A guest post to motivate, encourage, and inspire...
Wildacres Writing Residency: Time and Space to Write
I've been writing for 30 years. I wrote in high school, took college courses in writing, and after college, took workshops in Amherst, Massachusetts and Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. Yet I've published very few essays over the years. Though I write fairly regularly and consistently, I fit my writing around my family's schedule, often skipping days and cutting my writing time short. I am unorganized and don't often go back to what I'd previously written. I write a lot, but usually do not revise or finish my pieces.
At the start of this year I made a promise to change that. To focus. To take myself seriously as a writer. After reading an article, “26 Amazing Writing Residencies You Should Apply For This Year,” I applied to one in North Carolina which offered one week residencies, perfect for me - someone not accustomed to leaving her family. To my delight I was accepted.
In July, I arrived at Wildacres, in the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains. I had my own cabin in the woods complete with full kitchen. Three meals a day were provided in the dining hall if I wanted to eat there. I had time and space to simply write. No one checked up on me, no one stopped by or interrupted my flow. I usually went to dinner, but often I wrote through breakfast and lunch, eating in my cabin instead.
If I couldn't sleep at night, I wrote. If I woke early in the morning, I wrote. When I saw a huge funnel spider on her hammock-like web on my screened-in porch, I screamed and ran and then wrote about that.
I had also printed out and brought all the stories and essays I'd written since the beginning of the year. In the evenings when I was done writing for the day, I pulled out my stories and essays and worked on them. I revised and rewrote. I turned first thoughts into finished pieces.
There was no internet to distract me, and before I left home I had deleted the games (Spider Solitaire!) from my phone.
I completed what I came to do: write the first draft of a memoir about my daughter, Molly, who died in 2007 when she was eight-years-old. At Wildacres I had the space to cry, think, lay on my bed, walk through the woods. I listened to the silence, day after day and into the nights. Such unending space is hard to come by at home, with my husband and eleven-year-old daughter, cats and dog, dinner to cook, rooms to clean, and getting my daughter to all her activities.
In addition to the first draft of the memoir, I wrote a short story, three essays, a poem, and I revised and completed many of the essays and stories I'd written since the beginning of the year.
It was an incredible week. I have a much stronger sense of myself as a writer. I would encourage anyone to look into writing residencies, find one that fits your schedule and apply. Time alone to write is precious and can change one's entire perspective and practice as a writer.
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