First, I'd like to thank Miguel and Kapra for putting on such a great residency, which concluded with a reading by Yolanda Nieves, a local Chicago poet with a phenomenal sense of voice and place. Yolanda urged us to ask ourselves why we wrote, to whom we were writing, and what words we didn't yet have the courage to say. She talked about Lorca's duende, the otherworldly impulse to make art that was part inspiration and part suffering.
There's a couple things about a one-week residency. First, because of the vagaries of residency programming, travel exhaustion, and "so you're in x area let's meet up" plans, I feel that a longer residency--for instance, a two-week--really lets you sink into a project or set of projects without giving up too much. It's hard for me to just hit the ground at maximum efficiency because I like to orient myself and my workspace. The second Two Urns residency put me in a B&B room that I'm familiar with, which helped a lot. But a one-week residency, unless you're more disciplined than I am, is more about the social, cultural, and personal benefits of new space than it is about pumping out a fully-formed project. In that sense I feel successful.
My goals for the residency, which I outlined in this post, were as follows:
I did way more research for submissions than I intended, and have a healthy list of 1/31 deadlines. I also have a decent list of opportunity deadlines and applications in mind. The 'future planning' side of me kicked in this week, and now I feel like I have a roadmap for 2016.
I met with a rescue cat, but I'll be writing separately about my worries and frustrations with that.
In terms of revising short works for publication, it depends. I had two goals in mind when I wrote that one down--first, to revise a short story that I wrote, and second, to revise the short works from prior days of residency. The former goal was not met, but the latter was. Still, I'm going to spend this week revising a ton of work and I'm feeling very positive about that.
I'm ashamed to admit that I didn't touch pen to paper for the drawing class, and that I didn't touch my website except to write blog posts; however, I did map out what the site would look like structurally, and I know that's going to be a long task.
In other news, the trip to Chicago indirectly helped me put my desktop computer together, so I'm writing this from a real screen and typing with a real mechanical keyboard. Now that it's all together, I plan to chart out revision goals for the week ahead of my list of Sunday's submission deadlines. Happy writing!
I'm not fantastic at the whole 'leave your life behind' residency concept. I've gotten better at managing my time since my first residency here in Chicago, or, even more laughably, my first residency at Goddard College, where 'manage your time' meant playing Hearthstone in bed and looking for edible food. (First semester of MFA residency sucks, guys. You're looking for a way around while trying to figure out why they accepted you while juggling a mountain of workshops and tasks...)
But I'll admit that I do other work while I'm at residency, try to find time to do art when I'm supposed to be writing, and even keep up some scheduled commitments like student council meetings, Aisthesis scheduled events, and paid work. That's not because I'm a malicious person. It's because I see my time at home annoyingly expended the most by mundane chores and errands, and when I'm out of town, those vanishing is a huge win.
Someday, when I'm even better at residencies, I'll do it. I'll shut off my cell phone--okay, except to call home so my mother doesn't send a search and rescue party--and tell everyone I'm unavailable and stop answering emails. But right now, the work I do is important to me, and I can't shut off things like my classes workload without incurring a huge time penalty later on. The goal of a residency--for me, right now--is to carve out a different niche in time and space for my work. I don't cheapen that by overcommitting to 'other' activities. Nor do I diminish it and risk burnout later by turning off the rest of the world.
So, without further lead up, here's a list of what I plan to do this week. I wrote it before I left, so even though I'm in medias res as I type this, I haven't modified it at all. I'll post when I get home and let you know whether I was successful:
I'm at the House of Two Urns, a magical B&B in Chicago this week. It's just a few minutes from the Blue Line's Division stop, but it feels a world away from the busy hustle of Chicago.
I've been here three times now, twice for a writer's retreat and once to continue my dream of seeing all thirty active MLB ballparks. It's a fantastic, welcoming place run by wonderful people who happen to be active in Chicago's literary and artistic community. In the winter, Miguel and Kapra run artist's residencies, which is a clever way to supplement their business during Chicago's frozen winters while enriching the lives of working artists.
What is a residency in this context?
For instance, Two Urns' residencies are one week long because they focus on community, holding dinners, recommending events, and encouraging artists--especially their visual artists--to spend time in Chicago's thriving art scene getting inspired, making contacts, and planning projects. I wouldn't expect to come here to complete an entire body of oil paintings, which would be best done at home. Even a writer might not make much headway with a week of uninterrupted time--although I accomplished much more than I thought I could the last time I came. What I love the most about residencies is the space away from the daily treadmill that makes it hard to plan realistic future events. I often find myself planning my next residency--even applying for it--during my time! It feels like cheating on the current residency, but I'm wild about the psychic distance from my desk at home that allows me to push forward with my writing.
I'll be writing more about residencies, and holding myself accountable to my personal goals this week!