Literary Locations - will your work always be better in you live in Paris?

       Many aspiring writers, myself included, have fallen for the idea that to write anything interesting or of worth, you must be living on the edge in one of the world’s great capitals, sleeping by day and slave to the bright lights and pen by night. One must really live, one must really feel, one must drink and smoke by the Seine with one hand on an earth-shattering idea and one foot in a pit of destitution. How could one write in a daylight hours after a good night’s sleep and a morning of adaptive suburban socialising? I must be Hemingway: leaving my wife whilst fighting the Fascists and spending my last dime on the whisky that is ruining my life.

 The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: The Finca Vigia Edition It’s the most seductive of ideas. When moving back to the UK after our first overseas posting, my husband and I were faced with the threat of several remote, gossipy garrison towns (mentioning no names) that I felt certain would just kill my literary aspirations outright with the non-trials of family hour in the mess bar, cutting the grass on Sundays and unassailable quantities of sweet, lukewarm tea. I would just die, die!, I was sure of it (sweeping hand to forehead), as I’d never be able to write anything away from the teeming urban masses who lived what I considered to be ‘real’, properly lived-out lives.
It makes me smile to think of it now. The frustration of the situation would have produced a veritable embarrassment of angst and I’d have been so bored that I’d be overflowing with motivation and be spending great stretches of time inside my own head. All I’d ever want to do in Paris was to tell people I was a ‘writer in Paris (darling)’ and shop and sightsee and cultivate my wearing of the Breton stripe.
Since then I have existed in a kind of urban/suburban middle ground, with a novel on the way, some short stories under my belt and the fruits of my blog, which are here for you to see. With no distractions I could have achieved so much more - 3 novels and a Pulitzer at least. Or maybe not. But still, who ever wrote anything good up in Catterick?* 

(*For those of you who don’t know, Catterick is an army town in a somewhat isolated position about 4 hours north of London.)


  1. Hahaha! Love this very much!

  2. I honestly do not know how a writer writes a story in a location without actually going there. You need to spend time there, and soak up everything that is going to be in the book. Then when you leave, the atmosphere the book needs is always in your head regardless of where you write the rest of it.

    Live the book before you write it.

  3. Love this post. I think you can write wherever you are, but occasionally a trip to Paris (or London or NYC) does one good. ;)

  4. Brigita, thank you! And hear hear. Occasional trips to Paris/NYC/London are good for the soul, methinks :)

  5. What if Jane Austen had moved to London?

  6. Hi John! In her own words, no less:

    "I should inevitably fall a sacrifice to the arts of some fat woman who would make me drunk with small beer."

    She hated the place and I remember reading something once that said the two years that she lived in London were the only years of her life where she didn't write a thing. Longer term, I'm sure Bath and Hampshire lived adequately in her head for her to get on, but still, it's a frightening thought, though, isn't it: her works might not exist if that had been her permanent home. There'd certainly be a gaping void on my shelf...

    Maybe this post is really less about environs as book fodder and more about places as conducive work environments. I don't think you have to live somewhere to be able to recreate it; in fact, distance is probably beneficial to objectivity. I guess everyone is different though.

    Anyway, this is the interesting article I took that quote from:


    Thanks for commenting!

  7. I really appreciate the kind of topics you post here. Thanks for sharing us a great information that is actually helpful. !

  8. No worries, happy to help :)

  9. You have described the inner tussle that rather a lot of us engage in whilst trying to juggle daily life of the non-literary kind yet still find time to be actively writing. Nicely summed up!

  10. Thank you! :)

    Just had a quick look at your blog and it seems you move a lot too. How do you find that influences what you're writing? Does it, even?


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