How do I, a (possibly promising) writer of literature, given X circumstances, escape the Boston area to a location/ situation conducive to writing— either abroad, or elsewhere in the US?
November 12, 2009 7:30 PM   Subscribe

Creative suggestions for a (possibly promising) writer of literature, given X circumstances, to escape the Boston area to a location/ situation conducive to writing— either abroad, or elsewhere in the US. Responses from international (non-US) MeFites encouraged.

Here is the situation. I'm a writer of prose, poetry, and philosophy. [footnote 1] I moved to the Boston area about four years ago from NYC, partly for a change of pace, and mainly for an agreeable environment where I could work as little as possible in order to study and write as much as possible (not feasible in NYC due to high costs and constrictive living conditions).

Since moving to the Boston area, however, I have, for reasons beyond the scope of this posting, become progressively dissatisfied with it. Reductively: I find it aloof, un-inspirational, out of tune with my sensibilities. My family lives in the area, and they exert too strong an influence on me. For the last few years, living here, in spite of myself, has felt consistently bleak, sterile, depressing, slowly eroding my inspiration and health, with little or no prospects for improvement.

Last week, I found out that the organization I work for part-time (3 days/week) lost a lot of money due to the recession, and I'm to be laid off starting January 1st. I very much would like to move to another locale more in tune with my sensibilities. However, my circumstances— including the conditions I require to write— are particularly involved and challenging:

• Recently turned 30
• Languages: English; Russian (spoken very good, written poor due to disuse)
• US Citizen (US passport). All living family also US citizens
• BA (Bachelor's degree). Am 'highly skilled' (as VISA diction goes) in a number of areas— writing and editing of all varieties, visual art, Russian translation— but no official degrees to prove it
• Since I work part-time, am scarcely able to save money. Have about $5,000 (US dollar) in savings
• Will be receiving small monthly Unemployment wage (around $1,000); not sure whether I would lose this wage were I to move out of state; need to research this further

• Cannot take a full-time job for some period to shore up a significant amount of money to use to move; this precludes writing, and I must— which is to say, I'm compelled to— write regularly
• Need, at minimum, 3 full days a week to myself to be able to study/ write to marginally adequate effect. Four days, to sufficient effect. [footnote 2]

• Misgiving I: I have a bit of an unintentionally 'eccentric' demeanor, and I worry that this complicates finding employment in a timely fashion
• Misgiving II: I worry that I'll move somewhere, not be able to find a job, and run out of money. Or— will only be able to find work so time consuming that I won't have the minimal amount of time and freedom I require for writing. But, inevitably, such are the risks.

I'm seeking suggestions for:
(1) A place to move to (country, city, town, etc)/ particular situation that: (a) is more in tune with my sensibilities; (b) provides a good chance of finding sufficient time to write, either because of a strong likelihood of finding sustainable part-time work, or otherwise.
(2) And how, logistically, one would be able to move to said place/ enter said situation.
(2a) For instance, countries/ cities where it is relatively easy to circumvent VISA restrictions (I've heard that in some Portuguese cities, for instance, there are sizable communities of expatriates who tacitly reside illegally relatively untroubled), or in general with laxer VISA restrictions.
(2b) Esoteric situations— such as house-sitting, or caretaking, or living in some cabin, or in a (genuinely truth-seeking) meditative community, or a collective farm, etc, or teaching abroad, or finding a wealthy benefactor in the tradition of the 'patrons' of yore whom I could dedicate my work to in exchange for marginal funding, or some other fantastic situation I'm unaware of, so long as I'd have at least three days to study/ write.
(3) Best resources to help with aforementioned. Books, websites, etc. I've gleaned a short list from MetaFilter and other sites, which I've pasted below [footnote 3], but don't know which are best, and suspect there are more.

The possibilities of where I can go, of what I can do so are open-ended— yet the restrictions very intricate— that it's difficult to provide enough information about where and to what my intuition gravitates. I'll try my best.

