Paris journal

This is my first post from Paris, where I’m lucky enough to be resident in the marvelous Cite Internationale des Arts, in the 4th arrondissement, a stone’s throw from the Seine, a short walk to Notre Dame. Even in the winter, Paris is an amazing, magical place for a writer (or frankly, anyone!) to be, and it’s made me rediscover something I haven’t done properly for a while: the journal.

That’s journal as separate from diary, which I keep too, as a much more concise and businesslike precis of each day. In the diary are meetings, the weather, a basic outline of the day’s events. But the journal’s different. Journals for me are baggier, more impressionistic, more chaotic, impulsive, receivers of random impressions, trains of thought, images, vignettes you see along the way—for instance, young skaters at the Hotel de Ville; homeless men sharing a meal over a hot-air vent; quena players in the Metro, glowing shop windows full of cakes and roses like living jewels, the dance studio across the street, where every day sees a new scene enacted before you-—and this journal is in particular for me the story of a Paris life, and of observations in the city, as the seasons change and my attitudes to being here grow and evolve. Eventually, it may turn into a book, separate from the novel project I’m already engaged on; or it may just remain as an individual souvenir of my Paris adventure. But whatever its eventual fate, it seems a necessary adjunct to being here and really experiencing the city in more than just a surface touristy way. And I know too that it will be an invaluable well of images and ideas which will no doubt bear fruit in all sorts of weird and wonderful ways.

But here’s a funny thing about journals. Impressionistic and impulsive they may be, but I think they positively demand a special setting. A certain old-fashioned formality, a certain extra care. And so though I love my dear old HP laptop, and it’s being used a lot while I’m here, I certainly don’t want to store my journal on its hard drive. Or—despite my blogging credentials!–on a blog. I don’t know yet what shape this journal will turn out to be, what it might contain—and so it seems to me it needs the privacy and restrained elegance of beautiful paper, a fine strong binding, a good black ink fountain-pen. Which is exactly what I invested in, before leaving home. Add a glass of wine at the elbow, or a good cup of hot chocolate, and you’re well away!


About Sophie Masson

Sophie Masson has published more than fifty novels internationally since 1990, mainly for children and young adults. A bilingual French and English speaker, raised mostly in Australia, she has a master’s degree in French and English literature. Sophie's new e-book on authorship, By the Book: Tips of the Trade for Writers, is available at Australian Society of Authors.


  1. says

    I’m just sighing with how gorgeous it is in Paris. Magical is a good word; lucky lucky Sophie!

    I like keeping journals too. There’s something about writing it down that makes the impressions more tactile. Plus you can keep a journal forever. A hard drive crashes and can disappear.

  2. says

    What a lovely little post! Then again, I’m biased towards Europe (haven’t been anywhere there that I haven’t loved) so yeah, hehehe…

    I feel the same way about journals, and am excited because I just started a new one. My “diary” (or diaries, I suppose) I do keep on my computer, but my journals are always, always on paper, and eclectic. I’m not a Moleskine (or any other brand) devotee. I love getting journals as gifts and then choosing which one to start using next. That way they’re all unique and special to me, and the collection as a whole is quite eclectic. :)
    .-= Kristan´s last blog ..In it for the long haul =-.

  3. says

    I can’t think of anything better than a crisp journal, a fine pen, a glass of a wine, a big sweater, and little table in a cafe (in Paris!). I think we are all sighing with a collective groan of jealously.

    I have a computer journal and than two or so notebook journals going at any one time. I wish I could figure out a way to streamline and organize it all – but then, I would lose something. As you said: “Journals for me are baggier, more impressionistic, more chaotic, impulsive, receivers of random impressions, trains of thought, images, vignettes you see along the way.

    The goal is to write and record, so if I need three journals to do it – then I am going to embrace it!
    .-= Rebecca @ Diary of a Virgin Novelist´s last blog ..That’s not how it happened, Isabel Allende! =-.

  4. says

    Looking forward to hearing more from Paris. And I particularly enjoyed reading about how some topics just need to be written by hand in a fine notebook. Couldn’t agree more!

  5. says

    Hello Sophie
    I live and work and write in deepest rural France but I too adore Paris. There is something about a new city or country that sets your senses alive. I am sure that you will find much to inspire you and I wish you well.

  6. says

    Loved your first impressions! A few years ago, I got to the outskirts of Paris but not to the heart of the city; thankfully, I think I’ll be able to take a virtual tour of the city of light through your posts.



  7. adele geras says

    Lovely to read of your adventures, Sophie. I’m very envious and will follow your days with great pleasure. I too love the thought of that pen! Enjoy La vie Parisienne…

  8. says

    Lovely post Sophie. Journaling has totally changed my writing habits for the better. Having something private and messy away from the formality of computer screen type really helps unleash the creative impulses. I think there is always the fear that typed thoughts will end up somewhere – on a blog, an email etc – but scribbles in a notebook are inherently rough and unfinished, and for some reason that makes it easier to take risks.
    .-= Mark Welker´s last blog ..counting down to the perth writers festival 2010 =-.

  9. says

    Loved your post, Sophie! It brought me back to the Seine…the little cafes and the wonderful sound of French spoken with such joie de vivre! I experienced Paris as a nineteen year old, and long to get back there. Look forward to experiencing it from time to time with your posts! And as for the journal, it’s a little piece of my soul tucked away on a page!
    .-= Gael Lynch´s last blog ..Blue Skies and Letting Go =-.

  10. says

    Oh, beautiful! There’s just something about Paris, isn’t there? I’ve never been but the magic is universal.

    I come to the journal tradition kind of reluctantly. I’m in a fiction writing program right now and the journal is a cornerstone of what we do. It was hard to get into the habit! After a couple of years in the program, though, the journal has finally grown on me. Even if I do put them aside and plan NEVER to read them again.
    .-= Eliza Evans´s last blog ..Don’t let me loose in Ikea with a camera =-.

  11. Barbara Forte Abate says

    Funny, although I’ve never been to Paris, you’ve somehow managed to put perfect description to my dream. From my handful of travels abroad, it does seem that Europe in general has a certain sense of timelessness that allows a writer (or anyone, I’m sure) to completely melt away from ordinary life in such a way that even the most average elements become a sensory delight.

    I have always been something of a reluctant journal keeper, as I am always toiling over some work in progress, and journaling feels like too much of a diversion. You’ve convinced me however that all I really need to kick-start the process is a glorious trip to Paris!!! Thanks, Sophie, for sharing :-)

  12. says

    The images of Paris, so perfect and in such a short space . . . a lesson there to be sure. But for me the most stirring image was the ‘idea’ of the perfect leather-bound journal, with deckle edged paper and marbled-end papers, complete with maybe a fountain pen. It’s redolent of A Room with a View and any number of impressionist tales of The Grand Tour.

    Merci beaucoup, Sophie. A tout a l’heure!

  13. Sophie Masson says

    Thank you all very much for your lovely comments and impressions..
    Yes, Paris is an absolutely perfect place to write, magical and elegant and intimate all at the same time, and perfect too in its profusion of detail and colour and all sorts of both sensory and spiritual impression–very very inspiring! I highly recommend it to anyone!