I’m home. Sitting in front of the fire with a cup of tea on a raw Sunday afternoon, I’m feeling good about how I’m handling my Post-residency Stress Syndrome. I was prepared for it, having read an article in a recent issue of Poets & Writers magazine about how hard the transition can be from the wonderfully creative and nourishing space of a residency center back to every day life.
A key point of the article is to plan how to “keep the momentum and sense of creative freedom you had at the colony.” Vermont Studio Center has an abundance of creative freedom, which was evident at every visiting artist, sculpture and painter slide show and reading, and the slide shows and readings by residents. The range of writing projects included free verse poetry and sonnets, novels, a book on the sound rhythms of everyday life, a book on Tibetan Buddhism, short stories, a book on food allergies, a few of us working on memoirs. One woman was translating essays by the Austrian writer Robert Musil. One writer was on an “emergency residency” to try to catch up to an approaching contract deadline for a novel; another was preparing publicity text and related essays for a memoir that will be published later this year, a memoir she wrote during multiple residencies over the past ten years.
And I can’t even begin to describe the diversity of the projects of the visual artists, from representational oil painting to tiny tempura paintings of single eyes and lips on individual ivory piano keys to closets constructed for an installation and filled with hanging extension cords and ropes and large empty aluminum cans and antique green ginger ale bottles.
But the most precious part of the residency was the time for my own project and how much momentum I built in focusing on my memoir. I wanted to come home with the book fully occupying my mind, and I did. Can I keep it up?
I have a solid plan for structured and dedicated writing time that I’ve stuck to so far. Yes, it’s only been a couple of days, but I’m hopeful. Instead of structuring my days around time in my studio and getting to meals, as I did in Vermont, I’ll structure my days around going into my study, shutting the doors and turning off the internet, for at least two hours at a time, at least five times a week. And that’s just 10 of the hours a week I’m planning to devote to writing, and reading that nourishes the writing. That total is going to be 20. And if I routinely exceed that minimum, which I hope to do, I’ll up it.
I came home from Vermont in the middle of writing a book. Now it’s just a matter of getting from the middle to the end.