What do I mean by "in tune with my sensibilities"?—

Cities, large towns, and more populous environments

The city, large town (or possibly remoter area) I envision has:
a. Culture, arts, architecture
b. Respect for and some degree of genuine understanding of the arts
c. Not suffused with ambition for materialistic success— wealth, consumerism, practical career, 'fame for its own sake,' etc
d. Fairly ethnically diverse
e. A fair amount of people between the ages of 20 and 40
f. Not overrun with university students— or at least they aren't salient, and blend in with the other elements
g. Sports spectatorship not the primary or sole cultural occupation, and blends in with other elements

The ideal would be to move to a foreign city, work part-time, and work on art the rest of the time— like so many writers and artists did in the first half of the 20th century. For a long time, I've wanted to move to France, or, maybe strangely, Montreal. I've visited both, Montreal numerously, and, acknowledging their differences and downsides, love both about equally. The latter would probably be easier to access. (I guess one doesn't move to Montreal after, say, Paris. Perhaps moving to Paris is like 'moving up'; one doesn't ‘go back.’) In truth, I'd probably be contented living in dozens of European, Eastern European, or other foreign cities.

The VISA restrictions of the day seem to conspire against this. As one MeFite wrote in response to a somewhat similar question: "One of the few things I regret in marrying an American girl (through a horrendously expensive and invasive visa process) is how deeply I've come to understand the essential immobility of nearly all of the world's citizens, especially between and into First World countries. I used to treasure the notion of living wherever you wanted and making a new life somewhere on the other side of the world. But the simple truth is, in the First World, you can't just pick up and move somewhere anymore, and if you do, you'll be absolutely living on the margins of society, burning money fast and at risk of deportation constantly. Which will likely get you a 10 year travel ban to anywhere in the EU... The world isn't full of Hemingway-era open borders and laissez-faire expat life anymore, but there's still plenty of adventure to be had." There's also the Recession to consider. Also, I don't speak French or Spanish. (Have been meaning to learn French for years, but— between working at paying jobs and efforts at writing, never seem to have time; this must be remedied.)

Order of preference:
1- France, Montreal tie (strangely enough)
2- Europe (general) + Turkey. Scandinavia.
3- Eastern Europe.
4- USA. Toronto?

Note: Not too many places in the US I feel especially excited about moving to. First, because I'm rather tired of contemporary American culture (in spite of the promise of the Obama administration) and would benefit by living in another. Second— don't know if this will makes sense to anyone—, because I'm finishing a collection of essays largely about the US, and, if Fate allows, after having finished these and the novel, will basically have exhausted to my limit the country's appearances, culture, and mores. Regarding particular cities: Not too hot on Austin, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, New Orleans (the latter's great, but have already written about it to satiety). NYC is fine, but in the past has proven too expensive and harrying to be feasible. New Mexico and Arizona feel all right. Again, though— willing to consider 'anywhere but here.'

5- ?
6- South America— All right, but I don't speak Spanish
6- Not so hot on Asia, Middle East, Australia, New Zealand— nonetheless, open to viable suggestions therein

Note: This also may not make any sense, but— part of the reason I'm wary of moving to these regions is that the novel I'm writing concerns and is set in contemporary America, in particular a number of East Coast cities, and I intuit that if I live in a culture too foreign, different, or even spatially far removed from particular US appearances, customs, and memories, it would erase the mental connections I need to preserve these impressions, hindering me from doing justice to the nebulous vision I have for the novel. I do imagine being able to live gladly in some of these places after the novel is completed.

The gist is that I would prefer a country other than the US, but not one so foreign or distant as to potentially erase memories and other connections necessary for writing the novel.

I realize, though, that if I’m am able to collect Unemployment insurance from MA while living in another state and looking for work, I would probably be foolish to give it up by moving abroad, and thus am probably riveted to the US.

More remote, rural, and less populous environments/ situations

a. The more people around, the better, for I've lived before for nine months in virtual solitude, and, while the experience was good, do not want to repeat it for a while; nonetheless, will do so relatively gladly if it means enough time to study, write, complete novel, etc.

