Big Cities Feed My Muse

by Julia Phillips Smith

I grew up in a smallish city on Canada's east coast. Although a huge part of me needs the ocean and forest that brings people to this part of the world, there was always a part of me that longed for the Big City, even when I was a little girl and only imagined what it was like there.

I always adored the opening sequence to the Mary Tyler Moore Show, when Mary Richards walked through the busy streets of Minneapolis.

 I always suspected that a city just like that one waited to embrace me in its cosmopolitan arms. As it turned out, I moved to Toronto in my early twenties, and Big City life did not disappoint.

The buildings! The people! More people. Subways. Different languages, different faces. So many things to look at, read, watch, learn, experience.

Following my time in Toronto, my husband and I lived in a small town for a few years before thankfully returning to my home city. It's not quite as small as it once was, but it will never reach the size and energy of a true Big City.

That's why I'm so delirious with joy to spend my vacation back in the metropolis. I discovered an essential truth about myself as a writer during those two small town years.

Peace and tranquility are nice when I need to recharge my batteries. But it does nothing for my muse. She needs to look, hear, taste, smell and feel.

The more horns, traffic, lights, buildings, cars and people the better. My trip to New York last year was an absolute dream come true, complete with this incredible view from our hotel room. 

In Toronto I can soak up as much stimulation as my muse craves. Pinpointing what fills my creative well is part of writing. Before racking up word counts or tying up plot points, investing time in my muse can untangle the knots in what hasn't been working. 

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  1. What a coincidence. I've just been thinking (as I sit on my deck and look out at the lake) how my creative muse feels better here than in the city! I'm going to look at it like this: muses need a dose of the opposite of what regular-type life is every once in a while to work their best.

    Julia, when will you be in TO? How can we co-ordinate ourselves?


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