Just looking at the name on cheap holiday search engines made me tingle with excitement. South European heat, blue skies, sun pouring down onto warm squares. I booked to fly the very next day.
I’d never thought of myself as impulsive: I like to consider things through, work out each possible line of attack before I make a move. It’s part of my training as a novelist: you have to be certain that what you are going to do works before you spend time doing it. Are the through-lines of the plot coherent? Would Character X act in such a downright filthy manner? So to book a flight leaving the very next morning to a city in a country I’d never visited: outrageous! (Okay, it was only Madrid, not Montevideo or Mogadishu, and okay Madrid is probably very safe and familiar to someone familiar with any other European city, but the point still holds, the act was impulsive, somewhat rash and possibly foolhardy.)
I landed late. The flight out was late, and I didn’t know where I was going. I found my hotel a little after 11pm. I caught the metro into the city and disembarked at a metro station that sounded like it might be central (it wasn’t) and walked the streets for two hours, uncertain of where I was going – no destination, just the thrill of experiencing a new place.
Over the next few days I explored El Prado, El Museo Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, the Royal Palace, and walked more of Madrid, choosing a street out and just following it. This kind of leisurely, uncoordinated holiday perfectly suited my mood. It was antithetical to my personality. Sometimes we just need to let go, followed the unplanned trail. And that leads me back to writing…
When I logged back online on Monday morning I discovered that the Red Planet Productions Prize had launched again: its doors are now open for new scripts. I’ve been thinking about, and writing potential scripts for this very prize most of the year – moving between them, trying to discover which one is supreme. On Monday morning a new idea hit me – and I think it’s a killer. But I’ve no time to plan it, to mull on it: I’ve just got to write, follow the street out, keep running, until I hit the end and hope it works.
Letting go. Booking a holiday for the very next day. Writing by the seat of your pants. Do you know how thrilling that can be?