Monday, April 20, 2009

In My Dreams I Write in Paris (but I Really Went to Frankfurt...)

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had this image of me writing in the perfect Parisian café: outdoors on a little street fragrant with coffee and budding chestnut trees. I even know what I’m wearing: a tan linen skirt, leather sandals, an orange silk top and a straw hat. My journal is brown leather and I’m using a smooth-flowing fountain pen just like I do in real life. Whatever I’m writing, it’s profound. Serious. Deep. It’s writing-that-matters. Better yet—it’s already contracted to be a best seller! As I write I see a group of little boys playing soccer nearby. The ball rolls close to my table. I smile, unconcerned at the interruption. I toss the ball back; I sip the coffee I just ordered. It’s a warm, sunny day and the words are unstoppable. I breathe in the image, feel it, believe it. So how come I still ended up in Frankfurt?

In my day-job I work with my husband, Dave Storey, and his company that makes his patented line of guitar picks. And every year, the world’s largest music trades show is held in Frankfurt, Germany. So well-prepared with lots of warm clothes, throat lozenges (you do a lot of screaming over the noise at music trade shows), and for some crazy reason my latest manuscript (I thought I would be bored and would have all this extra time to write. Talk about dreams…), I dutifully followed my husband through acres and acres of booths displaying everything from the latest in electric guitars to the hot new trends in accordions and xylophones. (Yes, my hearing is still bad. Very bad.) By the end of the week, totally exhausted from covering what felt like thousands of miles of pavement and stairs; bored with my de rigueur and funereal wardrobe of ubiquitous black clothing; and a little overwhelmed by the starkness of a big industrial city poised between winter and spring, I wondered why on earth I ever thought travel was a desirable occupation.

Maybe it’s because I actually had a good time. Despite the non-stop meetings and hurried rush to get to all our appointments with distributors, there were wonderful moments I’ll never forget, such as stopping at the exquisite Faber-Castell pen store and buying a set of pastel pencils, and later going to an orchid show at the Botanical Gardens the Sunday before we flew home.

Now, two weeks later, recovering from airplane flu and finally figuring out which manuscript is going to take precedence for the rest of the year (not the one I took with me), I’m writing again not in Paris or Frankfurt, but in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I wear jeans and turtlenecks, my coffee is homemade. I do have the fountain pen, but find I’m using it mainly to journal; my Alphasmart is much better suited for the manuscript that isn’t exactly profound, but makes me excited enough to want to follow my new set of characters deep into my much-needed sleeping hours. And the pastel pencils are wonderful; I can’t wait for the weather to be warm enough so I can take them sketching in the park. And if that isn’t enough, I can always pretend I’m in Paris wearing my straw hat. The imagination has no borders—why should I?

Tip of the day: Where do you wish you were writing right now? Envision your “perfect” writing environment and see what happens. No matter where you are, you can always bring an element or two of that perfect place into your current writing nook.

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