A writer’s residency is the ultimate dream of many authors. Still, many of us do not know what it is or how it differs from a writing retreat. So what can you expect when you go on the hunt for one?
A writer’s residency gives an author a place and set timeframe to work on their portfolio. It is often offered by intuitions such as universities, stores, or libraries. In return for the opportunity, most residencies ask that the authors give a workshop, write a certain amount of articles, or show up for networking events.
So, where a writing retreat is a short break from your everyday life to write, a residency is even more intense. It is more like a job where a retreat is a get-away. But what should you look at if you want to apply for one?
All those expectations come with a lot of pressure. I work very well under those circumstances. When I have too much freedom, I tend to flail around. Expectations create a framework in which I can operate, causing me to flourish. I am very aware that this does not work for everybody. So the first question you will have to ask yourself is if you could deal. Be brutally honest with yourself. It is in your own best interest.
Another thing I recommend you to look at is the amount of work that they expect in return. It is all fun and games if you work well under pressure, but if there is no time left to sit down and focus on your actual WIP you are still screwed. Overestimate that what they ask of you, always. Consider the workload doubled. Will you still be able to squeeze in time for your writing? Then definitely go at it!
A writer’s residency is different from a retreat. For starters, you have to apply for one. And that does not mean just filling in your contact details online. They expect you to create a resume, write a cover letter, hand over a work plan, and sometimes you even have to show bits and pieces of your WIP.
The competition is often also killing, so you have to put in the effort to be considered. But hey, if you want to be a full-time writer, you better start treating it as your job.
When you decide that you are willing to put in the work, it is time to find the right place for you. This is the biggest struggle for me because it comes down to making choices. There are so many amazing residencies out there, and all of them are unique. The diversity might make your mind explode. So to narrow your options down, it is important to look at what you want and need.
Start by looking at the timeframe of the writer’s residency first. Some of them last two weeks, others a couple of months, and other ones can last for a couple of years. Does their timeframe match yours? Can you stay away for three or four months, and do you want to? How much time would you need to get your WIP into tiptop shape, and will this adventure add to that?
I do not know about you, but I always had a false belief that a writer’s residency meant that everything was fully paid. Yeah, no. That is not the case. So, even though I feel pretty naïve about that now, I find it important to stress this part. Costs CAN vary.
Some offer housing, food, and covering additional costs to traveling to other destinations for workshops, etc. Others offer close to nothing, you get to stay at a beautiful location, but everything else is out of your pocket. Make a balance and then check what it is worth to you and if you can afford it.
And just a note on the side: applying almost always will cost you a bit of money.
A writer’s residency can come with an additional theme that might or might not fit your life. Think about themes as writers with children, writers of color, WIFI-free writers, translators, and so forth. If you have a specific theme going on in your life, this might benefit you.
A generic one will give you more competition than one specified to you. Although in my case, Stephen King’s future retreat on his Maine estate could end up being the most applied for one in history. Oops.
Is your head reeling yet? Good! Time to jump into action. Do not let internal fears stop you either. Buff up. There is no such thing as not being good enough or not meeting expectations. Like I just showed you, there is a residency out there for everyone. All you have to do is dig around on dr. Google. You got this!
Have fun on your adventure. It is, after all, what makes being a writer so great!