Five reasons to apply for a writers’ residency

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People often ask me about writing residencies, as I am the only writer / event planner in India to offer writing retreats for women writers. Here’s an excerpt from my soon-to-be-released ebook, Writers’ Residencies: From Research till Submission.

What is a writer’s residency? In it’s most basic definition, it is a block of time (and place and food and transport!) gifted to you to finish your current project. There are five main reasons why you might be seeking a writing residency at this time. Let’s take a look at each of them.

TIME (and money)

Time is a writer’s greatest friend and worst enemy. If you are creative AND an adult, it takes all you have to make regular time for your creativity. So much to do (job, parenting, all the joyous and challenging issues life brings with it et al) and so little time to create…. to write. That’s why the prospect of having a whole stretch of period free to write is so tempting… and so rare to plan on one’s own.

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I agree wholeheartedly – not all of us can take a week off from our busy schedule (your boss or client may have a heart attack if they even hear you say that! For some, it’s not a matter of time but money – they may not be able to afford the expense of a residency. This is why a writing residency is the greatest gift a writer can give herself. Almost all formal residencies offer free room and board, or at least self-catering facilities; some also bear travel expenses too. Most if not all writers crave an opportunity like this to finish their long-pending projects.

FOCUS

Daily life has a way of sucking all our focus away from our creative wishlists! Some writers have extremely demanding lives and find it hard to focus on their writing and give it the attention it deserves. How can you make long-term writing plans if your life commitments leave you with little energy or focus?

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I realise this only too well. I planned forever to write a book on a subject dear to my heart, about Gandhi’s days in London as a law student. But I got my research done only after a patron gifted me a month’s residency in London, in 2013 – and not when I lived two years there as an au pair for three children and student with loans to repay! Taking a break, and attending a residency may be a writer’s only chance to focus on her craft and career.

COMMUNITY

Writing is one of the most loneliest and bravest acts of creativity. If you take any other creative art – say, sculpting or painting – at least there is something to show mid-way, but a writer cannot reveal anything unless her work is fully done! So you write every day, you march on, sometimes in a snail’s pace, but progressing anyway, inch by inch, with only your words for company.

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Truth is, creative artists cannot run on auto forever; they need to synergize with like-minded folks at least once in a while. Most residencies have communal meal times and local excursions; some even pair writers in the same “house”, which may help you find a writing buddy or future collaborator. Artist and writers’ residencies such as Yaddo, McDowell and Omi attract brilliant minds from around the world and the mere interaction can be a stimulating, muse-enriching experience.

CRAFT HELP 

There comes a point when you look at your current WIP and you realize that you not only need an uninterrupted chunk of time to finish it, but also specific help from a mentor or a teacher who can critique your work and guide you in making it close to perfect. You then need to target a residency that comes with a master writer-in-residence or author presenters giving one-on-one critiques or workshop sessions (for e.g., Highlights magazine’s workshops; I won a residency from them in 2004).

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These are more likely to be retreats or conferences, but they still need to be treated as a residency because most of them have need- or merit- based fellowships, which requires writers to submit an application including work samples.

DOWN TIME 

Sometimes your muse just needs a vacation.

She just HAS to get away for a week or two, to a place where she can gaze at a pretty view all day and write when the impulse strikes, and not be sidetracked by survival tasks like cooking or housekeeping. Sure we can harness our muse to work on a daily routine, but now then she needs to run away from the very routine which helps us write regularly – she needs to have the freedom to daydream and rejuvenate and charge up its batteries.

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If you have been managing a hectic career or home life for a long time, and you feel that your writing well is slowly getting dry and that very notion makes you panic and desperate, you know you should look for a residency asap – either a paid one or free!

REQUIRED READING

Check out these blog posts / articles of some writers about their time at residencies – intended to wildly inspire you and swear this year’s the year you will be winning one!

http://www.transartists.org/article/first-hand-residency-experiences-writers-and-translators

http://practicing-writing.blogspot.in/2008/05/talking-about-writers-residencies.html

http://blog.art21.org/2013/02/01/how-residencies-change-an-artists-practice/#.Us51hmQW1Xc

Writers residencies are a god-send – and no they are not some myth, there are legitimate (and highly reputed!) organisations that offer free or almost-free fellowships and residencies for writers to get their writing done – but the application process is no child’s play. In this class, I will help you realise your residency dreams and will break down the steps involved in applying for writing residencies. And as a two time residency award winner, I am qualified to! If you are interested in enrolling in this class, write to me 🙂

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