To Live and Write in L.A.
J. Dianne Dotson – Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer – To Live and Write in L.A.

I am writing this post from the City of Angels, as in Los Angeles. More specifically, I’m tapping out these words from Santa Monica, where I now live half the week.

After over a year of planning and decades of dreaming, I’ve arrived where I need to be to dive into the next phase of my life. And LA is no quick flash-in-the-pan. It never was. This is a slow burn, as far as love affairs go. That’s quite different from my San Francisco history.

My first impression of LA (outside of most movies I saw growing up) was from the air. On my first trip to San Francisco, I had a brief layover at LAX. This was in 1992, and there was considerably more smog. I remember, as the plane descended, that I had never seen so many swimming pools! The city looked flat and hot and smoggy from the air. As I had no time to explore it, I shrugged it off, went on to San Francisco, and the rest is history as far as THAT city goes.

The next time I would see LA would be when I moved to San Diego in 2011. After a white-knuckle drive over the Grapevine on Interstate 5, in over 100 degree heat, the car, pulling a U-Haul trailer, began to overheat. Semis were pulling over and I struggled to get the car up those steep hills. Finally, the descent began, and I headed eastward toward the 405 freeway.

As luck would have it, I arrived right at rush hour in Los Angeles. So I had checked off some quite typical Southern California boxes already. And then, remarkably, I entered a moment of Zen. I was stuck among acres of vehicles, and I didn’t need to go fast, because I was hauling a trailer. So I could go at a leisurely pace. This Zen-mode driving would come in handy when I would return to LA in the future.

And soon I would make a point to explore bits of LA on day trips. It fascinated me. My first impression some twenty years prior was not at all accurate for what LA was like. I discovered it is a mosaic of neighborhoods, some flat, some at high elevation, some with skyscrapers, some among large trees. The topography intrigued me. But I marveled more at the vibrancy. I would return a few times each year, exploring new neighborhoods every time. There really was no other place like LA. Not San Francisco, not Portland, not San Diego. This was a whole universe, a city with a beat. And I wanted to live in it. I was not sure how I would pull that off, given the roots my family and I were putting down in San Diego. But I knew I had to be here.

Eventually I returned and met with a visiting literary agent in fall of 2017. I stayed at the Beverly Hilton, and realized on that trip that no matter what happened with the agent, I had fallen in love with LA. It had taken time. But every step I took in the city anchored me a little bit more.

And the realization that I wanted to write for TV and film had taken some time as well. I always knew I wanted to do it, but it seemed so far away and intangible. Now I was where these things actually happen. It was feasible. I could do this. But it would require a lot of research and planning for how to gain a foothold in the city.

Life and career changes pushed me closer. I published my books, made friends in LA, and the slow burn love affair with the city grew into a bonfire. At the right place and time, an opportunity opened for me to move, and I took it. Three months later, here I am.

I moved into a room in Santa Monica in a quiet neighborhood, full of bicycles, kids, dogs, birds, and avenues of tall, gorgeous trees. I will spend half of every week here for the time being, taking a train between LA and San Diego. My foothold will open doors to the many job opportunities in LA. But already I feel a sense of belonging here.

In the past 4 days, I have walked over 20 miles. In short order, I got a library card, a bus pass, groceries, and then I explored. I slept better than I had in years. I didn’t realize how much I needed quiet streets, quieter nights, birds in hedges, the sound of leaves dropping, and friendly, creative people everywhere around me. Sometimes I’ll hear a light plane fly over from the local airport. I even like that sound.

And I’ve not been to the beach once since I moved! My plan is to go after the weather cools, on a weekday morning, and then I’ll see the pier and its iconic Ferris wheel.

While I’m still freelancing, I have applied to jobs every day for over three months. Now that I’m here, I am in a better position to work locally. Meanwhile, I will be working on Book Three revisions, a dark fantasy novel to submit to agents, short stories, and at last, screenwriting. I might even help with others’ films and go to some casting calls.

It’s been a long and interesting path to get here. While it still feels a little surreal to be here, it also feels so appropriate and present as well. It’s a new adventure, the right adventure…and the write adventure.


Image Credit: View of the Santa Monica Mountains from Santa Monica, California. Photo by J. Dianne Dotson Copyright 2019.