How to write at a writing residency

  1. Talk to the other writers about how they are also not writing but see their printed pages and discuss their book contracts
  2. Order a pair of expensive walking shoes
  3. Check for the package every few hours and see that one of the other writers has also ordered a pair of expensive walking shoes
  4. Walk to the ocean and think about how that writer was asked what she was looking for on the beach when she was, as she explained it, just trying to look at the colors
  5. Walk to the ocean and compare it to a different ocean you loved six years ago
  6. Get very, very angry
  7. Paint with watercolors you didn’t expect to use
  8. Photocopy half the filled pages of a notebook in case it gets lost in a fire
  9. Envy everyone else’s studio
  10. Borrow another artist’s studio
  11. Talk to a visual artist about how she ran up the far hill to get cell service to place an order for lumber and how the call dropped and now the lumber is coming late and wish your work involved ordering lumber or even making a phone call
  12. Feel bad about yourself
  13. Feel bad about yourself
  14. Feel bad about yourself
  15. Suggest one of the other writers name the spider in the window of her studio
  16. Feel good when a dancer offers you a glass of the bottle of red wine he’s brought to dinner
  17. Spot a goldfinch and cry
  18. Watch a falcon hunt
  19. Wish your house was the one a family of raccoons broke into
  20. Drink so much coffee you have to order butt cream
  21. Listen to birds and debate if they are arguing
  22. Count pelicans until they take flight and then count them again in the sky
  23. Debate writing an essay about the possibility of being in a stand-off with a turkey
  24. Tell a sculpturist that no, writing is not easy, but how is making sculptures?
  25. Eat community leftovers with your hands
  26. Leave a mug on the highest bookshelf in the library to remind yourself to take care of things
  27. Convince yourself that you have never, ever loved anyone
  28. FaceTime with your cat
  29. Touch another artist gently on her elbow and say you’re glad she’s here
  30. Go up for seconds at every dinner
  31. Leave the table when people begin to ask the chef if he believes cooking is an art form
  32. Become so familiar with the ways the buildings rattle throughout the day that you begin to imagine the buildings are a mother
  33. Rescue a salamander from the toilet at 6:45am
  34. Miss several people you have not otherwise thought about in years
  35. Decide you need to move from where you live
  36. Decide you need to stay where you live
  37. Lie to the park attendants at Muir Woods that you accidentally ordered a parking pass for the next day because you are too embarrassed to admit you bypassed the four signs you saw that read RESERVATION REQUIRED and thought you’d figure it out when you got there. Lie again that you don’t have wifi to pull up the confirmation. Drive to Muir Beach instead.
  38. Pet other people’s dogs
  39. Make eye contact with the dogs but not their owners
  40. Take one rock from the beach and bring it back the next day
  41. Think about hooting back at the owls when they wake you up at night. Think about really learning to sound like one.
  42. Tell everyone you’re tired when they ask how you’re doing
  43. Sneak drugs
  44. Check your mailbox every day and remember, viscerally, what it was like to have a classroom cubby
  45. Count white trucks
  46. Will the person who does not stop talking to stop talking
  47. Visit the website of your old school district to see if there are any photos of your elementary school cafeteria
  48. Compare nightmares with your housemate. Joke that you are passing them to each other. Find out that he yells in his sleep and then apologizes. Tell him you haven’t heard either and you don’t mind. Smile. Mean it.
  49. Accept the pencil a visual artist from Prague offers because he has too many.
  50. Accept you are writing.

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Amanda Oliver

Amanda Oliver

OVERDUE: Recknoning with the Public Library forthcoming from Chicago Review Press March 22, 2022 • amandaoliver.com