If you're like many authors, you spend way too much time daydreaming about moving to a city that has just the right feel for your writing. Whether it's an electric undercurrent that seems to zap your creativity (it's alive!), or a laid back environment where you can relax and work on your craft, there are plenty of cities out there to choose from.
But it's not just the feel of a city that's important. There are other things to consider, like cost of living, a thriving writing community, and perhaps even connections to literary agents and publishers, if you're trying to get a book deal.
Luckily, we've gathered a list of the best cities for writers. So no matter what kind of writing you do, you'll find a city that fits your needs and wants on this list.
Let's get right to it!
- The best well-known cities for writers
- The best low-cost cities for writers
- The best cities for writers outside the US
- What makes a city good for writers?
Table of contents
- Best Well-Known Cities for Writers
- Best Low-Cost Cities for Writers
- The Best Cities for Writers Outside the US
- What Makes a City Good for Writers?
Best Well-Known Cities for Writers
Let's start with some of the most famous cities that writers have been migrating to for years.
New York City, New York
Many aspiring writers have headed off to the Big Apple for a shot at fame, fortune, and a 5-book deal. New York City is also an excellent place for copywriters, technical writers, playwrights, and journalists. This is also the home of the “Big 5” publishing companies, which means you can throw a rock in New York and you're likely to hit someone who works in the publishing industry. They probably won't want to read your manuscript, seeing as how you just hit them with a rock, but there are other ways to get their attention, too.
The cost of living is super high in New York City, which is a bummer. But ZipRecruiter has the average freelance writer salary in that city right around $60,000, which isn't bad.
Los Angeles, California
The City of Angels is another city that many writers venture to. Screenwriters are encouraged to “go where the work is,” and Hollywood is the mecca for movies and television. And since it's such a creative-centered city, you're likely to find a thriving community of writers. Even if you're not into creative writing, Los Angeles is still a good place to go. The city is enormous and there are all kinds of opportunities there for freelance writing, journalism, and a dozen other different kinds of writing.
Like New York City, L.A. is an expensive place to live. But with a high cost of living comes a high average salary for specialized occupations. A Creative Writer’s salary averages around $60,000 in L.A. Plus, you can't beat the weather in Southern California!
San Francisco, California
Keeping in California, San Francisco is another great place for writers. Jack Kerouac is one of many famous writers that may come to mind when thinking of the bay area.
But creative writing isn't the only reason to move to San Francisco. If you're looking to get into technical writing, there's no better place. After all, it's home to Silicon Valley, so there will always be a need for good technical writers. Plus, San Fran is not very far from L.A. and San Diego, which are both great places to visit if you've never been!
For a big city with a small-town vibe, you can do no better than Portland, Oregon. The Pacific Northwest has long been a great destination for writers, and the great writing community in Portland is evidence of this.
It's also home to Powell's, which is one of the largest indie bookstores in the world. This says something about the importance of reading and writing in this city. It also hosts the Mountain Writers Series and the Loggernaut Reading Series.
A short drive from Portland lies Seattle, another great city for writers — especially those of the creative persuasion. It was recently designated a UNESCO “City of Literature,” which tells you something about the importance of the written word.
But since this is a booming city, there are jobs to be had for medical writers, copywriters, and journalists. Plus, there are plenty of coffee shops to write in! No matter what kind of writing you do, Seattle is a good place to do it.
With a city motto like “Keep Austin Weird,” you can expect there to be some great creative vibes if you're looking to write fiction. It's home to Richard Linklater and Robert Rodriguez, and these directors (among others) have helped make Austin a great place for shooting movies and shows.
While the cost of living is climbing in this Texas city, it's still one of the more affordable places to live when compared to the other major cities on this list. Glassdoor shows the average salary for a content writer in Austin is about $48,000.
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Best Low-Cost Cities for Writers
All the cities above are pretty expensive. And if you're just starting out in your writing career, they may be out of your price range. While there's something romantic about the “starving artist,” you don't have to put yourself in a precarious position. Just check out one of these low-cost cities!
Iowa City, Iowa
Along with Seattle, Iowa City is the only other UNESCO “City of Literature” in the United States. This city has a rich history centered around creative writing. In fact, the University of Iowa was the first school to offer a creative writing graduate program in the country, which became the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
Iowa City is also home to several other writing festivals and workshops, making this low-cost city a great place for budding or seasoned writers to live.
This mountain town is the biggest little literary place you've never heard of. It has a rich history of writers that continues today, as the town still attracts writers — especially those that love the outdoors.
The writing scene in this small town revolves around Elk River Books and the community of creatives that gather there. It has been said that the Livingston area has more writers per capita than places like NYC and L.A.
Believe it or not, Pittsburgh has a rich literary community and a relatively low cost of living (12% lower, on average!). It's home to many indie bookstores and there are plenty of fellow writers to be found at the Pittsburgh Writers Project and Littsburgh.
