Dedicating your life to art is not easy. From the time we are young, all the way into adulthood, we are constantly told to consider careers and jobs that will “pay the bills,” regardless of whether you actually like it or not. The idea of a Bohemian life can be really appealing: making art for the sake of art, breaking the rules, as well as being surrounded by creative minds that think outside the box and experience life to the fullest. But let’s be honest, it’s not nice to get in debt, barely making it to the end of the month with just enough money to buy something to eat, not having enough to pay for your materials or for a decent space to let your creativity run free and make your art. Although she was talking about female writers, Virginia Woolf’s main statement in A Room of One’s Own applies to all writers in general: “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” To create something new, a writer needs of a space of their own, or privacy at least, and enough money to live well, eat well, and sleep well.
Making a living out from writing is not impossible, but it isn’t simple. Fortunately, there are several programs and residencies around the world that provide writers with a comfortable space and stipends, so they can dedicate themselves completely to their work for a period of time. If you're interested in living your art for a whole period of time in a comfortable and peaceful space, as well as visiting new countries or places, these residencies are for you.
Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity Writers Retreat (Canada)
The Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in Alberta, Canada, is located in the lush mountains of Banff National Park, making it the perfect space for those who want to hear the call of the muses in nature. There’s a variety of writing residencies fitting different needs. For instance, there’s the Winter and Summer retreat for emerging and established writers, or the Emerging Writers Intensive, which consists of an entire week of programs to improve the writing skills of those who are just starting to explore this artistic path. Moreover, each program has the option of financial aid or scholarships. The residency includes a single room, regular meal plan, gym membership, access to libraries, and assistance from other artists and writers.
The Millay Colony for the Arts (US)
Located in New York, the Millay Colony for the Arts opens its doors to six artists each month. Writers, composers, and visual artists are welcome here. The retreats can last from two weeks to one month, and they include a private room, a studio, and events the artists can attend in order to enrich their work. Also surrounded by nature, the campus is close to Edna St. Vincent Millay’s house and provides residents the opportunity to hike in the forests or chill in the meadows. The best part: you only have to pay for the application fee ($35 USD). However, remember it only has six spots, so you'll have to submit your best work to earn a place here.
The Kerouac Project (US)
What better way to grasp the elusive spark of creativity than to work in the same space where Jack Kerouac, one of the most important writers of the second half of the twentieth century, wrote On the Road and the manuscript for Dharma Bums? The application is open to fiction and non-fiction writers, and it is divided in the four seasons of the year. Each residency includes lodging at Kerouac’s house and a food stipend of $1000 USD. To apply, you only need to submit your work, and if you’re chosen, you’ll just have to focus on your work and participate in a reading of your finished work at the end of the residency.
360 Xochi Quetzal (Mexico)
This residency is at an hacienda that overlooks the Chapala lake in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. It is open to international writers and artists over the age of 23, and aims to provide them with a space where they can relax and focus on their work. Moreover, the house is located near the city of Guadalajara, which you can visit if you’re in search of inspiration. This free residency includes Wi-Fi, private rooms and spaces for you to work, and gourmet meals. However, it doesn’t include the plane ticket nor local transportation, but don’t worry, public transportation in Mexico is very cheap. Here, you won’t feel like you’re working at all.
Located in the Laugarvatn valley, the natural, quiet, and green landscape of Iceland will become the best place to disconnect from urban life. This space can house up to 8 people per season, and it provides all the facilities you’ll need, including computers, internet, and a kitchen. The closest town is five minutes away, so don’t worry, you won’t be totally isolated from civilization. Here you will find art seminars, courses, exhibitions, and studios. The cheapest option for lodging, which includes a small single room and a studio for an entire month, costs 850 euros, so if you’re interested in this residency, remember to save some money. Of course, the beautiful and inspiring space, as well as the time you’ll have to focus on your work, will be so worth it.
Sangam House (India)
This residency is especially intended for writers who have already published something but haven’t found commercial success or public influence. Besides a space for writers to focus on their work, here you’ll find a network of artists that’ll support your work and allow you to come into contact with other ways of seeing the world, as you’ll meet people from many different countries and backgrounds. The dynamics of this program are simple: writers will work by themselves for most of the day, but then at night, everyone will get together, exchange ideas, and get to know each other as well as people from the village of Nrityagram (near the city of Bangalore), an experience that will enrich their writing and change their perspectives about the world.
Don’t let your dreams be just that. Pack your things, gather your best works and ideas, and apply for these residencies. You’ll catch the creative spark in ways you’ll rarely find in the rush of everyday life.
If you want to find out more ways to live the writing life, check out these: