Paris Letters | An Interview with Janice MacLeod

Ever had a secret urge to stop what you're doing, pick up your bag and head for Paris? In this post, author of the New York Time's best-selling book Paris Letters, Janice Macleod talks stepping out of your comfort zone and offers advice for aspiring writers and artists.



"How much money does it take to quit your job?

Exhausted and on the verge of burnout, Janice poses this question to herself as she doodles on a notepad at her desk. Surprisingly, the answer isn't as daunting as she expected. With a little math and a lot of determination, Janice cuts back, saves up, and buys herself two years of freedom in Europe.

A few days into her stop in Paris, Janice meets Christophe, the cute butcher down the street - who doesn't speak English. Through a combination of sign language and franglais, they embark on a whirlwind Paris romance. She soon realizes that she can never return to the world of twelve-hour workdays and greasy corporate lingo. But her dwindling savings force her to fund her dreams again. So Janice turns to her three loves - words, art, and Christophe - to figure out a way to make her
happily- ever- after in Paris last forever."

Paris Letters deeply explores the idea of stepping out of your comfort zone and taking the plunge in life. What advice would you give to someone who’s forever yearning to make a drastic life decision?

The first piece of advice is to work it out while you’re currently living your current life. I did this by writing in my journal each day. I figured out how much money I would have to save to quit my job, how long that would take, how long I could be without money coming in, where to go and what to do when I got there. Of course, there is only so much planning one can do, but planning as much as you can help make these dreams closer to reality… and with only a pencil and paper. You don’t need to invest heavily or make big changes in order to make plans. Making plans is free. Secondly, I’d look at all the things to do in order to make a drastic life change and do the things that were possible in that moment. For me, my life in Paris started by cleaning out my underwear drawer in my apartment in LA. I wasn’t taking all those panties with me. I’d be taking one suitcase, so I started to whittle my wardrobe down until it would be about the size of a suitcase. It was a small act, but it was something I could do on THAT DAY right at the beginning of hatching my escape plans. The next day, I started cleaning out closets. Later, I went to all my doctor’s appointments: dental visits, annual doctor’s visit… that boring necessary stuff that is easy to get out of the way and cross off the list. All this time I saved and saved and researched where to go and what to do when I would eventually leave my job and travel to Paris. 



Aside from the beautiful writing, your authentic letters and illustrations really ignite a memorability about Paris Letters. Has art always been a revered outlet of yours?

Oh no. In fact, art has always been a great frustration to me. I’ve always wanted to paint and draw but felt I never had the natural talent that some people had. But what I did have was the desire. So I would doodle. Doodling on the edges of my day book, of the newspaper, of scraps of paper on my desk. Doodling is how all the illustrations start. Writing is more natural for me and is my chosen profession. I’ve been a professional writer since I was 20. If I could choose just one, it would be writing. It comes easier to me. But that illustration desire is still humming in the background. It’s like writing is my spouse but illustration is my lover. One is calm and steady (the writing) and the other is stressful but exciting (illustration). 



Your journey to happiness in Paris, although idyllic and dreamy, must’ve have been difficult at times. Were there ever any moments where you had reservations about your decision to travel? What advice would you give to someone who has?

Travel is physically demanding. People forget that the word itself, travel, is a verb. It’s not easy to lug a bag, to walk it, lift it, wait for it, find room for it, drag it, unpack, repack, take it again. And that’s just the bag! Travel means walking, getting lost, sleeping on planes and trains, and not sleeping at all. It’s also sleeping in strange beds that smell of strangers. It’s bad food and confusing maps. I’d advise anyone who wants to travel to practice close to home first. Take day trips. Figure out maps on your own. Go for long walks. I didn’t realize at the time, but in the year before I left LA for Paris, I went for long walks. It was a cheap form of entertainment. I could save money but also, I didn’t realize at the time, I was training for traipsing around European cities. Aside from the physical aspects of difficult travel, visa paperwork is often a challenge. In France, it’s particularly challenging. So there were times when I was going through visa appointments and not having the right paperwork when I wanted to just storm out and get the first plane home. Same with the language. Learning another language is frustrating. There were times in my French classes when I wanted to cry with frustration. And of course, being away from friends and family means missing so much of their lives. Getting through that takes some mental gymnastics. It’s not easy to rejig relationships to include many sad goodbyes. 



I’m delighted to say that next February I’m traveling to Paris. What would be your suggestions for making the most out of a weekend trip to Paris?

I always suggest going to the rooftop of the Galeries Lafayette department store to take in the view of Paris. It’s marvellous. I like it much more than going up the Eiffel Tower, which can be the one activity you do in a day. The Eiffel Tower is much lovelier from a distance and from below. Less so from the top. I also suggest picking a neighbourhood and wandering around rather than trying to ping pong from monument to monument. It’s more relaxing and you see lovely details in the architecture and shop windows. I love walking around the 5th arrondissement. That’s my neighbourhood… It’s the Latin quarter and includes the rue Mouffetard market street (mostly closed on Mondays but is splendid on Sundays), Hemingway’s apartment, Shakespeare & Co, Notre Dame, the Seine… it’s a lot of Paris jammed up in one area. My local bistro is TournBride at 104 rue Mouffetard. It’s a perfect stop morning, noon and night. Censier Daubenton is the Métro stop. But most of all, don’t cram in too much. It’s nice to just dive deep into one neighbourhood. I also like wandering around the Marais (4th arrondissement), and Montmartre is delightful. 



And finally…Paris Letters perfectly encapsulates faultless art and writing. What would be your top tip for aspiring writers/ artists?

Avoid trying to be faultless. Just create the best version of whatever you’re creating. And keep plugging away at it until you can’t possibly improve it. And have fun at it. It shouldn’t be torture. Lean toward what is fun for you. The world needs more levity these days, and that comes through in your art if you’re mostly enjoying yourself.



Thank you all for reading and big thank you to Janice MacLeod for collaborating in today's post!


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20 comments

  1. What a lovely interview!

    Mariya | https://www.brunetteondemand.com/loewe-gate-bag-alternatives/

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  2. Humm this is a good read. Nice interview
    https://www.melodyjacob.com/

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  3. Stories like this are always interesting to read through. It is pretty cool that you got to do the interview. Thanks for sharing the interview answers!

    Nancy ♥ exquisitely.me

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    Replies
    1. Definitely, it was so interesting. Ah no wories, hope you enjoyed it :)

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  4. What a wonderful interview.


    xoxo
    Lovely
    www.mynameislovely.com

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  5. Paris Letters has been on my list for ages and reading this interview made me want to reach for it soon! I went to Paris earlier this year - sadly, it was impossible to go to the rooftop of Galeries Lafayette on the day we were there, but it's just another reason to go back!

    Dominika | Into the Bloom

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    Replies
    1. Ah yay i'm glad to hear! This book will defintely get you hyped up for a future Paris visit! I also went to Paris a while ago and I still have a few things left I'd really like to see :)

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  6. I have added this book on my list of book to read! It sounds interesting and I can't wait to dig right in.

    Maureen | www.littlemisscasual.com

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    Replies
    1. yay I'm so glad to hear :) Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

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  7. Janice is so lovely! Great feature!

    -Ashley
    Le Stylo Rouge

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  8. It is always interesting to read how people manage to quit their jobs to completely start over. Sometimes, if the calling for a life change is strong enough, it's worth doing it! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the book :).

    Nancy ♥ exquisitely.me

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