All of this said— again, I'm open to almost any possibility, so long as it's 'anywhere but here,' relatively agreeable to my sensibilities, and allows the requisite time to write. All mindful suggestions appreciated.

~~~~~

[Footnote 1]

Common questions that this statement probably elicits (peripheral, but nonetheless necessary to clarify my circumstances):

'What do you write?'— I've written a novel (age 20 or so), enough poetry to possibly comprise a slim volume, a handful of stories, and reams of reflections, short narratives, visions, dreams, sketches, drafts, etc.

I devoted myself in earnest to writing about four years ago, when I moved from NYC to the Boston area set on ‘working’ (at a paying job) as little as possible so that I could write as much as possible.

Presently I'm finishing up a loose collection of sociological, philosophical, semi-autobiographical essays investigating mores, values, and beliefs in contemporary America, as well as more Ineffable questions. Am also partly through a novel, which I'll return to post essays, hopefully very soon.

'Have you been 'published'?— A little. Numerous reasons for said paucity. (1) Don't like to think about publishing until after completing a work to my satisfaction, as doing so can corrupt the artistic process. This is more in the European than American understanding of art. (2) Anyone who's braved the contemporary publishing process knows how ramified, fragmented, time-intensive, and involved it is, often with little remuneration, and I'd rather concentrate on the work itself most of the time. (3) Much of what I've been writing the last few years has been more for personal than public catharsis and illumination— but stands to enrich future writings precisely for this reason. (4) Others. However, as manifold writings are completed within the next few years, will put greater efforts into sharing and publishing them.

'Is your writing 'good?''— Only God knows. I hope so.

[Footnote 2]

It may sound outrageous to say that one requires at least three full days— preferably four— per week to study and write adequately. Can't one simply work a full-time job and do this in the evenings and on weekends? I can’t; most people don't understand this. In way of explanation, I reproduce the following passages from The Biography of Franz Kafka, by Max Brod, which I came across recently. I don't, by the way, liken myself to Kafka, or Mozart (also mentioned) in any way, or imply 'genius' (a term, incidentally, whose connotations were softer back then); I share these passages solely because they precisely articulate, and hopefully illuminate, a condition that I (and, I would imagine, most driven artists, scientists, mathematicians, inventors, or other visionary-types) experience:

"At the same time, one must not forget that the special nature of [Franz’s] gift, in fact, and not only in the minds of his parents, precluded its being turned to any practical value. Furthermore, to turn it to any such practical value was utterly and completely incompatible with the purity of Franz’s idea of art. ‘Writing is a form of prayer,’ the diary affirms. Indeed, when it came to the point of choosing a profession, Franz postulated his job should have nothing to do with literature. That he would have regarded as a debasing of literary creation. Breadwinning and the art of writing must be kept absolutely apart, a ‘mixture’ of the two, such as journalism, for example, Kafka rejected— although at the same time he never laid down dogmas, but merely withdrew, as it were, with a smile, explaining that ‘I just can’t do it.’ He influenced me and my choice of profession for years with these views of his and, like himself, out of respect for art, I went through agonies, in the most hideous, prosaic, dry profession of the law and didn’t find the road to theatrical and musical criticism until years later. [Brod seems to miss the point that writing routinely for profit under coercive, often quotidian, inane guidelines inculcates poor habits that stylistically and substantively corrupt one’s creative writing.] Today I regret Kafka’s severity on this point as a noble error, and regret the hundreds of joyless hours I let slip by in a mood almost of despair, wasting God’s high creation, time, in offices just like those in which Kafka now set out on his martyr’s way.

What we both strove after with burning ardor was a post with a ‘single shift’— that is, office from early morning till two or three in the afternoon— now I can write this ‘or’ so easily as though to us at the time it didn’t seem as if the whole health of our souls depended on this one hour— and none in the afternoon. Jobs with commercial firms, which meant being in the office mornings and afternoons, didn’t leave any continuous stretch of the day over for literary work, walks, reading, the theater, and so on. And even when one came home after three, by the time one had eaten, recovered a little from the soul-destroying work, and was ready to switch over into the state of freedom one had been looking forward to— there was already very little of the day left. The desired office hours till two o’clock only were offered by extremely few offices, however, being almost exclusively in Government offices which even then, under the old Austrian Empire, were open to Jews only if they had influence in very high quarters. I don’t want here to go into the story of all our disappointed hopes of suitable jobs which haunted our conversation at that time. It will suffice to say that Kafka, after a short prelude in the most strenuous commercial offices (the ‘Assicurazioni Generali’), finally achieved the longed-for-job in July 1908, in a semi-Government office, the ‘Workers Accident Insurance Institute for the Kingdom of Bohemia in Prague.’

