The Perfect Place to Write

September 12, 2014
Kate Marillat
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For as long as I can remember I’ve had a love affair with Paris. Maybe it’s the streamlined trees, the stylish waifs cycling in heels, or the crunch of a baguette topped with warm camembert…with the abundance of Parisian clichés it’s easy to romanticise the City of Light. My most significant trip to Paris was taken in 2008 when I took a sabbatical from my corporate job.

Paris 2008

I hadn’t taken my writing seriously since I studied English at university but it I wanted to write a book, and thought that Paris was the only place I could do it. Off I went with a huge suitcase, and a new red laptop. When I passed through the channel tunnel, I let myself cry a tear of dramatic joy – I was going to live and write in Paris.

When I arrived at the mixed sex hostel and the guy in the bunk above rocked the bed to his own rhythm, I was not so enthralled and quickly moved into a 22m apartment in the third arrondissement where the bed folded neatly into the wall. Over the next six months, I spent the weekdays writing with a target of ten pages a day and could be found scribbling furiously in cafés in St Michel and several libraries around the city. After my writing practice, I traced the steps of Hemingway and Victor Hugo.  I  contemplated Oscar Wilde’s and Jim Morrison’s graves in the Pere Lachaise cemetery. I visited Versailles, Disneyland, and every art gallery in the city, and fell back in love with Monet. Paris gave me the space to stop and think and even the green metal chairs in the manicured parks seemed designed with my new pondering capability in mind.

Eventually my main character jumped into action and I loved tracing her self-destructive journey through sex and drugs. Six months later I returned to the UK with five A4 notebooks containing 60,000 handwritten words under my arm. It wasn’t a quite novel, but it was nearly finished, of course it was!

I was wrong. It wasn’t finished, not even nearly. For the next 18 months, I rejoined the corporate ranks and writing was once again crammed in during the weekends. Then a year ago, after finding EFT and confidence in my writing, I left my job to become a ‘proper writer’, exchanging words for money (and not just a romantic notion) and I’ve been working as a copywriter and finishing my novel since January 2010.

Paris 2010

Maybe it was the influx of Parisian perfume adverts on the television which stirred that familiar desire to write in my favourite cafés, drink strong espresso and wipe the croissant flakes from my mouth. In December, I grandly announced that I needed to return to Paris with the (almost) finished manuscript where I would write the final two chapters.

It was snowing when I arrived for my three day sojourn.  When I café hopped to keep warm I could only have one espresso a day due to being three months pregnant. The desk in my temporary apartment gave me back ache.  My favourite cafés had lost their charm as rather than watching the passers-by, I now sat inside watching the smokers drinking their red wine on the heated terraces.

Although I was editing previous chapters and writing in my journal, those two elusive words ‘The End’ were still proving hard to write. I wished that I had someone to share the trip with; why didn’t I invite my husband or a good friend? I had toyed with the idea but dismissed it when I became grandiose with the belief that simply by being in Paris I would be inspired to finish the novel. One of the snowy mornings I dived into a shoe shop on the Rue Rivoli and bought some patent knee high boots which reminded me of my teenage years (I wasn’t a hooker, it was the fashion) and I realised that I was on holiday and  this wasn’t the grand writing finale that I’d hoped for. Rather guiltily I knew that I’d be getting a lot more writing done at home, at my messy desk, using EFT, tapping away during the two hour slots timed by the washing machine.

What is your perfect place to write?

Often we get caught up with the idea of a writing Shangri-la – whether that is the cafés of Paris, a beach hut in Thailand or a local library. We can easily become fixated on the right type of notebook or ideal wooden writing desk and believe that simply using it will miraculously fill our heads and blank pages with beautiful prose.

These are the friends of procrastination and you don’t need them. What you might need is a holiday and when writing is part of your life then it will naturally be part of any trip that you take. I’ll always love Paris but simply being there won’t produce the letters, words, sentences, paragraphs and story. Whenever I catch myself thinking about Paris and how wonderful it would be to be back there, I wave hello-and-goodbye to procrastination and get back to the page.