This post by the Rejectionist (about feeling like the treed and mountained West Coast isn't "large enough" after living in New York City for several years) gave INTERN cause to ponder.
As one who bounces back and forth between living in Big Cities and treed and mountained rural places on a regular basis, INTERN often wonders which is a better or more productive setting for a writer. City or country? Urban garret or forest shack? Here are some observations from both sides of the fence:
In the city, you can choose from a plethora of readings and book launches and literary events any day of the week. Except most of the time, you're too tired and cranky from your three jobs to actually go to any.
In the country, you can occasionally hear a local poet read from his latest collection of lyric poetry, at the end of which you are so tired and cranky you would rather work three jobs than hear the word "gossamer" ever again.
In the city, you work three jobs just to afford the sweltering and boxlike former storage unit you share with six to ten roommates who also want to be writers. There is one desk which you all share. When it's not your day for the desk, you write in the cupboard under the sink, cuddled up to a Windex bottle.
In the country, you pay the rent on your palatial old farmhouse with the loose change you find between the sofa cushions. There are perhaps three jobs to go around in the whole county and they are all inexplicably held by a kind middle-aged woman named Cindy. You don't have a writing closet; you have an entire writing barn. Birds hoot in the rafters while you type.
In the city, you pride yourself on knowing where to buy the dankest [insert obscure serbo-afro-korean pastry here].
In the country, you pride yourself on knowing where to find the dankest polypore mushrooms.
In the city, you are surrounded by writers and artists and do-ers of all sorts. It's heady and inspiring and intimidating and it makes you feel so so so ambitious you get a buzz every time you sit down to write.
In the country, you only know of one other writer in the area (the aforementioned lyric poet). You glare at one another in the bulk section of the food co-op. When you visit your writer-friends in the city, you are so starved for literary conversation they think you have rabies and try to sedate you.
In the city, you're so busy you steal time to write in five minute bursts, on the subway, in line at the coffee shop, or on one of the lunch breaks at your many jobs.
In the country, you wake up with the sun and write until noon. You do this every day. For a week. After that, you realize the chicken coop needs swabbing and the beet patch needs weeding and there's a wasp nest in the solar shower. For a week, you steal writing time in five-minute bursts. Then it's back to sun-up until noon.
In the city, when your country friends come to visit, you try to impress them by taking them to get the dankest serbo-afro-korean pastry EVER. And they pretend to be into it so they don't hurt your feelings, but you suddenly realize you don't even LIKE pastries, that in fact this whole obscure-pastry obsession is just an attempt at differentiating yourself from the teeming masses of people around you, who are likewise trying to differentiate themselves from you with their own obscure-pastry obsessions...
In the country, when your city friends come to visit, you try to impress them by showing them all the obscure medicinal polypores you foraged from the woods, dried, and ground up in a bicycle-powered mill. And they pretend to be into it so they don't hurt your feelings, and you're like, "fine, go back to your tiny apartment and eat an obscure pastry!" and you sulk until it all starts to feel rather silly.
In the city, you can go to one of a hundred vast and well-stocked libraries and bookstores and find anything you want.
In the country, you can go to one of one (1) tiny libraries and check out a tea-and-cats mystery or you can go to one of one (1) used bookstores and buy an entire box of Harlequin romances for twenty-five cents.
In the city, you and your agent go out for espresso and designer cupcakes like, every Tuesday at ten AM.
In the country, your agent occasionally fears that you have been eaten by a bear, when in fact the power's been out for a week following a pesky snow-lightning-flood-storm, and there was never cell service to begin with.
In the city, you are always broke because it costs $50 a day just to breathe.
In the country, you are always broke because there is maybe $50 in the whole county which you and your neighbors are continuously bouncing back and forth between yourselves for various odd jobs.
In the city, you forge your dream critique group out of like-minded writers. You meet every Tuesday morning at eleven AM and engage in scintillating literary discussion.
In the country, you finally find out about a local writers' group after months of looking. The next meeting is in three weeks. You look forward to it with every fiber of your body. When the morning finally comes, you show up at Bud's Coffee Shack ten minutes early. Who is sitting at a smudgy plastic table but your archnemesis, the lyric poet! You turn on your heel and stalk out of there, crumpling your carefully-assembled pages in your fist.
In the city, you are constantly applying for writing fellowships in nice bucolic settings, where you fantasize that you will be so very productive and inspired by nature.
In the country, you are constantly applying for fully-funded MFA programs in cosmopolitan settings, where you fantasize that you will be so very productive and inspired by all the fast-paced urban grit.
So there you have it, writer-friends! The country or the city: both hold their challenges for the struggling writer, and their rewards.
INTERN wants to know: are you a city writer or a country writer? Or are you a suburban writer or a writer-on-the-moon? What is it like to be a writer where you live?