During my last semester in the MFA program, one of my teachers gave us all a letter with a very sweet suggestion: he said that because writer’s residencies are in such high demand, we should create our own writer’s residencies. Now, this being New Years, I’ve heard varieties of this stuff before, but what I thought was nice about my teacher’s suggestion was that we aren’t making a super huge commitment. These aren’t New Year’s Resolutions, which can sometimes be such a huge commitment that it can feel as if you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. No, instead, he suggests having residencies that only last about 90-days. That’s a single season. That’s a small enough time that you can set goals and accomplish them without getting too overwhelmed.
Steps to creating your own residency
- Write an application to your own residency with a timeline of what you want to accomplish during that residency. It’s important during setting these goals that you actually be realistic about what you can accomplish with a full-time job and family obligations, etc. The idea isn’t to drop everything in your life, but to set aside one day a week, or a couple afternoons a week that you can devote. If you’ve been writing a while, you’ll know approximately how much you can accomplish per hour; multiply that by the number of hours in the week you plan to devote to your residency; and there you have a reasonable estimate of what to shoot for.
- Invite other people to be part of your residency. Writing is lonely enough, and it’s easier to stay on track when you have company. This can mean having someone you turn in pages into, or whom you call once a week, or whom you just sit next to and write with, or someone with whom you agree to watch each other’s kids once a week so that the other can write. The key is to pick someone whose writing you admire, someone you want to support so that you can both succeed.
- Arrange some time in your residency for field trips. Go to a reading. Go to a new cafe where you haven’t tried writing before. Visit the library. You can even give yourself a small budget for books or literary journals or coffee.
- Keep moving forward. If you slip-up and miss a deadline or don’t reach all of your goals, don’t try to catch up, and don’t spend a lot of time beating yourself up about it. Just try to start over the next week.