Los Angeles: The Writer’s Natural Habitat

 

“There are just as many starving writers in Los Angeles as there are actors parking cars.”

 

That was my mom’s standard response whenever I told her I wanted to be a writer, beginning somewhere around age 5 when I first fell in love with the written word. (Incidentally, the irony that I began the freelance writing career that allowed me to raise my brother and sister only after she passed isn’t lost on me. I like to think it makes her smile, wherever she is.)

 

At any rate, I understood her desire for me to focus on a more stable career path. Hey, I’m no dummy. L.A’s smoggy, congested streets are littered with the broken dreams and half-finished manuscripts of the writers that came before me. But if there’s anything I’ve gleaned from my time hustling articles, blogs, press releases and web copy it’s that I am nothing if not tenacious and driven. Instead of being discouraged by all of the unemployed and “aspiring” writers in the City of Angels, I’ve come to discover that there’s plenty about my home town that’s actually pretty inspiring. So, as I carve out my “I am going to start writing fiction, too, even if it kills me” plan, here’s a look at some of the (sometimes surprising) reasons why I love LA –

 

Characters are Everywhere

Seriously. Have you ever been to Los Angeles? Or any part of California, for that matter? There are characters, personalities, fascinating people everywhere for you to explore and gain inspiration from. I grew up in a part of North Hollywood where most people roll up their windows and try to drive through as quickly as possible. Thinking back on my grandma’s apartment complex, I could probably populate an entire novel with the characters behind those faded numbered doors.

 

There was the incredibly sweet old woman old woman who still wore the huaraches she’d crossed the border in every time she walked to the Laundromat; her face a crisscross of deep lines and a wide, toothless smile. The gang bangers with wrap sheets longer than they were, who always – always – brought my grandma’s groceries into the apartment for her so she wouldn’t have to carry them. The German man who lived across the street and washed his old and immaculately kept Volvo every afternoon, muttering way too loudly about how this used to be a nice neighborhood. And, of course, my own loud Cuban family.

 

Basically, everywhere you turn in Southern California, you’re going to run into someone with a story. And those people make for great stories.

 

Beauty is Inspiring

No, I’m not talking about the perfectly plastic and polished actresses strolling along Rodeo, or the buff bodies strutting their stuff on Muscle Beach. (Although, there is a lot of that kind of beauty in this town, too.) No, I mean there’s something about the city and the suburbs themselves that are beautiful. And that kind of setting inspires.

 

I live in a high desert suburb now, where there’s not much traffic and sunsets over the Joshua trees and mountains still catches my breath. But I’m a close drive from lakes, beaches, palm tree-lined streets, soaring buildings… basically there’s something to see all over the place, and that variety and scenery is a gift for writers.

 

It’s Gritty

Behind all that beauty, of course, is the noir side to the city. Crooked cops, riots, tension, drugs, pollution… The best art comes from pain, and LA is definitely a city with a past. Tapping into that is sometimes all the inspiration you need.

 

You’re Not Alone

Finally, there’s something to be said for the fact that there are so many damned writers in LA. Writing is often a lonely, confusing world. Knowing that there are talented, struggling, successful, and brilliant writers near you that you can talk to, ask advice from, and who just *get* what you’re going through makes you feel less like an island and more a part of a community.

 

So there you have my reasons for loving LA. Do you find inspiration from your location? Is there something about your town, city, state, trailer park, UFO or farmland that pushes you to be better at what you do?

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Writers Write!

 

Writers write!

When I first set my stubborn Cuban-bred mind to become a wordsmith, that was my mantra. I sat down at my clunky old computer one fine afternoon and decided that I was going to do it — finally!– I was going to follow my passion and disregard every well-meaning piece of advice I’ve ever gotten. I was hereby a writer, dangit, and writers WRITE!

Well, what nobody told me was that writers also have to pay the rent and keep the lights on. That’s when I set the idea of Barnes and Nobel book signings and long lines of adoring fans waiting overnight in the rain to scoop up my latest novel on the back burner. Hey, it’s not that I gave up on my dream, but no one wants to fight Big Earl for the least soggy box under the overpass. I became a freelance writer, picking up various jobs writing for websites, advertising companies, online magazines, and the occasional BDSM club. (Rent, remember?)

And along the way, I discovered something fascinating. I wasn’t stewing at the keyboard every day, sobbing into my latte about how I’d sold out and become something I was ashamed of. Instead, I was  having a great time. I was writing! And learning all kinds of various things, which is awesome for a word nerd. I picked up a job writing about lingerie and swimwear for a fabulous company. I learned how to write radio copy and heard my work on the air. I found out that leather chaps can chafe a little if you’re not careful…

At any rate, I’ve come to love my job as a freelancer, as it affords me the opportunity to explore and write about just about everything. Do I still yearn to see my name on a hardcover, clutched in the hands of a slightly rabid fan who secretly dreams of tying me up, Misery style because they can’t get enough? Of course. Which is why I’ve worked writing fiction back into my 3 year plan. But I’m not sure I’ll ever give up the freelance gig completely, because I’ve really grown to love the freedom it gives me to explore things I might never have written about otherwise.

Well, unless I fall into a soft patch and stumble across a winning lottery ticket worth a couple mil. Then you’ll find me on a private yacht, heading towards the Greek Isles as I dictate my memoir to a cute scribe with broad shoulders…