In both posts Franz had men over him who were well disposed towards him. Nevertheless it soon became evident that he couldn’t get on with it, in spite of all his experiments in dividing up his time in such a way as to allow him to indulge unrestrictedly in his passion— writing. For that he needed a succession of many hours, to permit the great impetus which his creative power gave him to soar to its proper climax and then die down again. But this was impossible for Kafka in one short afternoon with the prospect of the next barren day in the insurance institute always in front of him— for me, who had to go through the analogous experience shortly afterwards, it was only half-possible by the application of extreme energy and concentration. So hard times began for both of us. Significant of what we suffered is the poem I wrote during one of the holiday tours we made together, and which I dedicated to my friend. Kafka tried sleeping in the afternoon and writing at night. That always went all right for a certain length of time, but he was not getting his proper sleep— Franz suffered from poor sleep, and an unusual sensitivity to noise anyhow— conditions of exhaustion set in, and so he had to call upon his last reserves of strength to get through his work in the office. A lot was expected of him there, among other things jobs that he described— and this is the strongest word of disapproval I have ever heard from him— as ‘disgusting,’ as for example a kind of press campaign against not unjustified attacks to which social insurance was then exposed… In one of his letters, his office work is described in the following humorous fashion which anticipates a Charlie Chaplin film. ‘If you only knew how much I have to do! In my four district headquarters— apart from all my other work— people fall, as if they were drunk, off scaffolds and into machines, all the planks tip up, there are landslides everywhere, all the ladders slip, everything one puts up falls down and what one puts down one falls over oneself. All these young girls in China factories who incessantly hurl themselves downstairs with mountains of crockery’…

There are, of course, in the still unpublished parts of the diary other passages in the same vein. And they really rise to a mighty climax when the time comes for him to take up a formally a share in the factory in the interests of his family, and later to be constrained to show, if only occasionally, a practical interest in this undertaking. That he finds unbearable. He knows, in fact, what tremendous creative powers there are in him, which are clamoring to be unleashed and which are pent up by responsibilities of this kind. His complaint sounds very similar to that letter from Paris in which Mozart wrote the following refusal to his father who was urging him to start taking in pupils. ‘You must not think it laziness— no!— but because it is utterly against my genius, my way of life… You know that I am, as one might say, stuck fast in music— that I am busied with it all day long— that I love to speculate— to study— to think things over. But now here I am prevented from doing so by this way of living (ie, the lessons). I shall, it is true, have a few hours free, only— these few hours I shall need to rest in, rather than work in.’ Unfortunately, there will always be Philistines who are of the opinion that is enough if genius has ‘a few hours free’— they don’t understand that all the available hours barely suffice to guarantee to an even tolerably uninterrupted ebb and flow of inspiration and repose its right and proper far-flung arc of oscillation.”

[Footnote 3]

Cursory List of Resources

Books
Getting Out: Your Guide to Leaving America - http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0976082276/metafilter-20/ref=nosim/
Work Your Way Around the World, 14th Edition - http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1854584561/metafilter-20/ref=nosim/
Teaching English Abroad - Teaching English Abroad
http://www.amazon.com/Teaching-English-Abroad-Up-Date/dp/1854584405/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1257909760&sr=1-1
The Grown-Up's Guide to Running Away from Home: Making a New Life Abroad
http://www.amazon.com/Grown-Ups-Guide-Running-Away-Home/dp/1580088732/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1257909760&sr=1-6

Webistes
Expatica - http://www.expatica.com/fr/main.html
Transitions Abroad - http://transitionsabroad.com/
http://transitionsabroad.com/listings/living/resources/expatriatewebsites.shtml
Expat Focus - http://www.expatfocus.com/expatriate-forums
Expatriate Interviews - http://www.expatinterviews.com/
Escape Artist - http://www.escapeartist.com/
Anglo Info - http://france.angloinfo.com/
Boots n All Travel - http://www.bootsnall.com/

Couchsurfing
http://www.couchsurfing.org/

Bunac "Working Adventures Worldwide"
http://www.bunac.org
WWOOF (Organic Farming around the World) - http://www.wwoof.org/
New Zealand Working Holiday Visa
http://www.immigration.govt.nz/migrant/stream/work/workingholiday/unitedstatesofamericaworkingholidayscheme.htm
Travel on Cargo Ship - http://thetravelersnotebook.com/how-to/how-to-travel-by-cargo-ship/

NationMaster - http://www.nationmaster.com/
Safety/ Freedom - http://freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=1
Corruption Scale -

France
French Entree - http://www.frenchentree.com/france-employment-work-jobs/
Freelance in France - http://www.google.com/search?q=freelancing+in+france&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a
Blog of US expat in France - http://samdebretagne.blogspot.com/
Another Blog of US expat in France - http://dispatchesfromfrance.blogspot.com/

Teach English Abroad
Celta - http://www.cambridgeesol.org/exams/teaching-awards/celta.html
ESL Cafe - http://solbeam.com/category/on-love/
Teach English in Italy - http://www.teachingenglishinitaly.com/

