Remember the Amtrak Writers Residency program?
If you don’t, it was pretty awesome. Amtrak judges (yes, that Amtrak: the US train service) picked a handful of writers from 600 applicants. The winners were given a free sleeper car with a desk and a window for a round trip and a long-distance trip. They got to ride the rails across the United States, writing when they wanted and eating for free in the dining cars.
Amtrak regularly does residencies of one kind or another, but the writing residency is (currently) a thing of the past.
But don’t be sad. The Amtrak Writers Residency Program is just one of dozens of amazing experiences for writers around the world—some of which involve travel, some of which are closer to home but no less amazing.
Here are some of our favorites.
1. Get Out of the World at Creativcastle
From the website:
CreativCastle is a migrating creative refuge in the world’s most fascinating castles. Whether you’re writing a book or building a business, we’ll give you the support and inspiration you need for a massive breakthrough.
Basically, you go spend a week living in a real, actual, no-BS castle with a dozen or so other writers. Along with the fellowship, digital detox, writing time, and inspiration, Derek Murphy of Creativindie holds classes and gives individual coaching to help get your project moving.
Creativindie is one of the lead self-publishing resources in the world today, the product of Derek’s decade-plus of work in design as applied to making books beautiful and appealing. The retreat takes all of that experience and skill and puts it at the disposal of the attendees.
This year’s castle retreat was in Spain. Derek hasn’t decided where 2018 is going to happen, but (spoiler alert) Bali is on the shortlist.
Get started on the Creativcastle website here.
2. Enjoy an Intimate Desert Experience at the Taos Toolbox
Taos is a smallish ski destination and artist colony in the mountains of northern New Mexico. The air is clean, the sky is huge, and the atmosphere can make the most literal person in the world decide to start writing allegorical poetry.
The Taos Toolbox is a small writing retreat founded by New Mexico authors Walter Williams and Nancy Cress. It spans two weeks and includes classes on the craft and business of writing, along with detailed critiques and writing sessions with highly successful writers at the top of their game.
Beyond Walter and Nancy, the guest instructor list is nothing but impressive. The 2017 roster included George R. R. Martin!
It’s a heavy investment of time and money, but graduates have gone on to get book deals, win awards, and host their own writing workshops.
Get started by checking out the webpage, where they’ll announce when applications for 2018 open.
3. Meet Your Readers at a Convention
Sure, you can go to writers’ conferences all day long…and you should. They’re where you learn more about your craft, make friends with people who can boost your career, and share stories and miseries with people who do what you do. But that’s only one good way to use your time as a writer.
Thing about writers’ conferences is they’re full of writers. You’re not going to find a lot of readers or clients there.
But an industry or fan convention? That’s another story.
If you write blogs about sports, you won’t find clients or guest post opportunities at a writer’s convention. But you’ll find them by the dozen at a personal training conference, or a sporting goods convention. Likewise, if you write science fiction, go to Comicon.
That’s where the action is. You’ll come away inspired on the business side of your writing. Which, as we know, is the weak point for many of us.
Get started by googling “(your topic) conventions (your region).” Or go big and find one in a town you’ve always wanted to visit.
4. Correspond with Your Living Hero
This one’s all on you, but it’s worth every bit of work. Who are your three favorite authors? What would you give to have their guidance and occasional help along your journey as a writer?
To make this happen, you don’t need to sell a kidney. You only have to give time, and a little thought. It works like this:
Step One: Establish your account on Twitter and/or Facebook (you’ve already done this as part of your author marketing, haven’t you?)
Step Two: Find the real pages or profiles for a half-dozen authors you admire
Step Three: Start liking sharing their best posts, liking just one every couple of days
Step Four: Once a week, ask an insightful question in response to one of each author’s posts
Step Five: Watch for when the author starts to respond to your questions
From there, you develop the relationship like any other social media friendship. After a while, you can begin to get real advice and mentorship from that writer.
This one doesn’t cost any money. Get started by researching your author’s online handles as soon as you finish reading this article.
5. Go on the Writing Excuses Cruise
Writing Excuses is a podcast where authors Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler, Dan Wells, and Mary Robinette Kowall talk and teach about everything you want to know about the craft and the business of writing. It’s the most popular writing podcast out there. What could be better than that?
Taking a cruise with the four hosts and a few hundred fans and fellow writers. For a week. With special guests.
The week includes classes, writing time, social hours, and all the shore excursion opportunities you normally expect from cruises. Best of all (from this author’s perspective) is the cellular shutdown inherent in days at sea. Distractions dwindle and your productivity improves.
The 2017 cruise was in the Baltic Sea. Though the location of the 2018 cruise has yet to be announced officially, it’s confirmed to be happening.
Get started by listening to the podcast and keeping up with the blog on the site. They’ll announce details as soon as things are officially decided.
6. Get on Top of It All with a Staycation
Okay. I know. A lot of the stuff I’ve listed so far is pretty costly in terms of money and time. So here’s one that costs very little. It’s a way to jump-start your writing, make encouraging progress, and plan out your career for the coming months.
Two versions of this exist, based on the realities of your living situation.
Version One (if you live alone): Tell everybody you’re going out of town on the next long weekend. I mean everybody. When the time arrives, turn off your phone and lock your doors. Dedicate the whole time—all three days—to planning your writing, thinking about your writing, and doing (lots of) writing.
Version Two (if you have family at home): Find a way for your partner (and kids, if you have them) to go visit with family for a weekend and leave you behind. You’ll miss them, but when they get back, you’ll be a better partner and parent because you’re happy about your writing.
Productivity experts like David Allen and motivation experts like Daniel Pink recommend doing this at least once a quarter. Not all of us can afford that amount of social capital, but even one weekend like this improve your writing life immensely.
There’s no real “getting started” on this one. Just do it. Pick a weekend, lay the groundwork, and get ready to write.
7. Find More Time while Teaching Abroad
This one takes more commitment than other items on this list. I mean, a lot more commitment. But in terms of adventure and potentially setting your career up for success, there’s nothing like it.
Did you know that many Asian countries will hire native English speakers to come out and teach English in their schools? The work week is generally 30 hours. The pay is equivalent to a professional in the US for standard of living (though with exchange rates, it might not seem like much by US standards). You get to add experience to your writing engine while working a job that leaves you plenty of time to write.
Robert Bevan, self-published author of the Critical Failures series, did this for years. He lived and taught in Korea until his books were making enough money to fund his return to the States.
Get started by reading up at Dave’s ESL Cafe. You’ll find job listings, location reviews, and the latest info on ESL certification classes some positions require.
Not every one of these experiences is right for everybody, but come on….one has to be perfect for you. We invite alumni, hopefuls, and writers-in-the-middle-of-it to reach out to us and tell us everything about these opportunities and others.
Want even more ways to turbocharge your creativity and your career? Read on!
- How to Become a Travel Writer
- 5 Ways Writing By Hand Can Boost Your Creative Career
- 8 Reasons You Should Be Writing Short Stories