This Is Why You're Going to Paris This Weekend

"Paris is the place you go when you mean to put your creative life first." -- Eric Maisel ... Putting your creative life first: that's what you're going to do this weekend, right? |

Okay. So it's going to happen. You're going to have a writing day, week, month, uh, year, that's just going to stink. You'll do your best, but won't pull out of your funk. And your work goes all wobbly.

Either it all fails big, it blows up in your face, it gets dramatic and ugly and there are tears...

Or, it just whimpers in a corner, and your imagination dulls, and the words stale off, and you kind of wonder how you ever got into this.

Here's my best recommendation: Go to Paris.

Like, today

An actual plane ticket is the best route, and if you can muster that, then go and God bless you.

For all us normal people, with tiny budgets and not super flexible schedules, here's the other route:

Get your discouraged little hands on this book.

When you're discouraged, when you're frustrated, when there is rain in your writerly soul, pick up this book: A Writer's Paris, by Eric Maisel. And it will all get better. |

A Writer's Paris, by Eric Maisel. And yes, you are allowed to swoon over the cover. It is a totally normal reaction.

Why this book?

Because Eric Maisel is exactly the writing coach that you need this weekend: He is definitely on your side.

And in this book, he understands what's going on in the mind and heart of a writer who is discouraged. A writer who is afraid and anxious.

Most of all, a writer who needs to commit to her work in a deeper way.

(That's you. That's me. That's all of us.)

So yes, this book is also about going to Paris. For, say, a year. And writing while you're there. Writing your brains out. But more than that, it's about owning your writerness, about choosing to be the writer that you are.

The chapters are short, easy to read, and packed with encouragement. Seriously, it believes in you so hard that it nearly turns inside out. (Or was that just my copy?) 

But you're reading this because you're discouraged, right? So maybe you don't feel like you can stomach talking about writing all the time. Maybe another writing book isn't what you need? 

That's why this book is so perfect: it's part writing encourager, part Paris travelogue.

Really. So you'll be daydreaming about the Seine, about gargoyles and gothic chapels, about flaky croissants and famous museums. You'll be reading little stories about Van Gogh and Hemingway, you'll be thinking about the expats in Paris, you'll be smiling over the wonderful illustrations.

So you soak up the stories about Paris. ... And as you do, you also read about embracing your own imperfection. About how to get out of a writing slump. (I've read Chapter 25, "Not Writing," approximately 200 times.) You read about motivation, about what to do with the wonderful people who support you and the difficult people who do not.

You read about where our ideas come from, about writing in public places, about running away from your work, about how to deal with discouragement. 

... I am resisting the urge to type out whole pages (21, 128, 190...) and instead will share this one quote:

There are always reasons not to write. They appear as wantonly as toadstools after the rain. Entertaining those reasons even for a split second is the path to uncreativity. Write, even if you have a twinge, a doubt, a fear, a block, a noisy neighbor, a sick cat, thirteen unpublished stories, and a painful boil. Write, even if you aren't sure. 
-- Eric Maisel

Breathe that quote in for a second. So good, right? 

If you have varsity-level discouragement, then I'd say go big. Get this book, and dive in. But don't stop there. 

Get yourself a baguette, a pack of croissants, or at the very least an éclair or some kind of pastry. (Because discouragement and calories are best friends.) Get some French-style café music playing. Grab your coffee (strong! dark! with chocolate!).

See where we're going with this? Make yourself Paris. Right where you are.

Whip up an omelette Saturday morning and keep on reading.

Invite courage in. Wrap it around you, like a warm blanket on a rainy day.

Close out your Parisian weekend by watching Midnight in Paris. (What, you thought I wasn't going to go there? I was totally going to go there! I can't get over Ernest Hemingway in that movie. CANNOT get over him. I just want listen to him talk about writing all day.) 

Have yourself a Parisian writing weekend. And dive into your next writing week refreshed--and still nibbling croissants and humming along to Edith Piaf--and ready to work.

Wanna read more about Eric Maisel? Check out these two posts, inspired by quotes from A Writer's Paris: Write Where You Are and Today Is Another Chance

Writing Is Not All You Do

Don't make writing your everything. |

When I began writing, I dove straight in. Deep into a big pile of words.

You've probably figured out by now, I tend to have an all-or-nothing mentality. Also, I was scared. I was so scared that this writing gig wouldn't work.

So I hyperscheduled myself: all writing and words, all the time! Relax by reading! Pull apart movie storylines! I will be a fiction-maker extraordinaire! I will breathe out stories!!

This isn't a super-sustainable way to stay a writer.

Your life has to be about more than words.

Is that a horrible, sacrilegious thing to say on a writing blog?? Does it feel like an April Fools trick? But oh, it's so true.

When all I do is writing, a very scary mindset creeps in: 

Writing becomes my everything.

And then, when writing stops going well--because it will stop now and then, it will stump me completely sometimes, I will pull my hair out, it's all part of the contract--

When writing stops going well, everything stops going well.

And suddenly I'm on a really ugly road. 

If I want to keep getting out of bed in the morning, I need my life to be about more than just writing.

Bonus: my writing gets a lot better when I have a few non-verbal pursuits mixed in.

(Something about actually living... you get better at working with imagery and stuff. New metaphors at your disposal. Characters that don't sound just like you. Funny how that works.)

For a while, I unwound by playing piano, focusing on sounds and timing instead of words. Then I fell in love with knitting: Hats! Colors! Techniques! Textures!

But then I realized that it was a lot better for my speedy little typing fingers to have a hobby that didn't require quite so much finger movement. (Ouch.)

So lately, I've settled on cooking. (If you check out my Instagram account, you can usually see a string of food pictures. I have to remind myself that I'm not actually a food blogger, whoops!)

Hey, I love to eat really good food. And cooking is one of those rare pursuits that requires all five of your senses and then some. (Do we want to get me started on how much I love cooking? Not today. You'd be reading this post forever.) 

So I kick myself away from my desk by 4:30 at the latest, and I start nosing around in the kitchen. Chopping veggies, sautéing garlic, sniffing spices.

I let the word-sifting part of my brain go blank, and guess what happens. My subconscious mind, or my imagination, or whatever you want to call it... It shows up.

It sits on the counter next to me, swinging its legs and blinking at my impressive chopping skills. And now and then, it hands me a line of dialogue. Or it unties a little plot knot I'd been stuck on. "Hey, look at that," it says, placing it on my chopping board.

This is why some of my writing notes smell like garlic, but whatever. I'm good with that.

What about you? Have you got this balance thing down pat, or are you looking for a good hobby? What great non-writing hobbies have you cultivated?

Whatever pursuit you choose: it's about being creative with something other than words. It's about cultivating more in yourself than just writing.

Above all, don't let writing become your everything. Just don't. You'll be so much happier.

Wanna keep reading? Check out these posts: Let's Stop Comparing and It Wasn't About Being Productive.