Today has been a breakthrough day–I did not awake feeling that it would be, and I am aware that it is a bit pompous sounding to make the claim that it is. But it is, because today I made some concrete progress on an idea for a novel, whose title I am as yet unsure of, and whose plot is not quite coherent yet.
What is especially pleasing about this is that I feel like I overheard the story, that I did not contrive it at all. In fact, it is utterly contrived, and completely ridiculous. The original seed came on holiday in Key West last year, when I literally did overhear a man on his telephone, evidently making an appointment somewhere. He said to the unknown other party that ‘I know Robert Morrero’ – ending on the upward inflection that implies to most English speakers that what has preceded is intended as a question.
I thought: who is Robert Morrero? Today, while eating in a restaurant in Chinatown in Manchester, I think I worked it out. And I worked it out in a way that linked a few other half-ideas that I had in my head, in a way that they hang together just well enough that I think I can make a pretty fun story out of them all, that I can share and distribute, and that I will enjoy producing.
Not that I believe in any kind of mystical forces of literary inspiration, but I actually wrote the first few pages of my first novel in Manchester as well – in a restaurant called Olive. I don’t believe that Manchester is particularly inspirational (that restaurant certainly wasn’t), actually I think it is much more likely related to the fact that I am on a business trip, as I was when I began work on The Tragedy and Farce of Charlie Marks, and eating alone in a foreign city grants a freedom to really sit and think about things, to the point of tedium or absurdity. And then when the dinner is over, and I am on my own, I have a lonely impetus to fill the time.
So I did some thinking in Try Thai in Chinatown, where I have enjoyed excellent beancurd on three occasions now, had a Long Island Ice Tea for dessert, and scribbled down some notes, which felt unforced. I am now fairly excited for May, when my next set of exams will be over, and when I will have some time to work more on this idea, and also to redraft the second and third chapters of Charlie Marks before I re-begin the process of submitting the work to agents.
As I walked up the stairs to my hotel room to write this blog, I thought to myself, in terms much more assuredly than I think I have felt before, that I want to write. That it is what I want to do with my life. And it comes as a great relief to also feel I have something to write about. I was reminded, on the stairs between the third and fourth storeys, of an incident from Christopher Hitchens’s memoir Hitch-22 where his is taken aside by a teacher and told off for a piece of political propaganda he had been pushing. ‘Is that what you want to be?’ he was asked, ‘a pamphleteer?’.
‘At last I have a word for it!’ Was Hitchens response. I mean, as an analogy this doesn’t really apply at all, but it’s always a good idea to end on a joke, even if it isn’t my own.
(If you would like to read the latest draft of The tragedy and farce of Charlie Marks then please send me a message – I am very pleased to share, and to receive feedback.)