I was watching the football (soccer) highlights programme, Match of the Day, on Sunday morning. It was the Arsenal v Queens Park Rangers game and I was struck by a wonderful save by Rangers’ goalkeeper Julio Cesar. It was a frantic goalmouth scramble…three or four Arsenal players and two or three Rangers. The ball was bouncing around like a popcorn kernel in a hot pan.
If Cesar had gone for the ball, he could have easily missed it. But he didn’t. He waited. At last someone’s boot got a clean poke at the ball; it sailed free towards the goal. Cesar plucked it from the air easily and gracefully – as if he was alone at the goal, as if nothing was distracting him.
It reminded me of what I’ve been reading, a non-fiction book by Graham Greene about his time with Panamanian General Omar Torrijos. In it, Greene is attempting to write a novel with the working title of On The Way Back. On Sunday morning, I had just read a little about Greene working for two months in London to write two pages.
Greene never did write On The Way Back. But while he was trying, he didn’t think that he had lost his ability to write. He didn’t force it. He didn’t panic. He didn’t immediately try and write something else. Just like Cesar, he waited with confidence. His next novel was The Human Factor.
Timing seems to be about confidence, about knowing what you can do and being content to wait for the right time to do it. Knowing what you can do also means knowing what you can’t do – Greene realised that, for him, using real people as characters was too limiting. He wouldn’t do it again. Cesar didn’t rely on a pacy dive.
Currently, I have two halves of a novel and I’m not sure how I’ll make them into a whole. I’m taking a lot of long walks to think about it (in this picture, I’ve just come back from a tramp in the rain around Willsbridge Mill with my ten year old daughter and eight month old labrador puppy). When I’m ready, I’ll pounce.
Manuscript: To Hide Her Blazing Heart
Word Count: 73, 419