfully, often portraying the Doctor as part heroic warrior, part mad scientist, part bleeding heart, and part tragic loner.  This complex character, while difficult to portray, lends the show both a reality, and an entertainment factor that not only draws in the viewer, but keeps him/her interested, and allows a deep connection to the characters.  The overarching plots of the show range from the odd to the ridiculous (but given the premise what do you really expect), however the confidence and reality of the actors, combined with the depth of the characters make them believable.  In general the first season is the weakest of the current series, in part because of a lack of funds (due to insecurity about the shows future), in part because it is (in its essence) an attempt to revive a show that has been dead for fifteen years, and in part because Christopher Eccleston never seems completely comfortable in his role as the Doctor.

Writing and Production: 9.0/10

For a revivification of a dead show the writing and production values in the 2005 season of Doctor Who are great.  However, when compared with later seasons, they are questionable.

2005 Season Boxed Set

Characters and Acting: 8/10

While I am fond of Billie Piper’s portrayal of Rose, Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor is, in my opinion, the weakest element of the 2005 season.  While Eccleston appears as an edgier, more dangerous Doctor (in fact he is the only Doctor that, form appearance alone, I can see carrying a gun), this is not believable in his acting.  While Eccleston is not a bad doctor, he does not master any of the intrinsic complexities of the character, and this leads to a Doctor that feels half-formed and often forced.  While still enjoyable, Eccleston’s Doctor feels distant from the audience, and is difficult to connect with.

World: 9.5/10

The term worlds might be better used here.  The sheer variety of times and worlds that The Doctor visit may be a difficult pill for many viewers to swallow and, admittedly, the show requires a good does of general acceptance.  However, if the general premise of the show can be accepted, then the times and worlds that are visited become quite believable.  The settings are both well depicted and well-thought out, and the sheer variety is enough to keep a viewer interested.

Plot and Content: 9/10

The new Doctor Who is more episodic in nature than the older series, and while the season still has an overarching story, each episode generally stands alone in terms of plot.  Those plots are generally strong although some, “Father’s Day” in particular, seem forced and not entirely considered.

Pacing: 9.5/10

For the most part Doctor Who is a fast paced show.  Most episodes move at break neck pace, dragging the viewer along for the ride, and generally this is well done.  However, for some viewers, this will make the slower episodes difficult to watch.

Commentary: 6/10

Doctor Who was originally intended as an educational show, and this influence can still be seen.  The show focuses heavily on themes of tragedy, loss, survival, and the enduring nature of mankind.  It also includes, from time to time, tidbits of history or science of which the audience may not be aware.

Conclusion:

While Doctor Who,  in general, is a very strong series (and this season is definitely worth watching), the 2005 season is far from being the best of the new Doctor.  This season is worth watching, even if just to get the whole Rose Tyler story line, but later seasons are much better.