I am always writing–when I am not working, doing laundry, vacuuming, washing the bathtub, shopping for food, exercising, etc. I had been saving up my vacation days just in case I was one of the chosen few out of the 985 applicants to receive a writing residency at a particular program in Alaska. When I found out I didn’t make the cut, I felt only mildly dejected. I expected this outcome, not because I thought my writing isn’t good enough, but because there are a number of factors that go into the choosing, factors that aren’t about quality of writing. Every time I fill out one of these applications, which I do every two or three years, I feel like I can’t provide a large enough reason why my attendance at the residency is crucial to my writing. It isn’t. With that said, I would treasure the experience of writing among other writers, close but separate, all day, and then sharing a meal in the evening, a meal that others have cooked for us, just because we are writers. What an incredible gift.
After ten minutes of sticking out my mental tongue to the judges of the residency, I pivoted and decided to take a couple of vacation days, last-minute, for my own writing residency in one of my favorite places, my desk in my room on the second floor of my little house, where I can look out my window and see branches of evergreens only feet away, as well various shades of autumn leaves from wild trees across our little road. I could do this and have total uninterrupted time because my children are grown and my husband goes to work and respects my time in the evenings. I couldn’t always do this, but I can do this now. I am fortunate, but I am also scrappy insofar as I will not let the choices of a few people determine the value of my writing time nor whether or not I will use my time for writing. I am and have always been determined to write, no matter the circumstances. I do not need the stamp of approval by others to decide if I am worthy of days of paid writing time. I will ultimately decide that. With that said, let me be clear: Writing residencies are doing the best they can and have to make choices. I am glad they are there, and I will apply again, most likely (I attended a Centrum Residency and loved it, but those are a bit different). We are all writers and support one another. We understand each other, too. I’m sure the residency program directors would applaud my home residency.
My home writing residency last week was glorious and highly productive. On Wednesday evening, the night before it began, during my bus-ride home from work, I brainstormed a story idea with pen and paper (instead of my laptop), taken from swirling thoughts I had been trying to coalesce during the week on my laptop. It wasn’t until I took pen to paper that it started to form a whole, so that Thursday morning at 5:00 am, I was ready to write. By Friday late afternoon, I had a full first-draft, and today, Sunday evening, I have what I believe is a story that is almost ready to send out to journals.
My self-directed, dreamy two-day residency was treated as such: I luxuriated in a shower longer than needed, preparing me for my writing; I replaced my remote work-day joggers with soft, clean leggings and new socks as well as a favorite son-gifted, long-sleeve black T with Godzilla written down the sleeves in Japanese characters; I lit a daughter-gifted Boy Smells candle at my desk, near my beautiful lamp; I rose from my desk and wandered to the window for breaks; I made tea and easy meals so I could use all my hours for writing.
This morning, on this rainy fall Sunday indoors, after more productive writing, I broke from editing at specific times and made bread in the stages that it takes–yeast-proofing, kneading, rising, rolling, rising, shellacking with egg and baking–that culminated in late-afternoon meal sharing with people I enjoy being with, just like they do at writing residencies.