I began salivating the moment I read the description:
"The Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) is now accepting applications for short-term artists' residencies in creative writing, visual art, film/theater, music, and more. These residencies are designed to give artists time and space to complete their creative projects in a quiet and productive environment. The farmhouse is located on a working farm that rests on a 45-acre wooded plot in a Tennessee 'holler' in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains."
And then, one lengthy application and two hopeful months after stumbling across that blurb, I received a thrilling acceptance letter from SAFTA and started planning my two-week adventure to Tennessee for January 16-29, 2015!
Today, as I prepare to board my flight home after a wonderful whirlwind trip, I know that I'll be digesting my residency experience for months to come -- but here are a few early reflections that I want to share with you:
1) Do this!
I don't necessarily mean apply for this residency (although it was perfect for me), but do take any creative getaway or extended "artist date" that you can conjure up to suit your interests, budget, and traveling style. There are loads of opportunities out there, or you may wish to create-your-own vacation, but traveling on behalf of your artistic goals and spirit is definitely different than going to someplace just to "check out".
2) It's okay to be a sponge!
I have to admit, I didn't get a lot of writing done during my residency -- but I hadn't planned to. My goal for the two weeks was to absorb as much regional culture as possible; to deepen the well that I will draw from as I continue to write and refine my Tennessee-based novel. That desire translated to two weeks of touring the back roads, talking with local folks, eating traditional southern fare, and keeping my eyes and ears open wide. In terms of gathering useful sensory information and detail, this approach surpassed all of the online research I've done for the past three years.
3) Believe in your creative project. Love it, admit to it, feed it.
There were moments during my trip when I heard the doubtful voices in my mind loud and clear. "What are you even doing here?" they would ask me. And, "Why do you think you can write about a place that you don't come from, don't understand, and don't belong?" Ouch. They really know how to bite.
Despite these fears, however, I am choosing to believe - based on my own previous creative experience and the experiences of many artists - that this rebel faction of inner doubters and nay-sayers is just an aspect of the creative journey, a package-deal part of the team. So, while refusing to hand over the steering wheel to them, I can tolerate them sitting in the backseat, chewing gum and talking smack. We're on a road trip together, after all, a big adventure; and my muses and guides are up front, sipping sweet tea and leading me on the scenic routes.
More to come in future blog posts, but in the meantime I wish you creative room to roam, and a continued willingness to follow the roads that call to you,