Friday, February 21, 2014

Dreaming of Paris and the Life of an Artist.

Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod.
I'm on vacation this week so I've read two books. Reading, when it's good, puts me in a dreamy state. Really good words put me in a trance and make me want to put my own words on paper.

The two books I've read are The Paris Wife by Paula McLain and Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod. I'm a bit of a Francophile, if you didn't know. I took a good ten years of French between middle school, high school and college and I spent a summer in Paris as an exchange student. I've often fantasized about sitting in the caf├ęs of Paris and writing like Hemingway and Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound. So you can imagine that reading two books about writers running off to Paris to live the life of artists has completely enamored me and made me fitful and dreamy.

I find it encouraging to remember that Hemingway worked tirelessly on his drafts. I also find it encouraging that he wrote entire novels that he didn't publish or that he started over and recreated from scratch. I'm a bit of a perfectionist myself and I feel relieved to see that you can be a perfectionist about your work and want it to be the best it can be. You can't trust anyone else's opinion about this. Right now I'm just laying down the first draft of my first book. I'm in the final quarter of the book and that really means nothing to me as far as when it will be finished. As soon as the first draft is done, that's when I'm going back to the beginning to revise, add in, delete and tear asunder. I want this book to be the best it can be. I can only tell this particular story once.

I also find it fascinating that The Sun Also Rises was basically the truth. It was Hemingway writing about an experience that he and his friends had in Spain, during the bullfighting season. He changed names and some details, but the heart of it was real. I debate doing that with my memoir. It seems fiction gives you so much more freedom. I've already changed all the names in my book. Why not call it fiction and give myself creative license to do what I want with it? It's tempting.

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain.
Hemingway and his first wife also threw caution to the wind and ran off to Paris with very little money and nothing real to believe in except his talent. They didn't have a score of published works to rest on. And in the same way, Janice MacLeod quit her advertising life and ran off to Paris to live the life of an artist. She was a bit more responsible in that she saved up for the trip, but she essentially did the same thing. Sold everything. Quit her job as an Associate Creative Director in an ad agency and took off for who knows what?

It's all damn inspiring. I don't know that I can quit my job and run off to Paris, of course. I've got two kids and a husband. My life is tied to Detroit. But hey, Detroit's the Paris of the Midwest, don't you know? Okay, stop laughing. But I can be an artist in Detroit. Hell, the town is full of hipsters and artists and a creative spirit. I can be a part of that. I can write anywhere.

But to do it. To really do it. That's what I admire in both Hemingway and MacLeod's lives. They really quit the rat race to focus on their art. MacLeod gives me an instruction guide to do this. What if I saved like crazy? What if I had $60,000 in my savings account to take a year or two off and focus on my writing? Bet I could do it.

MacLeod says it all began with cleaning out her underwear drawer. A small step. Getting rid of the pairs she didn't wear anymore. That led to getting rid of all the extra, all the waste, everything that was tying her down. She also stopped shopping and simplified her life radically so she could save money.

I want to go home and attack the linen closet/medicine closet in our upstairs hallway. I could start there. I want to stop shopping. I want to save and simplify. I can't necessarily quit my job and maybe I don't even need to. I'm not an ACD so I don't have the level of responsibility that MacLeod has. My life is a little simpler as a humble copywriter. I can do a lot with my time. My nights are mostly my own. I can tap away at the computer and write my book. I can save money so that if need be, I could quit. I can get rid of more and live more simply in order to create more room for the artist's life.

I'm inspired dammit.

What more could you ask for from a week's vacation and two books? I recommend all three.

Sweet freedom. Grace really knows how to live.


10 comments:

  1. I remember thinking it was an impossible dream to skinny down my budget and quit the rat race. Once I started doing it, I quickly realized that not only is it possible, but it's easy to get in and stay in that minimalist mindset (well, for the most part, until there's a really pretty pair of summer wedges tempting you (and by "you" I mean "me")).

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    1. You had to say "wedges" didn't you. SIGH. You had me pegged at wedges.

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  2. Oh I was just talking to a friend of mine about this yesterday. I need to mimimalize as well!!

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    1. I'm digging the minimization movement. Simplify your life!

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  3. It's actually easier than I thought it would be and as of yesterday, made my last car payment, paid off my last credit card, and am officially 100% debt free. Broke, for now. But free!

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    1. I'm debt free (aside from our mortgage) but have not saved enough to up and quit my job. Not yet, anyway.

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  4. I just finished Paris Letters and I had a similar reaction - I felt like I should go start cleaning out closets. Sometimes even when you think you've quit the rat race, it creeps back in. Those vacations you speak of are the key to staying sane, I think. Grace totally has it all figured out.

    I can't wait to read your book. Congrats on finishing draft one!!

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    1. I actually did clean out the linen closet. I got rid of 2/3 of my stuff in there! Whoo hoo.

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