City or Country: Which is better for writers?

I’m having a bit of a personal crisis.

Now that I’m embarking on this new life as a full-time writer, do I stay in the bustling, busy, ambitious city of Los Angeles or move to a quieter place.

I didn’t know I was facing this conundrum — until I went on a family vacation to the middle of nowhere.

My husband and I just spent a week traveling through Wyoming (and stopping in Utah, Idaho and Montana along the way). We hiked up mountains to look down on thermal springs in Yellowstone, white water rafted down the Snake River, and rode a gondola up to the top of Jackson Hole ski resort. Yes, our clothes smelled of sulfur, we had to avoid buffalo wandering through parking lots to get to our car, and that chuck wagon was one of the hokiest things we’ve ever done, but all in all it was an amazing trip, and — most importantly — I felt inspired to write every moment.

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Now, I don’t have problems with writer’s block. I never have. Even if I don’t feel “inspired,” I’ll sit down and write anyway, and sooner or later, that easy groove kicks in. But out in big sky country, I didn’t have to wait for the inspiration. The quiet of the place brought it on at all hours. The noise of my imagination didn’t have to compete with anything else, so it sounded louder in my head.

In the mountains, I didn’t think about social media or publicity plans or even this blog (sorry, loyal blog readers!)

I thought of Thoreau living deliberately by Walden Pond and Stephen King holed up in Bangor, Maine. Perhaps these guys are onto something…

When I returned to Los Angeles, the quiet was gone. The cars sounded louder. The people walked faster. There is so much going on in LA, there is nowhere to look at… nothing. For the first time in fifteen years, I realized just how BIG Los Angeles is.

It isn’t just the crowds and the noise — it’s also the panicked rush of ambition that never abates. People in Los Angeles (in the entertainment industry in particular, which is where I live and work) do not sit and enjoy life. They urgently fight for a life that is to come or a life they don’t want to lose. Suddenly, my obsession with Twitter followers and networking and “activity trackers” returned.

I have always embraced this desperation of discontent. I never wanted to be completely happy — for if I were completely happy, then I might stop striving for more… and I never wanted to stop reaching:

“Lord grant that I may always desire more than I can accomplish”
– Michelangelo.

THAT is Los Angeles.

On this trip, I realized that I might be able continue improving myself and achieving and reaching for more, not in spite of the quiet but because of it. The quiet gave my brain the freedom to think deeper and twist thoughts in new ways. Superficiality was gone. There isn’t room for it in the quiet. 

In the city, I can go to a museum, eat a great meal, or just watch people (the people are much more varied and interesting in Los Angeles than in Wyoming. Sorry, it’s true). There’s theater and concerts and public events about the impact of art on society — these things are richer are more varied in the city. Don’t these things feed writing more than a hatching osprey and an afternoon rain?

I don’t know. Maybe this is all just the difference between being on vacation and being back at home, where bills and social responsibilities and chores can’t be ignored…

But I grew up in a small town. I know the difference between living in a city and living in the country. I have the feeling it’s MORE than just the difference between vacation and “real life.”

Or maybe it’s just my constant desire for something NEW. I’ve lived in Los Angeles for 15 years. Maybe, I am just craving change.

So, do my husband and I stay in LA-LA Land or do we move to a quieter place? I don’t have the answer yet. For now, we’re here, in Los Angeles, but maybe that will change…

City versus country? Which is better for a writer? Who knows? Do you?

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2 thoughts on “City or Country: Which is better for writers?

  1. You are correct. And being where you are, at different times (ages) of your life, may help your writing. A change of location is sometimes very stimulating, worth two novels, perhaps more. But write while you’re exploring.

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  2. Stef, I enjoyed this article and photos.! I have followed your trip. It s good to get out in the wide open spaces with nature…….but as you say….LA has the great museum, restaurants and action. Why not just take a great trip every year? I love to travel!!
    Hugs from Aunt Nell

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