Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

Sonderbooks Stand-out 2005
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*****= An all-time favorite
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*****A Writer's Paris

A Guided Journey for the Creative Soul

by Eric Maisel

Reviewed January 2, 2006.
Writer’s Digest Books, Cincinnati, Ohio, 2005.  214 pages.
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2005 (#1, Writing)

When I saw this book in my Writer’s Digest Book Club magazine just before my wonderful trip to a children’s writer’s conference near Paris, I didn’t hesitate a moment to order it.  The book arrived soon after I returned home, and the fantastic and inspiring trip I had just finished made me enjoy the book all the more.

Eric Maisel sets out to tell you why you should go and spend six months in Paris and write.  He says, “One of the main challenges you face as a writer is writing regularly.  Willing yourself to go to Paris—to write—is one way to meet this challenge.  Just willing yourself to go isn’t enough—that would be a trip, an adventure, a vacation, but not what I have in mind.  Going for the express purpose of writing and then writing when you get there are the kind of brave acts that can help turn your writing life around. . . .  To travel to Paris for two weeks or six months and to actually write during that time is to change your relationship to your writing.  It is to put your writing first.”

“I hope that you will go to Paris and write.  I want to tell you about what writing in Paris has been like for me, what ideas Paris has provoked, and what associations it has evoked.”  That’s what this book is about.  It’s full of essays that range from whimsical to practical.  It talks about how to get yourself writing, where to go to write, and where you should go to take a break and sightsee.”

The essays go through topics like strolling down a Parisian street.  He explores what it is like to write in Paris, how you keep yourself writing, and talks about the inspiration that Paris provides.

I like the author’s digressions.  For example, when talking about the perfect little parks of Paris, he says, “The reason a perfect park pierces the heart:  Everyday life just isn’t beautiful enough.  A picture-postcard park of this sort speaks to that lack.  The mind instantly analogizes to other lacks:  the gorgeous novel you may never write, the joyous love you may never find, the excellent writing career you may never have.  This beautiful park is an earthly delight and also a slap in the face.”

With essays inserted on the logistics of getting to Paris and staying for awhile, the author convinces you that this dream is actually doable.  He does have an essay titled, “If Not Paris, If Not Six Months.”  This essay begins, “If getting away for an extended period of time is out of the question, here’s a different plan.  Every six months, take a one-week writing jaunt instead.  These one-week excursions will serve, just as a year in Paris would, as pillars upon which to build your writing life.  These working holidays will be sacred breaks from secular life, the times you set aside for dreaming and intense writing, for strolling and round-the-clock creativity.  Maybe they will include some sights, a few choice meals, and a side trip or two, but all of that will be secondary.  Their primary purpose will be to reconnect you to your writing dreams and your writing reality.”  You can modify everything here for a shorter period of time or a different place, if mention of Paris doesn’t make stars shine in your eyes.

You will enjoy this book if, like the author, and like me, you feel that “A mere glimpse of a photo of a Parisian street causes us to feel both uplifted and bereft, thrilled by what Paris implies and saddened not to be living there right now.  We do not have to list the reasons for the allure to get to the bottom line:  Paris is the place to write.  Since it is the perfect place to write, it is the perfect place to commit to writing.”

I know that my own trip to Paris, though not the same sort of trip Eric Maisel envisions, did help me take my own writing seriously and increased my commitment to my writing.  I’m going to see if I can work in a writing trip like the one he mentions before I leave Europe next summer.
Copyright © 2006 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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