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Writing Residencies: An Overview and Tips for Planning Your Next Writing Escape

What’s your perfect writing environment? Can you picture it now? Maybe it’s the cozy cabin in the woods, or a bustling coffee shop. Or it’s a gothic library in a spooky castle; perhaps you make your best work while gently swaying in a hammock on a beach. Whatever it may be, it’s probably far out of reach, right? And don’t even mention the common struggle of setting aside time to get work done.

To so many, the balance between the perfect writing environment and time is a dream. Stop dreaming, and start researching. Writing residencies are a very real opportunity!

What is a Writing Residency?

A Writing Residency is an opportunity for writers to escape from the real world to a place where they can focus solely upon their writing. Each writing residency provides a unique experience that ranges in location, duration, expectations, etc.

Be sure to research a range of programs before you commit to one, you want to make sure you find a residency that fits your own needs and expectations. The different kinds of Writing Residencies are just as unique as all the readers who are (hopefully) reading this blog. Search, and there is an option for you.

Here is a link to some Residencies to look into for 2020.

Why a Writing Residency?

Writing Residencies are great opportunities, and are dreams for many. They can offer a lot to writer. It’s uplifting having fellow creatives support your work. If you want to expand your network, many residency programs offer a spaces to connect; whether if it’s over breakfast, shared living arrangements, or workshop environments.

Writing Residencies look great on your resume, and depending on how much work you put into them, both your writing, networking skills, work ethic can improve significantly. Read a firsthand account here.

While most programs charge a fee (there's usually a small application fee, and fees that cover living expenses), there are some that are funded through arts grants, and there are even a few who pay YOU to write. Here's a list of fee-free programs worth checking out.

How do I get into a Residency Program?

The process is very similar to applying for a job, or college. Most commonly, programs ask you submit a strong resume, letters of recommendation, writing samples, and a work plan. A work plan outlines what you plan to achieve during your residency and how you will do it. Writing samples are then sent to a panel of jurors that make the final decision. Usually the selection is blind but some residencies do consider the writer’s past successes. Here is a source that delves into the selection process.

Usually, depending on the length of the residency program, residencies want to see you finish the project you’re working on, like finishing that novel, or screenplay. Or, they want to see large steps towards completion, and eventually, publication.

While they can be nice escapes, a residency shouldn’t be thought of as a relaxing vacation; but as an opportunity for you to put very serious and thoughtful work into your writing. Since writing residencies are very competitive, they will expect a lot of you, just like you do of them. Be sure you’re willing to commit to producing a lot of quality work before you commit to a residency.

Check out some unique Residency programs here.

Unsure about committing to a program just yet?

If you can’t find the perfect writing residency, or maybe the constraints of programs don’t sit right, don’t give up completely. Shift your focus. If you can’t seek out opportunity, make your own.

As I mentioned earlier, a writing residency presents an opportunity to focus solely on your craft. While they provide many prospects, Writing Residencies are not essential keystones in writing success. Don’t fret if you can’t find a program that suits you, if you can’t afford a program, or if your work isn’t strong enough to qualify for a spot.

Consider testing the waters by taking one or two days to go write somewhere of your own choosing. Maybe it can be a two night stay in a hotel. Or a long day in an library you’ve never been to before. Try sticking to a work plan and take a step back to observe how you function in a new writing environment.

In creating an escape of your own, there is a lot less pressure placed upon you and your writing this way. If you end up not producing as much as you would have liked, at least you got to enjoy some quality time away from home. There’s no sense in getting frustrated in yourself; there will always be next time.

Stuck writing at home? Here are some tips for making the most out of your next writing session.

If you’re really committed, you can go for it and book a few nights stay in that cabin in the woods, or shack by the beach. You can do it. And a Writing Residency may be your helping hand to scribbling away in your dream writing nook.

Have YOU ever considered joining a Writing Residency? What would your dream program look like?

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