I met my novel this morning in my email. An email newsletter I got subscribed to by a club I considered joining, but didn’t, contained a quote that won’t let me go. And it dovetails with a bunch of ideas I’ve been thinking about, as a central organizing theme. And all the hair on the back of my neck is standing up.
I know, I know, “coincidence.” I went to lunch to run an errand and think about this quote, which works on about 47 levels, and my waitress asked me what I was up to.
“I’ve been thinking I need to write a novel, but I didn’t know about what. And then I happened on this quote, this morning, and I think the novel is about the quote. And I’m going to sit here and see if I can’t figure out what the quote means, really” (it’s a little on the abstract side. Maybe more than a little.)
“Well, what’s the quote?”
I showed it to her. Last week, I got nudged when I was walking to start carrying a notebook around, to write down things I was learning. So I bought a notebook to fit in my little summer purse, and had taken it out and copied the quote from my phone into it before she came over.
“Oh, interesting. I was a philosophy major in college, before I went off and became a chef. I’ll totally think about it and let you know if I come up with anything good.”
“Do— I only took Philosophy 101, so the host obviously knew what he was doing when he sat me in your section!”
She came back with my drinks and we parsed the quote together. I told her quick sketches of some of the strands I was thinking I could weave together around this theme. “Oh, that totally works,” she said.
On my own, I figured out that one of the things that I got from my podcasts over the weekend was about vulnerability and letting myself be known because I’m not going to be allowed to write this book from arm’s length— I’m going to have to write at least one thread from the inside out. Good thing I ordered the book I need to reread about vulnerability yesterday and it arrives tomorrow.
I have looked for this moment for my entire adult life, so I don’t want to seem ungrateful when I say it’s a little eerie when it becomes clear that your fate has been waiting for you and you’re ridiculously late to the party. I feel like the cosmic conversation went like this:
“She told Us she was going to have to be smacked upside the head to know what she was looking for. Truer words were never spoke. Better send her a philosophy major to help her decode that last hint We sent. Next stop, flashing neon!”