PARIS – It is a dark and stormy afternoon. Not much light in the City of Light today. When you live in South Florida, as I do, it is easy to forget how early how early night descends this far north in November.
(Note: I’ve always wanted to write something datelined Paris and when I was a reporter the most exotic dateline I ever produced was Nassau Bahamas so forgive me for being so pretentious.)
I really am writing this at a French café and it really is cold and rainy here. But I am feeling all warm inside because I just banged out 967 words on my novella in ninety minutes. (Am calculating writing time not by wristwatch but on number of empty kir glasses on my table). Now, me writing almost a thousand words at one sitting is, as my sister will tell you, a mean feat. I am easily distracted from writing –- by laundry in need of folding, dogs in need of walking — because for me writing is really hard. It never, ever, comes easy. Even with the lubrication of white wine and cassis.
So I am pretty pumped right now. (Okay, the kirs help). And I am thinking that if I could just move here to Paris and write in cafés ALL the time, I could turn out two, three, four books a year and start taking up more bookstore real estate, which James Patterson once said is the whole secret of making it in this business.
(Note: That last bit is not to be taken seriously even though I really did hear him say that once.)
I am sitting here at the Cafe Delmas, watching the rain and the little sparrows steal peanuts from my saucer and I am pondering that great seminal question that all writers do:
Do I need a nicer place to write?
Hemingway supposedly did some writing here at Cafe Delmas, but then again, in this town he’s a little like Napolean only he didn’t sleep everywhere he just just wrote everywhere. Hemingway had some pretty cool writing places besides this one, like this little place down in Key West:
When George Bernard Shaw wanted to write, he holed up in a shed on his plain suburban property in a Hertfordshire village. It was a pretty Spartan place but boasted some nifty technology for its day — an electric heater, a typewriter, a bunk for naps and a telephone to the house to call for emergencies such as lunch. “People bother me,” Shaw confessed. “I came here to hide from them.”
Virginia Woolf also had a thing for privacy. She wrote in a toolshed in her garden (below). She called it her “writing lodge.” She was easily distracted — by her husband Leonard sorting the apples over her head in the loft, by church bells, giggling schoolchildren or even her dog scratching itself and leaving paw marks on her manuscript pages. A woman after my own heart…
I dunno. Maybe a “writer’s room” is a thing of the past. After all, most of us today write on laptops and as the name implies we can carry our technology in canvas totes and park-and-plug-in anywhere we like. We move easily from our kitchen counter to a table in a Paris cafe with the flick of the WIFI wrist. Do we even need a special place dedicated to our work, a spot where, when we enter, our brains can detach from the outside world and wander the hills and valleys of the imagination?
Where do you go when you need to go to that world in your head? Where do you go when you need to get away?