~~~~~

Apologies to anyone perturbed by the War and Peace length of this posting. I think it's so long partly because writing it helped me clarify to myself what I'm looking for to some extent.
posted by cotesdurhone to Travel & Transportation around Boston, MA (20 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
Uh, I'll come right out and say that I skimmed this.

I have an MFA in creative writing. I'm usually somewhat loathe to suggest that people get MFAs in creative writing because, having one, I realize that it's a cash cow for many universities, creates a self-propelling cycle of academics writing for academics et cetera et cetera. However, it sounds like a fully funded MFA in creative writing in a city that's reasonably affordable might be perfect for you. In my MFA program, at the University of Florida in Gainesville, you take 2 classes a semester for 3 years, during which you teach 1-2 classes a semester. This totals about thirty hours of work a week, depending on how hard you work on teaching, and plenty of time to write. You don't get paid a lot, but rent is cheap. You'll make professional connections and be vetted by other writers, both established writers and your peers.

Plus, uh, the editing skills you'd learn in a workshop might come in handy.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:44 PM on November 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


It's great that you want to find yourself and it's even greater that you are willing to solicit other people's help.

But...

No one is going to read all of what you wrote.

You say you want to write.

The first thing to do is to learn concision. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

I have no idea what you're trying to say in your post other than you're disaffected and don't like Boston. Were I to engage in snark I'd say you're suffering from a bad case of ennui.
posted by dfriedman at 7:58 PM on November 12, 2009


Stay where you are, spend a week observing the world around you without saying or writing a single word. Your writing will blossom.
posted by dacoit at 8:07 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


You say "god only knows" how well you write.

Given the sampling here, find an editor. Now. You have an excellent vocabulary, but are incredibly over-long and unnecessarily showy, to the point of sounding self-aggrandizing and pompous.

Find an editor, and let them edit. Find someone you trust and move forward with your work driving you, don't search for a place for your work to blossom. Moving won't solve your problems, and I would wager your issues with your current situation can be remedied without a move if you can't afford one / logistically make one happen right now.
posted by CharlesV42 at 8:23 PM on November 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


My mouth actually dropped open when I scrolled down and saw how long this was. Like PhoBWanKenobi, I skimmed, but luckily for me, you seem to repeat yourself a lot.

Truth is, we'd all like to have 4-day weekends (and work as little as possible the other days) to pursue our passions. Until you write a bestseller, this probably won't happen.

Moving internationally with only $5000 in savings sounds like a recipe for disaster. Your best bet, (with your financial situation and lack of desire to work a steady job) is to move somewhere really cheap. Austin could be acceptable, but cheapest would be to move to the Mississippi Delta. You could live off your $5000 + $1000 monthly for a few months and see a part of America you otherwise wouldn't.
posted by oinopaponton at 8:23 PM on November 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


Seconding the suggestion of an MFA program. Many of them have scholarships that you could apply for and you'd live modestly for two or three years but only be teaching one course at a time (probably a 15-20 weekly commitment). An MFA degree itself won't do much for you, but the connections are important. If you ever plan on getting published in any significant way you need to play the game.

And let me try and say this as nicely as possible: You don't sound very engaged with the world beyond your own thoughts. IMO, this usually makes for really boring, tedious writing. Maybe it's well crafted and all, but is there any compelling reason for me to care about your life? There are a few authors who can lead a completely hermetic existence and still write in a way that's interesting. The rest of us mortals need to actually get out their and do something before we can claim to have literature-worthy experiences: work on a whaling ship, take a walk through the streets of Dublin, hang out with your strange rich friends on Long Island, work a shitty job in a paint factory before being recruited into a Socialist underground cell and watching Harlem burn down.

Also this: "But the simple truth is, in the First World, you can't just pick up and move somewhere anymore, and if you do, you'll be absolutely living on the margins of society, burning money fast and at risk of deportation constantly."

I couldn't disagree more. I picked up and moved to Asia and couldn't be happier. Western Europe is definitely harder for an American to break into, but that's a product of the EU.

