Not to rub it in, but: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, not that you care, but you didn’t make this list. You either, Chicago. Instead, we found the places you may want to move the next time your landlord jacks up your rent. Or when you realize your novel is a pipe dream so long as you have to bang out 55-hour work weeks (plus commute).
Fact is, whether or not they admit it, most writers, musicians, painters, and tinkerers of every stripe aspire to remove the “struggling” from the “struggling artist” way of life. No matter what rom-coms suggest, the country is full of cities where you can find a vibrant life, in a home with room to sprawl, where you can cook or play music or just get friends together to conspire and collaborate.
This list takes into account the full livability spectrum: artistic communities (check), a good dose of nature (check), a food, craft beer/cocktail, or music scene, or all of the above (check), and a level of affordability that actually allows you to partake therein. (Apartment List’s July report accounts for the housing stats, unless noted; and the population figures are the latest from the Census Bureau.) These are places where you can actually make it, the “it” being whatever you dream up.