Why I Stopped Beating Myself Up For Not Moving To New York For A Writing Career
There are times when I still wonder what would’ve happened if I had stuck to my plan to move to New York City after graduating with my Master’s Degree in Journalism from Syracuse. Maybe I would have a book deal from a prestigious publisher, or maybe I would have a senior editor position at one of the iconic magazine brands that I admired as a teenager. Things could have also turned out exactly as they are now, with me still moving back to North Carolina to pursue a career in education while I simultaneously continue to build a business around writing and publishing.
I have to admit that even though I like what I do now as a librarian, I do wish at times that I had more time to devote to my writing business, and that’s when the “what ifs” start to bubble up in my mind. As I watch some of my classmates or other writers who moved to NYC around the time that I would have seem to flourish with opportunities to write for New York glossies among other things, I sometimes start to beat up on myself about not sucking up whatever fears I had about moving to New York to pursue something that I have wanted my whole life. I didn’t think I would make it in NYC. I thought it would be too much of an adjustment to go from living in the smaller North Carolina city that I grew up in to living in one of the biggest and most expensive cities in the world. I knew that it would take a while, probably 6 months to up to 2 years, for me to find a position in my field once I moved to NYC, and I didn’t feel comfortable asking my parents to help me to sustain myself financially with that, which I would have to do even if I took odd jobs around the city.
As writers, we unfairly put pressure on ourselves to adopt the whole “New York writer” dream as our personal writing dream.
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Surviving in New York as always been seen as a necessary part of succeeding as a writer for as long as I can remember, definitely since I decided back in middle school that I wanted to be a writer. As writers, we unfairly put pressure on ourselves to adopt the whole “New York writer” dream as our personal writing dream because we tell ourselves that New York has a monopoly on opportunities, communities, and connections that we need to truly excel in the craft. It is true that most of the big publishers are there, and many noted writers that we look up to either live there or have deep connections to the city, but success as a writer is within the writer not within the city where the writer lives. New York is not a magical city that will transform you into the next Toni Morrison or Demetria Lucas D'Oyley as soon as you step off the plane.
I look to the life of Prince as encouragement on how creatives can create the career they want without uprooting themselves and moving to the city that seems to be designated for that particular craft. He became an international music superstar, crossed boundaries within the music industry, and recorded much of his catalog not from Los Angeles or New York, but from his studio in his hometown, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is the ultimate example that drive and purpose create the type of career that creatives dream of regardless of where a creative chooses to live.
Like Prince, I’ve never been one of those people who was itching to leave my hometown upon reaching adulthood. I love to travel, and I have lived in plenty of other places for my education and for my career. I’m definitely willing to go where ever I need to go for extended stays to further my career and achieve goals, but North Carolina, specifically the Greensboro area, will always be home base for me.
Many writers go to New York because that’s where they find their inspiration. Some are inspired by the different people that they meet and the experiences that are unique to New York. Others are motivated by the sometimes hardscrabble life that many writers find themselves having to piece together to survive in NYC. They are exhilarated by the fast pace of a growing, multifaceted, multicultural city.
My inspiration, motivation and exhilaration are here in North Carolina, also known by the North Carolina Writers’ Network to be the “Writingest State”. Growing up here has given me a context that inspires me in the same way that new experiences in New York inspire other writers. I am motivated to tell the unique stories that come from that context.
The formula is work + connections + exposure + creating your own opportunities. You can do that anywhere.
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I’m not afraid of New York anymore. I’ll go there when I need to or when I want to. I no longer feel like New York is some major piece of the formula to becoming a successful writer that I’ve cheated myself of. The formula is work + connections + exposure + creating your own opportunities. You can do that anywhere, especially now in the current social media/digital age. If you’re where I used to be concerning the decision to move to New York, learn to embrace local movements and creative communities in your state or hometown before you make that commitment. You might just find exactly what you are looking for right where you are.
Artists and writers create culture, which is crucial to any community and economy. NYC shouldn’t be the only place nourished by a literary community.
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