Also, AFAIK there's no such thing as a "part-time" teaching job abroad, at least in Asia. Your visa status is tied to your full-time employment with a company or school, and that time commitment will be at least 40 hours a week (realistically, 50).
posted by bardic at 8:26 PM on November 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


Have you considered wintering over on Nantucket Island?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:46 PM on November 12, 2009


It will suffice to say that this question boils down to:

"I moved from NYC to Boston so I could lower my cost of living, work part time and be able to to write at least four days a week. Unfortunately, I don't like Boston and my job is terminating on 1 January anyway. Where can and should I move, in the US or abroad, that has a lively arts culture, a low cost of living, some hope of a good part time job to support my writing and isn't overrun by university students? I am a US citizen and have a BA in TLDR."

Answer: perhaps Minneapolis. No idea re employment but it ticks the other boxes. Also maybe Philly but I'm less sure on that one.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:20 PM on November 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


I suspect you will find writing in Location X just as hard as you found it in NY or Boston. Do you want to be "a writer", or do you want to write? The former has all sorts of stumbling blocks (too upper class, too lower class, no fedora, pipe too small etc) to it, the latter is surprisingly easy, if you like doing it.

Rather than think that if you line up the numbers on the combination lock of life, that prose will spring from you like Athena from Zeus' forehead, focus on writing despite the wrong numbers. That's the true definition of a writer, even if all they write is shit.
posted by smoke at 9:23 PM on November 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


No offense, good sir, but it seems you have the nature of this place backwards. It is for you to write a simple, one directional interrogative and for us to rain upon you all and sundry ideas, information and suggestions. A veritable deluge, the wisdom of the pedestrian masses wrung out of us by a concise well worded inquiry, of which perhaps one drop or drizzle will strike your fancy and bring you closer (one hopes) to an answer.

You cannot hope to explain your situation so well that we all answer in unison where you should go, what you should do, and how you should get there; the clarifying unity comes from your mind, not ours.

But I will proffer this humble suggestion; one brought up by my own, not insubstantial, thinking on the matter. Perhaps it is not a place of living but a way of life you should seek. By which I mean: what allows the perfect blend of freedom and isolation with which to feed your mind and ponderous thought (and in your case subsequent writing on on said thought, a labor which my hands do not feel particularly inclined to partake, once my mind has concluded with the thinking), with the freedom to return to the needs of social and remunerable interaction, as unsavory as they me be, though they may be savored in concentration only with the knowledge that they are surrounded by the blank page of empty time?

The answer, for me, is sailing...

And for me... there is nothing else that needs be said.
posted by DetonatedManiac at 10:10 PM on November 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


Okay, the first thing that struck me about this post is that it is very pretentious and shallow. Not just the pontificating (though that definitely played a huge part), but because your choice of places

1- France, Montreal tie (strangely enough)
2- Europe (general) + Turkey. Scandinavia.
3- Eastern Europe.
4- USA. Toronto?

based on how "similar" they are to the USA... is quite absurd. I'm not sure what your experience of these cultures are like, but there are vast differences between USA and all these other cultures. I don't just mean the superficial stuff (like cultural norms, languages and etc), but also the way people think about things like work, family, relationships and even love. Basically, if your international experience has so far been limited to touristing/ backpacking/ books/ semester abroad programs, boy are you in for a surprise.

My point is that you shouldn't limit yourself to these countries. One of the best paid (and most flexible) jobs I know of is teaching English in Asian countries such as South Korean, Japan and Singapore. I'm sure someone here knows more than I do, but my friends, who all have no teaching experience and are fresh graduates with just a Bachelors degree, are making a good income and seem to be having quite a good time.
posted by moiraine at 5:06 AM on November 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Like DarlingBri, I showed up to suggest the Twin Cities. Big university, cheaper living than the coasts, gorgeous nature, and very good people. Also, it's more progressive there than you think. :7)

And MSP was NorthWest's international headquarters & hub until Delta bought them, so you can fly diredt to darn near anywhere from there.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:55 AM on November 13, 2009


Also, printer ink is expensive: maybe producing some hardcopy of your drafts (or hand-writing them) would be a useful exercise.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:56 AM on November 13, 2009


It sounds to me like you have romanticized writing to a slightly ridiculous degree.

