Milkwood International Writing Residency, Česky Krumlov, Czech Republic

About a year and a half ago, just four months after I funded my own residency in France, I attended a month-long writing stint in Česky Krumlov, Czech Republic. While there, I edited my first book project, hiked every day, applied for grad school, and made a lot of great friends. All the reasons I gave for funding your own residency still ring true and they also go for applying to a residency in general. I love residencies so much that I’m headed to one in Arles, France in July and Assisi, Italy in December. My advice – as if you even asked for it, and as if this will surprise you at all – Do whatever you’ve got to do to make it happen.

Here’s why.

It’s Not Just About Your Writing

I know everyone says that. They say you will change. You will grow not only as a writer but as a human. And it all feels so damn cliché until you remember that clichés came about because they’re true for the majority of humans. If we are all singing the same song, there must be something to the tune. Yes, my writing improved because I had dedicated time to sit with it and focus on the words without any distractions. I was able to open my mind to my project, and here’s the real kicker, KEEP it open. No putting things away in order to put the kids in bed, or answer a text message, or run to a meeting that could’ve been an email.

When you allow your mind to open and stay open, it’s amazing what else you open up to. Making friends with restaurant owners, massive serendipity of the storytelling variety, hiking 20km to a castle, saying yes to cool experiences like doing yoga in an herb garden studio – true story, it was amazing. And all of that fed right back into the work.

Remember That Bit About Permission?

When I went to France and I talked a lot about giving yourself the permission to do the thing you love. With a traditional residency that’s even more true because in the Czech Republic not only had I given myself permission, but so had the residency folks. There’s quite a bit of power in that. As much as we may want to be the kind of person who can sit in that chair and get it done, the world be damned, sometimes getting that extra nudge is what makes difference. There’s nothing wrong with reaching for that, or admitting you need it.

And remember, going to a residency is so you can make strides in your art. Even if that art doesn’t produce a dime, and we’ve already talked about why that’s so short sighted. Some of the most amazing works of art were created only after the artist had made a lot of shitty pieces of art. If we expected everything that came out of our studios or laptops or kilns to be prize-winning material, we’d be sunk before we ever started. So extend your permission to things like experimenting, fucking up, daydreaming, failing and getting back up the next day, and dare I say it? Having fun.

Go Make Friends

A residency is one of the best ways to connect with artists from all over the world who you may have never known otherwise. Even if they aren’t working in your medium, they will become a source of inspiration to you and you will for them as well. I made a wonderful friend from Greece while I was in the Czech Republic, who is an amazing visual artist. We laughed. Drank wine in the castle cellar. Watched the fireworks over the river. Yoga’d our faces off in the herb garden studio. Our friendship was one of the best things to come from that residency. We’re still in touch and after my residency in France this summer, we’re meeting up in Denmark for a few days.

Like your mother used to say – go outside and play! Make friends! It’s good juju for life and art and everything in between.

Be Merciless With Your Time

In all the years I have traveled abroad I have never gotten a phone plan. Not once. Yes, I’ve kept in touch via Skype, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram. But you know what my favorite thing is about those apps? I can turn the notifications to OFF. Which means that I get to connect on my time, when it’s convenient for me. Do I worry about emergencies or not being able to get help if I need it? No. The odds of me remembering a particular country’s 911 number is slim because I never remember to ask for it in the first place. While that may sound cavalier and irresponsible, I believe that if you’re careful like you would be at home, don’t do stupid stuff, and wash your hands often, you’ll be fine. The one time I ended up having emergency dental surgery in Prague I had no phone service. I did have a hotel concierge who helped me out and a fold out map to get me there.

Everyone’s situation and comfort level is different. By all means make the right choice for you and your family. For me, it’s not getting a SIM card for the country I’m in. I cannot stress enough how much a digital detox changes everything.