How to get the most from a writing residency

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I have recently returned from a writing residency in the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, at Annaghmakerrig which is a residential workplace and residency programme in Ireland for artists of all disciplines. I received this residency from Wexford County Council and I am very grateful to them for supporting my practice as a writer.

I decided to go on the residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre as I am working on my second novel, and felt that the peaceful environment and uninterrupted space would be beneficial to the creative process.

There is also the opportunity to meet other writers, artists, composers and film-makers and to receive critical feedback on your work.

 I am thrilled to say that I managed to write 17,000 words over five full writing days, and I wanted to share with you my own experience on how to get the most from a residency.

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Set realistic goals

 It is important that you set realistic, achievable goals for yourself. For example I aimed to write 3,000 words a day. I knew that this was something that I would be able to achieve, especially in an environment that was conducive to creativity. I know some writers who don’t set themselves a word limit and that’s fine too, whatever works best for you. The main thing is that you come away feeling that you have achieved something during your residency.

 Make the most of your time

 Going on a residency is not something that you do everyday so make the most of the time that you have. Be prepared to work hard, receiving a bursary to go on a residency is a honour and I think that it is important to make the most of this opportunity by spending your time focused on your writing.

 Keep a writer’s diary

 I kept a written record of my time on my residency, it is nice to record your experience and any thoughts or feelings that you have during your stay. You can come away with a record of your time and how you felt while you were writing your novel, which you can look back on at a later date.

 Don’t push yourself too hard

It is important to put the work in if you want to achieve the most you can from your residency, however, it is important that you don’t push yourself too hard. Creativity is a process that can’t be forced. If you feel that you are unable to write then go for a walk or read a book. Taking a break from the desk to relax is in my opinion all part of the process, and if you don’t reach the target that you set for yourself, don’t worry there is always tomorrow.

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Make time to read

There is plenty of time to read during your residency, so make the most of that opportunity. Read a variety of books to enhance your experience. Try reading books that are outside your genre, don’t be afraid to try something different. I brought a variety of books with me from classic works of fiction, to short story collections as well as children’s and YA fiction.

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Talk to other writers/artists

A residency gives you a unique opportunity to meet other writers, artists and creative people. Make the most of this, arrange a night where you read your work to others and receive feedback. Go on studio visits to see what artists and composers are working on. You can receive inspiration by interacting with likeminded people. However, it is important that you ensure that you are precious about your writing time as that is the most important part of your residency. During my residency we participated in discussions about the creative process after dinner when the working day was over.

 Now that the residency is over, I am busy preparing for the release of my debut novel “The Ghosts of Magnificent Children” which will be published in October by the wonderful Irish publisher Poolbeg Press.

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4 thoughts on “How to get the most from a writing residency

  1. Sounds like a very busy and productive 5 days. I feel like I need an 8 week residency now to finish this book, ie have it to the printers in 8 weeks time and still a lot to do.
    Well done Caroline, really looking forward to your book launch in October, Kate and I will both be there

    • Thank-you so much Lorna. I would highly recommend going on a residency if you can. There are no distractions at all and you can focus on your writing, it is amazing what you can achieve. I am looking forward to reading your new book, I wish you all the very best with it, I am sure that it will be brilliant Lorna. I am very excited about the launch and I am delighted that yourself and Kate will be there to cheer me on!

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