Look at what you're asking for: a contemplative, exciting international Lifestyle replete with towns in which groups of people blend into the woodwork to the exact degree of your liking and life does not "corrupt your artistic process." This expectation is unrealistic, and if those are really the conditions you need to produce work of any meaning, I fear you will be disappointed in the long term.

I would suggest another tactic: discipline yourself. Learn how to write and work at the same time. I know you say you're not suited for a life in which you deign to work as it will sully your masterpiece vision, but know what? Writing is work, too, and when your work is your Life, capital L, things usually don't go so well.

This is coming from a working writer who has achieved success and produced meaningful work both while working full-time at another job and while writing full-time. In both circumstances, writing is work, and life always, always intervenes. Having realistic expectations has not just helped me lead a writer's life, it has helped me produce better work because my outlook is not one that is begging to be punctured.
posted by mynameisluka at 7:38 AM on November 13, 2009 [16 favorites]


And everything mynameislooka said.
posted by moiraine at 8:05 AM on November 13, 2009


I spent six months in Canada a few years ago on a working-holiday scheme (I'm from the UK). This involved paying an organisation called BUNAC to arrange flights, visa, one night's accommodation, and an induction event in Toronto. As it happened, I hardly left Toronto for the whole six months, I loved it so much. Once over there I rented a small apartment with my then-girlfriend and worked at a customer-service touristy job. I can't remember what the rent was exactly (maybe $800 CAN per month), and because I was working such a low-wage job, I worked 40+ hours a week. We had enough cash between us to eat well and enjoy ourselves, and found the city's public-transport system very affordable. The apartment was miserable, but we spent little time there and fled before winter. I'd love to go back some time.

Anyway, I mention this because there could be similar working-holiday schemes open to you (I wouldn't know, being British), and trying one could give you a chance to try to achieve your desired lifestyle in a fairly low-stakes manner. And if you can pull in a better wage than I did (...can) then you might be able to get by in a low-rent apartment with part-time work. Be careful though, as most of these visas will be once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.

Despite the criticisms that have been made above, I hope you figure something out and report back. Living in modest comfort and working part-time in a good city is a dream I think many people share. The only people I've met who've seemed to manage it were part-time teachers at universities.
posted by SebastianKnight at 8:43 AM on November 13, 2009


You need to move somewhere with lots of writers groups and then join some. I'm not kidding and I'm not being (only) snarky. Your question itself demonstrates that you lack perspective on your own writing. This isn't unusual and it's not "wrong," but if you're going to write stuff that people will want to read, then you're going to need feedback about that.

Think about writers colonies. I've known a few folks here and there who have traded work (dishwashing, cabin-cleaning, etc) for time and a room.
posted by rtha at 9:30 AM on November 13, 2009


Doubling up on what rtha said. Do you share your work with peers and critique partners? What is your writing community like?

An MFA program could help you -- if you find the right one. But I think you need to have a community hammering you on concision before they'd take you.

I think you're seriously undervaluing Portland and Austin. Portland certainly has unemployment problems, but it's young, complex, and very much driven towards the artsy crowd. The downside, of course, is everyone knows everyone. Austin is struggling with its growing yuppification, but the old "weird" Austin is there under the surface, and it's certainly cheaper to live there than the West Coast metropolises. Both have strong writers communities.

I also believe you're looking too much to geography to solve your perceived writing issues. Being an ex-pat in Paris isn't going to make you a great writer any more than me being an MLB team season ticket holder is going to make me a great baseball player. What will help you is practice, critique, and community.

If you just need out of Boston, then try MPLS. But don't think the Twin Cities -- or any city -- will solve your problems.
posted by dw at 10:36 AM on November 13, 2009


Thanks for the replies so far. They've given me a number of ideas.

It’s clear that I should have edited the posting before sending it. The title is misleading, I realize, and the length, and to some degree, style, inappropriate for the venue. I didn’t fully grasp the etiquette of this site, and seem to have scandalized myself in the virtual realm.

Maybe I will post a more precise question in the future— that is, if I can muster the courage to post again after this litany of insults.

Anyway, thanks again to those who wrote reasonable responses.

By the way, I’m intrigued by this wintering on Nantucket Island idea. Is this earnest, or just a veiled insult?
posted by cotesdurhone at 1:11 PM on November 14, 2009


Re Nantucket Island, I was serious.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:55 PM on November 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


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