City Artist, Country Artist, Part I: I Love The City Life

I recently read Imagine, by [the thoroughly-disgraced] Jonah Lehrer (in case you somehow missed the scandal, the book was recalled by the publisher after Lehrer admitted fabricating quotes and attributing them to Bob Dylan). Despite my misgivings about the trustworthiness of the information, I enjoyed the book, and one thing that got me thinking was Lehrer’s assertion that big city living is more conducive to creativity than living anywhere else. One of the main reasons this is true, he posits, is that in urban areas you’re constantly being thrown up again all kinds of different people and ideas. If you live in a loft downtown and have to walk the streets of the city to go get a newspaper or buy milk or catch a cab or bus, you’re going to be exposed to way, way more novel images and impressions than someone who spends the bulk of their time alone in the woods, or on a farm, or in a very small town where they’ve known pretty much everybody since birth.


In one way, this makes sense to me: I come home from Dallas and Houston and New Orleans–cities where we regularly walk around downtown–with all kinds of ideas. I couldn’t pinpoint where most of them came from, but somehow bits and pieces of things I saw and overheard stuck in my brain somewhere.


In another way, though, I can’t see it: the noise and confusion and crowding of city living requires so much effort just to navigate your way through the day that I, personally, could never get anything done there. Plus there would be the constant temptation of coffee shops and gallery openings and museum exhibits and art fairs and farmers’ markets and meeting people for coffee, and–and, and, and! I’d never get anything done. For me, living in a smaller city/large-ish town is about right. I need to be somewhere where I can buy, say, embroidery floss and fresh vegetables even when they’re not in season (I know: I should work on that and learn to eat in season, but that’s probably not going to happen). As I sit here and think about that, though, I realize that most of the things I would have once said I need in a town are now available just as easily on the internet. Because our library isn’t that great, I get much of what I read by ordering used books on I buy beads online as well as sequins and beading thread and wool felt–all because I can’t get it locally. Yet even this town I live in seems way too big and crowded with not enough tree-y open spaces.


So where *is* the best place to live? For me, it’s here, with good internet access. For others? I asked on Facebook and got a lot of thoughtful responses. Most people are pretty much like I am: they want peace and quiet for working but access to the larger world, either through the internet or by being close enough to an urban area to drive there periodically. We’ll start with those few mice who favor the city; come back on Friday for the country mice. (And, yes, all this pretty much reflects the moral of Aesop’s fable.) While the city lovers aren’t strongly represented here, they are passionate about the places they love.


Nadine say, “A big city, always. I need to have a wide world of experiences– both physical and visual for my creativity to flourish. Plus a wide circle of friends of all different backgrounds to expand my view of the world.”


Michael says, “I think probably a city. Lately the weird things people do intrigue me. I find what humans abandon to be of particular interest. Nature is too perfect, whereas the gritty, noisy forest of buildings is so imperfect it almost screams “look at me, look at what I am now and help me remember what I once was.”


My friend Roz says, “Ricë—This made me laugh. I’ve been thinking of nothing else for the last week. I just got back from my once a decade stint in the country. I am an URBAN Girl plain and simple. . . [p]ut me in the URBAN category—of course there are so many parks and wildlife areas in the Twin Cities that I do feel as if I’m cheating as I can have nature 1.5 blocks from my home!” Roz is just the tiniest bit spoiled–you can walk from her house in the city over to the Mississippi and then walk on the fabulous trails along its banks–just minutes away from her kitchen door.


Check back on Friday when we hear from those–and there are quite a lot of them–who would choose the country life.

P.S. If you, too, love the city, check out New York Skyscrapers for a little eye candy.

Ricë is the author of Living the Creative Life, Creative Time and Space, and Destination Creativity. She also blogs at The Voodoo Cafe.





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