Life The word 'that' is mainly superfluous. This is a piece of advice I was given about 10 years ago, and think about whenever I write something. I will return to it. But first…
A long time ago I contributed to an SFX Doctor Who special. I scripted – as I do in times of trouble – a Whizzer & Chips-style comic strip in which Steven Moffat tries to kill off Arthur Darvill. I was then kindly asked if I'd do an additional thing, something along the lines of my hopes for the programme. Or maybe it was my favourite bits. Anyway, a box-out wherein my remarks would run alongside other writers' comments on the same topic.
I politely declined, because I felt there would be an arrogance implicit in an assumption a reader might have any interest in my thoughts delivered this way. You know, "Oh, what does Graham Kibble-White think?" Let's be frank – what I think has no cache.
Yet, here I am, writing what's essentially a vanity piece for Stuart Ian Burns. As though my point of view does have a bearing. You'll have seen the remit Stu's given everyone . It's pretty loose; predicated on folks feeling they can opine in a way that's engaging.
It's a little hypocritical I fret in this way, because I write reviews for Doctor Who Magazine. But – and this is the truth – I try and do so in an anonymous fashion. I don't want to be in the picture. Yes, I'll sometimes adopt the first-person, because synonyms like "your reviewer" quickly get annoying, but that's about it. My hope is I'm constructing something of worth, but not a vehicle for myself.
Writing for DWM, I'd guess, is probably the thing about me that is potentially of any interest to readers of Feeling Listless, so I'll talk a little more about that.
How did it happen? I mainly can't remember. A long process of attrition. I think I sent things to Clayton Hickman, the predecessor to editor Tom Spilsbury, but nothing ever interested him. However, Tom – then the deputy – would reply. Due to various other stuff I'd done over the years, I guess we had mutual acquaintances, so I was always at least a known quantity.
What I can recall is making the effort at Doctor Who press launches to get to know Tom. Eventually it paid off. The first thing I ever did for DWM was in 2009. And it was [fishes out invoice]…
COMMISSION: 200 Brilliant Doctor Moments
- Romana’s leaving scene (Warriors’ Gate)
- “Why not? After all, that’s how it all started!” (The Five Doctors)
- Opening scene (The Two Doctors)
- "The cream of Scotland Yard!" (Ghost Light)
I managed to dig in from that, eventually becoming the person who writes their TV reviews. It's such a pleasure to do. I'm already massively fortunate in that I get to write for a living, but the DWM stuff is the only thing I produce professionally that prompts any tangible response. It means that even when people are slaying me – which they do – I'm okay with it. Besides, it would be massively hypocritical to feel aggrieved at criticisms of how I, in turn, critique.
But back to 'that' advice, as I shape this contribution in a cyclical manner to give it the semblance of a structure. I had lunch the other Monday with a friend who is in a similar line of work. He cares more about his craft than almost anyone I know, and as a result I always enjoy it when we talk about writing and the like. Within our chat, he offered up a nugget that now nestles alongside the 'that' maxim for me. He commented on how reviews often end up laden with 'perhaps' and 'maybe', particularly when a writer is trying to soften an opinion. He didn't mean this as counsel, but I've taken it that way.
I was, in fact, in the middle of a commission at the time and when I returned, I hit CTRL+F and went hunting for both phrases. There they were – a lot.
I'm not someone who takes many lessons from life. But from 2014, it's going to be that:
Kill my perhaps-es and maybes.
You can follow Graham on Twitter @grahamkw.