Plus, it's close enough to New York, Boston, and other major east coast cities that you can take some road trips to these more expensive cities without spending a fortune on rent!
Minneapolis is home to one of the oldest writers' groups in the US, the Minneapolis Writers Workshop. This metropolitan area also includes Saint Paul, the historical home of F. Scott Fitzgerald. There's a budding literary scene in the twin cities, which includes publishing houses like Graywolf Press and Milkweed Editions.
The relatively low cost of living and unemployment rates make this a great place for writers of all kinds to live.
Taos, New Mexico
Many people don't realize just how literary New Mexico is. The list of famous writers who have lived (or still live) in the state, whether in Taos or elsewhere, is impressive. We're talking about D. H. Lawrence, Cormac McCarthy, George R. R. Martin, to name a few.
Taos itself has been attracting creatives of all kinds since the early 20th century. The city now boasts some of the best writers' festivals, workshops, and resources available for writers of all types. Some even insist that it has a creative energy that can't be beat.
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is one of the bigger cities in our low-cost section. But don't let the fact that it's a big city and a popular tourist destination fool you; it still has a relatively low cost of living. It's also steeped in history and culture, and haunted by aspects of the supernatural.
Most notably, Tennessee Williams lived in New Orleans for over 40 years. Anne Rice grew up in the city and has mentioned how much it influenced her writing many times. If you write genre fiction, New Orleans could just be the right vibe for you.
The Best Cities for Writers Outside the US
We would be remiss were we not to cover some of the best cities for writers outside the US. Whether you're looking for a place to move to or you're a travel writer looking to see the world, these cities are essentials for anyone who loves to write.
If ever a city deserved to be celebrated as a city for writers, it's Edinburgh, Scotland. In fact, it was the first-ever UNESCO City of Literature. And for very good reason. Many famous authors have penned a masterpiece in the Scottish city, including Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Muriel Spark.
Edinburgh features all manner of literary associations and resources. There's the Writers' Museum, The Scottish Storytelling Centre, and The Spoon Cafe, where J. K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter books. You can even take literary tours around the city to gain inspiration and rid yourself of writer's block.
London is one city with a rich literary history that is still going strong to this day. Many writers say that just being in the city is a source of inspiration. And while the cost of living is relatively high, it's definitely cheaper than the most expensive American cities on this list.
Walk the streets with the spirit of Shakespeare and Dickens, or take a tour of the great city's literary hotspots and famous pubs where you can get the creative juices flowing.
Ernest Hemingway famously called Paris a “moveable feast,” which sums up why it attracts creatives of all types. There are endless bookstores and cafes, not to mention the rich European culture and the bustling nightlife.
There are famous museums, libraries, and art galleries. In essence, there's no shortage of inspiration shining out from every corner of the City of Light. Whether you're a poet, a novelist, or you simply want to do some travel writing, Paris is an essential stop for any writer. Whether you stay for a week or for a year is up to you!
What Makes a City Good for Writers?
The world is bigger than we can comprehend. So if none of the cities on our list sounds good to you, there are plenty more to choose from. Some notable ones include St. Petersburg, Santa Fe, Buenos Aires, Washington DC, and St. Louis (birthplace of T. S. Eliot).
But what makes a city good for writers? If you're on the hunt for a city to move to, check out this list of criteria to consider.
This is subjective and depends on what you want out of your town or city. Making a small list of must-have features is a good idea to determine livability. Do you like a busy, bustling city or one that's more laid back? Maybe somewhere in between? Think about what makes a city worth living in for you.
Cost of Living
This is pretty straightforward. You can compare the cost of living in your current location to that of the city you want to move to. Crunch the numbers to see if you can afford it at your current salary.
Average salaries change depending on where you live. Generally, the higher the cost of living, the higher the average salary. But this isn't a hard and fast rule. A bit of online research can help you determine the average salary for your career and experience level.
Goals for Your Career
Opportunities in the city are important. If the job market is locked up and there's stiff competition, you may want to choose another city with more opportunities. However, with many companies transitioning to work-at-home jobs, especially in writing, location isn’t everything in advancing your career.
Living in a city that inspires you is great. Getting out of the house and enjoying the place in which you live is excellent for your mental health, which helps with creativity. However, waiting around for inspiration to strike doesn't bode well for a writing career — especially if you write fiction. Take inspiration into account, but don't let it be the end-all-be-all.
A Thriving Community of Writers
If it's important for you to meet with other writers in person, this could be a huge factor in determining which city is right for you. All the cities on our list have thriving writing communities. But if you're looking at other cities, it could be worth it to research if there are in-person writing groups you can join.
If you're a writer looking for a new place to live, there are plenty of great places to choose from. No matter what kind of writing you do, you're likely to find a great place on this list. If not, use the criteria listed above to find the right city for you.Being happy with where you live is important for quality of life. And following in the footsteps of your favorite famous author can certainly be a fun and inspiring experience. And if you're lucky enough to work from home, you could just make the rounds to all the cities, living the digital nomad lifestyle!