It seems like the majority of the time when I read a book that I love, when I flip it over to check out the author bio, I discover that he or she went to NYU, has connections with some important New York publishing person, or at least is located in New York. It can get discouraging for those of us who didn’t go to NYU or those of us who live in basically any other city in the country.
When I was younger, I always dreamed of moving to New York. I mean, I wanted to be a musician, a playwright, a poet, an author, an actress… ALL of those things! Of course, moving to New York would be the best option, right? And I almost did. Several times.
Then I realized that New York is damn expensive. (I grew up watching Friends where somehow spending all of your time in a coffee shop and never working gives you enough money to live in a HUGE apartment and be able to pick up and go to Vegas or London or Barbados at the drop of a hat. Realistic, right?) I also realized that the Rent-esque picture of bohemia that I dreamed of existed other places. In fact, it actually existed here in Atlanta. (It was a Dorothy Wizard of Oz moment. “It was with me all along!”) And after my college boyfriend dumped me in the middle of Union Square when I was visiting one winter, I was pretty much done with the idea of moving to the Big Apple.
Now, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with New York or writers who move there. I actually love New York. It’s a vibrant city that’s full of life and culture. I love theatre, I love music, I love art. It definitely has all of those things. I love Central Park. I love the museums. I love the obscure art galleries in Brooklyn. I love the pizza. I love being able to get a falafel at 4 in the morning. (OMG, so good.) I also am much more on the liberal side politically than many of my fellow Southerners. And I would love to live in New York at some point in the future. You know, when I have money and wouldn’t have to live in a shoe box.
I don’t think living in New York will make you anymore of a successful writer than living anywhere else, though, especially not with the way things are today. I do think it definitely helps to have “connections,” especially if you are trying to go the traditional publishing route. I’m sure it’s helpful if you can go to NYU or if you can make friends with someone who works at Penguin or give them your first-born child, maybe, or at least a basket of mini-muffins.
Self-publishing, though, has opened up a lot of doors for a lot of people. If you are willing to put the time in, you can become a successful self-published author no matter where you live. (Like my personal hero, Virgina Wade, who makes over 30k a month writing Bigfoot porn – she is from Colorado btw!)
New York is a great city for writers to live. But it’s not the only city for writers to live. Every place has it’s own advantages and disadvantages. Every place has some great stories to be told, and an exciting writer can be found in nearly any city or town in America. (And if you are looking for other fabulous cities for writers to live, check out this cool list of 20 Great American Cities for Writers from FlavorWire.)
I think the number one thing you need to do to be a successful writer is to write. And work hard at it. Do whatever you can to improve your craft, listen to other successful writers, read as much as you can, get feedback on your work as much as you can, submit your work everywhere you can think of, and do it every day. All of these things are far more important to your writing than your zip code.