• annacaig

Obviously, that's impossible...

Anna in Paris in 2000 sitting at Rodin's The Thinker
At the Rodin Museum in Paris in the summer of 2000

It's been 18 months since I gave up my day job to be a writer.

I mean, that’s not exactly true as I’ve been writing all my life, and had been in serious ‘write a novel, look for an agent, try and get a publishing deal’ mode for at least two years before handing in my notice. And, as you know, I didn’t give up my day job to write full time, I’ve also been working on growing my business.

But there’s no doubt that quitting the day job was a big old step and a huge commitment to making writing the centre of my life. 18 months later, though, and I have not published a book. I've written a novel and got myself a wonderful agent who’s working with me to whip it into the best possible shape - it’s now a book I feel proud of - but that magic moment of holding a novel with my name on in my hand hasn’t happened. Most of the time, that’s fine. These things take time - I am on the right path, learning so much, honing my craft and fortunate indeed to be working with superb professionals, people who are fantastic at their jobs supporting me to make my dream come true.

But somehow, until I hold that book in my hand, I don’t feel like a writer. 18 months down the line from the big step - and I still don’t feel like a writer. I confessed this to my friend in a moment of sadness and reflection. And she asked, what else would make you feel like a writer then? ‘Living in Paris’, I said, ‘in a garret room, writing every day.’ Hahaha.

Obviously, that’s impossible. I have a mortgage, a husband, two children who live at home, a business that provides income we rely on. Impossible.

But the idea wouldn't go away. Became a yearning. A ridiculous, impossible yearning. I was looking at Airbnb in every spare moment, daydreaming and wishing so hard. I broached the subject with my husband - a frugal, risk-averse man at the best of times - and asked him what he thought.

To my astonishment, he didn’t laugh. He asked how long I wanted to go for and how much it would cost. Thinking about it as an actual possibility, I settled on 22 days. A random duration, you might think, but I have been apart from my family for 10 days twice before and have realised that, annoyingly, any longer than that and I stop having a nice time. No matter what I’m doing, I miss them too much to enjoy myself. So, if he could bring the children over for a weekend in the middle of my stay, then ten days on either side of that would do it. He said that sounded okay. Holy moly - maybe this isn’t impossible.

Next came conversations with my children. My daughter is 15 and totally unbothered: ‘Yeah, do it.’ My son is eight and thought about it for longer but then was decisive: ‘The first 10 days will be fine but another 10 days will be too long. Can you just stay for a week after we’ve come over?’ That actually sounded sensible to me. 19 nights it is. Oh my God, this might be happening.

So, for 19 nights in Paris staying somewhere nice but not bonkers-expensive, we were looking at about £2,000. Now that’s a lot for us - we’re all right but we’re not wealthy. And we are careful. My husband is not a ‘put it on a credit card and think about it later’ sort of a man. He’s a ‘save up for it before you buy it’ sort of a man. And, when I’m talking about upping and leaving for 19 days, it seems only fair to do things his way. So I took on more work, we saved up - and I booked my apartment in the Latin Quarter. Wooo hooo!

It is happening. I am going to Paris for nearly three weeks, mostly solo, to live in a garret (I think it’s actually on the first floor - but let’s definitely call it a garret) and write every day. I can’t quite believe it.

Of course, I’m now living in fear of catching Covid not only because of, you know, catching Covid, but also because it would scupper the plan. I’m getting nervous about being away from my family. But mostly I feel extraordinarily lucky - I know for many people this really would be impossible and I am so fortunate to have found a way to make it happen - and giddy with excitement. I have made no plans for while I’m there beyond writing; I am not going to visit any tourist attractions. I am going to pretend I live there: get up, go for a run along the Seine, buy croissant on my way home, make coffee and then… just write.

I will be a writer.

This may not make sense to anyone except me. And it may seem ridiculous - the next best thing to holding a book with my name on it in my hand is writing in Paris. It is a bit ridiculous, when I put it like that. But being a writer and growing a business are nothing if not a crash course in getting to know yourself, understanding the things you care about and what will make you feel fulfilled. It may not be rational, it may even feel impossible. But I'm trying to go with it all the same.

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