As a writer, it’s easy to fall into the habit of focusing on what’s missing, on the goals you fail to accomplish, and to take for granted the victories you do have.

In my own case, I’m in the middle of a major victory. My characters of Dakota and Svetlana are making it possible for my wife and me to go to a place I’ve dreamed of for over twenty years. I’ve wanted to go there since I was 19 and read Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. The place is Paris.

We leave in one week.



It was always a question of time and money. When we had flexible jobs that gave us the time, we didn’t have the money for such a trip. When we had the money, we couldn’t get the time off from work (we were too busy earning said money).

Finally, this year, time and money came together. I write full-time, so my schedule is wide-open. Alexas works for a terrific employer—Vassar College—that let her take a full two weeks off. And we have the money—from massive sales of A Real Piece of Work back in February and March. (Thank you, readers!)



Of course we’ll be seeing all of the major sights (e.g., Notre Dame, the Louvre, Versailles, etc.), but we’re also going to spend a lot of time simply walking the streets and taking in the real Paris. To this end, we’re staying in an apartment in the centrally located Latin Quarter.

But this entry isn’t about the specifics of our trip. It’s about gratitude. My best friend helped me realize this as we drove to Saratoga the other day to play the ponies.



When I complained about the recent slow sales, the difficulties of finding a new literary agent, and the rejections I’ve received from magazines and literary journals for my short stories, he was quick to remind me that I am one of very few writers who has actually earned significant money from his own writing—enough that my wife and I can go to Paris comfortably for two weeks (not a cheap proposition).

He further pointed out that if I always look at what I don’t get, at the goal I don’t reach, I’ll miss out on the many good things I do get in the present, and the trip to Paris is one of them.



So is complete freedom of time; I report to no one. So is complete freedom of subject matter; I write whatever I want to write. So are my health and Alexas’s health, my family and friends, and a growing readership.

He was right, and I’m truly grateful for all of it.



Yes, I hope this will be the year that I get one of my stories into a major magazine or literary journal. Yes, I hope the Dakota Stevens Mystery Series (excuse the branding) will be picked up by a traditional publisher so I can sign copies in bookstores next December. And yes, I hope I’ll return from Paris with enough material for two books and a dozen stories.

But in the meantime, I’m determined to be grateful for things like this trip, and to enjoy every moment of them.



Thank you again, Dear Reader, for helping to make this trip possible.

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By Chris Orcutt

Writer — The Dakota Stevens Mystery Series, Short fiction, Plays — Editor & Speechwriter for Hire — Avid Golfer, Chess Player & Awesome Wood-Splitter — Twitter: @chrisorcutt

Comments (6)

  1. Lisa DeSpain September 7, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    This is a great post – so encouraging! Have a wonderful (and well-deserved) trip. Looking forward to hearing what you see & do.

  2. Warren September 7, 2012 at 7:50 am

    Hi Chris, thanks for sharing this. It’s an unfortunate phenomenon that as individuals we tend to focus so much on what we don’t have rather than what we do have, especially since we’ll inevitably never have it all. Your post made me think of a proverb that I like: “Instead of complaining that the rose bush is full of thorns, be happy the thorn bush has roses.” May be a bit cheesy, but hopefully it’s a good reminder nonetheless :)

    – Warren (

  3. Tara September 1, 2012 at 11:50 pm

    Wonderful. Enjoy every moment.

  4. Bruce September 1, 2012 at 11:01 pm

    It’s good to hear you’ve gotten something tangible like this out of your novel writing. Don’t forget to take a few words of French along and to look out for some of the more obscure and unusual sights around Paris, where interesting history lies out of the view of many tourists.

  5. Virginia Crawford September 1, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    Hey Chris,

    I’m so happy for you and Alexas that you are able to take such an amazing trip. Open everything. Suck it all in. You know all that.

    I was thinking recently how that friend taught me a few things too. We’re so lucky to have such a friend.

    Have an excellent time. I can’t wait to hear about your adventure.


    • admin September 1, 2012 at 2:56 pm

      Thank you, Ginny. We *are* lucky to have such a friend. Hopefully I’ll come back with a thousand tales to tell. —Chris