If you’re looking for the perfect place to write, it is probably just in your head. Not actually, physically, in there, of course, but a mental attitude to a location where you feel comfortable.
I just spent two weeks in France, only a holiday but hoping the change of scene would help me write more. I’ve been in a bit of a hollow recently. Not that I don’t love it, simply that sometimes actually sitting down to write is the hardest part.
The first part of the holiday was spent in a lodge on a campsite at Berny-Riviere in Picardy, about 100km north of Paris. It had a table in the sun, overlooking a lake, and was a pretty good place to write, though the distractions of fishing, family and food still impinged. Don’t get me started on the joys of French food – even the simplest local fare is great in my humble opinion.
Despite this, I managed to rattle off a few thousand words more on the first novel in my new series, so feeling pretty good by the end of that section of the holiday. A visit Claude Monet’s garden at Giverney, though not allowing me to write much, did inspire, how could it not. What a place. If I could paint with words how he did with flowers I’d be a happy man.
Was this the place to write?
The second part of our journey took us to Charleville-Mézières in the Ardennes region, a place I haven’t visited before. It is close to the Belgian border in the north-west of France, hilly and wooded, and crosses the borders of France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. This terrain is very beautiful and made it an unexpected route for the invasion of France in 1940 which caught the Allies by surprise.
The town itself was the birthplace of Arthur Rimbaud, a poet credited with having a major influence on modern literature. I tried some of his work and, sadly, found it hard going. Whether this was the translation into English, or simply my difficulty with poetry, I don’t know, but I could appreciate the talent and effort which had gone into it.
Our host, found through Airbnb, clearly is a fan, because in the apartment she had Rimbaud as a theme for her excellent interior decorating skills. Not least of which was the provision of a dream of a table and inspirational writing materials. The window, overlooking a narrow street and a typical restaurant, threw light on to ancient timber, Rimbaud’s poetry and a super pen.
It felt as if I should be there, making marks on (digital) paper, in my place to write. Whilst I stuck to my iPad, the quill in the corner of my eye kept me working.
The experience only lasted three days, but I could have happily stayed much longer at that table, taking my notebook for an occasional saunter to take coffee and people watch in the fabulous Place Ducale.
I have written previously about this need for somewhere to feel safe, secure and inspired, which is so important to a writer. It isn’t always easy to find, and sometimes we simply need to battle on in the space we have at our disposal, but when the opportunity arises, the feeling of total immersion in writing is unlikely to be surpassed.
It doesn’t, of course, need to be anywhere distant or exotic, I sometimes feel the same in my own garden, or in a local coffee shop. It is simply somewhere which takes the mind to a special place, even for a relatively short period, allowing the thoughts to flow freely.
The other nice thing, whilst holidaying, was my new Inspector James Given novel, A Malignant Death, was released on Amazon.