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Writing teachers tell you that writing is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. When I want that 1% I go to Paris. That's because when I'm in Paris, I think my best thoughts and gain new ideas. I get inspired to write and everywhere I go, I dream a bit. It is here that I feel the most free.
I am not alone in this. For centuries, artists, writers and ordinary tourists have found Paris to be the perfect canvas for sketching their own thoughts. When I was researching my art gift book, Solo Passages, that included excerpts from women's diary entries, I saw how many times Paris not only allowed, but promoted this sensation. In 1961, the American author, Gloria Bowles went to Paris as a young woman and wrote in her diary:
I am having a magnificent time, walking, looking in Paris…
stopping at the Alésia for a café crème, hot and delicious.
Reading… and being dreamy. I like this dreamy, less productive side.
Paris encourages dreaminess. Take the leisurely café life, for example, when you're never rushed to pay the bill, and you are sitting at the very café where de Beauvoir, Hemingway or Camus sat. You feel downright obligated to think a little differently and certainly to linger. After all, it was that illustrious Paris resident, Victor Hugo, who proclaimed, " To err is human; to loaf is Parisian."
The artists in Paris inspire all other artists. Artists have always flocked to Paris because other artists had flocked to Paris. They all knew that Paris is the place of beginning. It is the city to be free, to be authentic and to grow. In 1899, the painter Paula Modersohn Becker left a stifling marriage in Germany and came to Paris to become an artist. She took a small apartment on the rue des Canettes in the 6th. She was depressed and a bit lonely but thirsting to discover herself. Soon after arrival she felt herself beginning to blossom and wrote in her diary:
My life will be like the flight of a young eagle.
I delight in my wings. I exult in my motion.
I rejoice in the blue air of heaven. I am alive.
Inspired by Gaugin and Van Gogh, Paula Modersohn Becker became an important artist.
There's always a feeling I have that Paris, with its extravagant monuments, great, humbling cathedral, yellowed street lamps, glittering tower and slow-moving river, is a dream itself in which I participate. And, I contribute to the dream. I become more imaginative enveloped in a city that so blatantly celebrates imagination whether by the Louvre or by an impromptu puppet show on the métro. The city soars with innovation from the extravagance of the Eiffel Tower to the surreal Stravinsky fountain to the gigantic Grand Arch with its own Teflon clouds. Paris is not a city where things make sense but where things surprise. A place where it is so easy to view life differently. That's why I feel the most free there, and it's why Parisian author and diarist Anaïs Nin observed, "There are many ways to be free. One of them is to transcend reality by imagination."