Clouds in My Coffee
People ask me all the time, how does one find time and subject matter to write a “Nouvellettre®” three times a week, 51 weeks a year.
Immediately, what comes to mind is Carly Simon’s song, “You’re So Vain.” You know the lyrics…
- You’re so vain
I bet you think this song is about you
Don’t you, don’t you?
When Carly was writing these lyrics, she was doing what I was doing…sitting down to express her most recent thoughts and it came out just about as “profound,” or not, as this.
(FYI, the song’s second verse is about Warren Beatty: “You had me several years ago when I was still quite naive; Well you said that we made such a pretty pair; And that you would never leave; But you gave away the things you loved and one of them was me; I had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee; Clouds in my coffee, and…)
Time is the first thing one must have to write. And one must be disciplined. It helps to have an obligation to create that discipline. We have about 15,000 readers. They expect to have a Nouvellettre® in their inbox three times a week. That’s a big obligation and responsibility. If the Nouvellettre® isn’t received as expected, we will surely get emails asking why!
Our producer of the Nouvellettres®, Schuyler Hoffman, is physically in Washington state, so that’s nine hours behind France. In order for the missives to land in your inbox on the same day, I must write the text and select the photos the evening before to give him time to produce it and send a sample of it to edit and approve. That means writing on Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. (Yep, you guessed it right: no work-free weekends for me!)
Today’s Nouvellettre®, for example, is being written while sitting at a café at the Cours Saleya in Nice, having breakfast and watching the Sunday morning marketers shop. Earlier, I set out to buy a fresh bouquet of flowers and buy a bit of fresh produce. Even though it was a front-row seat, it took a concerted effort to stop writing and look up and take in the scene, because it’s easy to forget where I am while engrossed in the writing.
Lots of writers have to be in a quiet spot where they can focus and concentrate on their subject and imagination. For me, it is the opposite. I can “cocoon” in a boisterous, busy environment and write without stopping even better than being alone in a bubble. (Maybe I was a caterpillar in another life?) In Paris, my #1 spot is Café Charlot. In Nice, it varies…there isn’t a “Café Charlot” to count on that has been found yet…but I’m working on that.
The next question is subject. Sometimes it’s really easy because a lot has happened in the few days before sitting down to write and that gives me lots of fodder. Other times, not much of interest has passed and I must dig a bit deeper to find something our readers might want to learn about.
When I first began writing in 1998, the focus of the Nouvellettre® (a coined name that came much, much later), was about living in Paris from the point of view of a relative newbie. Everything was an adventure. As the years have passed (a 27th anniversary is coming up at the beginning of September), not only has my life in France become more “profound,” but so have these Nouvellettres®, no longer catering to the lower levels of visitors to France, but the more serious Francophiles who want a deeper view of life in France. You are likely among them.
In 1998 there were only about four others like me doing something similar. Now, there are thousands of blogs and newsletters that cater more to people who prefer a vision of France from rose-colored glasses. These readers would rather dream than discover the underbelly of what seems to be idyllic from the surface…and that’s perfectly fine, too, because these folks are never likely to actually make the move to France. They will visit from time to time and continue to fantasize. There’s plenty of room for everyone.
My personal goal, when writing these Nouvellettres®, is not to just impose my own opinions and points of view on you, but to encourage you to think for yourselves. If you look closer into the writings over the years, you will find that an opinion is rarely expressed, but I do ask lots of questions to help you ponder the facts and formulate your own conclusions. Interestingly I’ve discovered through the responses and comments we get, that people are prepared to defend their position quickly without actually hearing what the other side might be saying. They read into the words what they want them to say rather than what is actually written there. The headline itself may be the only thing they read before forming their own opinions. The object of my writing things that “stir the pot” is what I hope will urge you to go further than that…that is, if you want to learn more.
The other and maybe more important mission is to give you an inside look at real-life in France in a way that you can place yourself in my shoes. A conscious effort is made to take the “I” out of the language so that even though the imagery is through my eyes, it’s not about ME…it’s about the vision itself so that you can see it, too. In a popular blog written monthly by a well-known American chef and author in France, he uses so many “I’s” that clearly, he’s “so vain, he thinks the ‘song’ is about him.” They give me a real chuckle because I might be the only person who notices this detail. In his August 1st’s missive, I counted 40 “I’s” and eight “I’m’s” out of 1944 words or 2.5%. In today’s Nouvellettre®, by comparison, there are 15 “I’s” out of 1059 words, or 1.4% and this Nouvellettre® IS about me!
So, you’re so vain, you probably think this “song” is about you, don’t you, don’t you? And you were both right and wrong. It’s more about me, than about you, but it’s also always about what it’s like to simply living in France…”from both sides now.”
- (Thank you, Joni Mitchell: I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now; From up and down and still somehow; It’s cloud illusions I recall; I really don’t know clouds at all).
A la prochaine…
The Adrian Leeds Group®
P.S. After breakfast and writing the above Nouvellettre®, I headed for the beach. The Baie des Anges was one of the most beautiful aqua blues it’s ever been. I took a few photos from the pebbles, while Patty Sadauskas took a few from Château Hill, that we share with you now. Eat your hearts out!