Why You Need to Fund Your Own Writing Residency
I’m currently sitting in Lyon, France in a sweet little apartment in the Croix-Rousse neighborhood. It’s as charming as it sounds. Even though I applied for four different residencies all over the world, and was accepted for two and declined one, I still decided to fund my own trip abroad to spend some quality time with my book. It had nothing to do with a revolt against the system or a declaration that I can do things better on my own. My decision came from an answer to a question that I asked myself when I sent off all of the applications in the first place – What if I don’t get into a single one? The answer – I’ll go anyway.
So I have. Here’s why you should fund your own residency too.
Give Yourself Permission to Do What You Love
Without any strings attached. Without considering anyone else on the trip. Without compromising. This doesn’t mean that you’ll turn into a evil overlord in your decision making process or that you’ll forget your children’s names the moment you board that plane. Hardly. What I’m talking about is saying yes to yourself in a way that you may have never done before. Putting your money where your heart is and making a solid investment in yourself.
It doesn’t matter if you never publish a single word that you write while you’re at your residency. That’s a short-sighted, results-oriented way of looking at art that has a tendency to strangle the process until its face turns a waxy shade of gray. Expectations (yours, your partner’s, your parents’) are the killer of creativity, so just get it out of your head that this is the reason for your trip. It’s not. It’s to connect with yourself through your art in a way you may have never done before. It’s a way for you to say yes to being an artist, which means giving yourself time and space that’s free of distractions so you can put your best ideas forward.
Go to a Place that Truly Inspires You
France is in my blood, and I have loved this place long before I even knew what France was. For you, the sea might call your name or the mountains or a city or the Great Wall of China. The beautiful part about funding your own residency is that you’re not limited to where the residencies are located. You can go wherever you’re called to go.
Lyon felt perfect for me because it has a lot of things to do and see, but not too many things to do and see because I am here to write first and visit the touristy monuments second. With beautiful architecture, amazing food, and plenty of new things to absorb, I’m also more open to the changes I need to make in my own work. I’m in the habit of seeing something new every day and it has translated into this draft.
There’s No Application Process
Having gone both routes I can confirm that the application process is a little daunting. Naturally. They’re designed to cull the best from the pool and to throw as many obstacles along the path to eliminate those who are not serious. The minimum requirements consist of the 3-5 page application itself, your statement of intent (what you’re going to work on while you’re there), a handful of references, and your writing samples. Every residency is different and will require different supplemental materials, meaning there’s no copy/paste option when you’re applying to multiple residencies.
The only paperwork you have to get in order with funding your own space is your flight itinerary and perhaps a passport renewal if you decide to go international. Which apartment do I want? Which guidebook should I pick up? All decisions you can make without a looming deadline.
You’re on Your Own Time
Yes, going to a fully funded residency where they cook you three squares and deliver them to your doorstep sounds amazing! I’m all for it, and yet… there’s an undeniable freedom in going on your own and eating at whatever restaurant you want whenever the mood strikes you. You can get an apartment and cook, eat out of the grocery store, binge on street food, or eat a pile of cookies the size of a Volkswagen. You can also sleep as late as you want and stay up all hours of the night. If you feel like you need to take a day trip to a castle, you can go. Not that you can’t do this while you’re at a traditional residency, but if you’re like me, you’ll likely feel guilty for every second your ass isn’t in the chair drafting like a maniac.
These are a few reasons why I think you should just go for it. If you’re considering the residency route or perhaps you’re still honing a winning acceptance letter, I urge you to consider funding your own. It’s an experience you won’t likely regret.