DIY : Why You Should Embrace the Art of the DIY Residency

Accomplishing fruitful works is not reserved for the few.

What is a “DIY Residency”?

I first heard of DIY Residencies when I was reading The Hustle Economy. Film editor and performance artist, Josephine Decker writes:

“Appoint yourself the artist-in-residence of your own home—and do your work where you are. Declare a specific place to be your studio. Outline a series of works you will create, perform, or enjoy while in residence.

Soon after, I came across Deborah Lee Luskin’s post on DIY Residencies. She, quite literally, had a shack built on her property where she could “get away”. She also talks about Julia Shipley, a poet who decided to make a train ride her residency. There she scheduled food, sight-seeing and, yes, writing.


Along similar lines, Shaunta Grimes, who I discussed in my last post, outlined what she calls a “DIY 1000 Day MFA”. A whole lot cheaper than an actual one. You design the course schedule and the course itself, but she suggests:

  1. Daily: Read something—short story, poem, essay, chapter in a book, etc.
  2. Weekly: Watch three movies and write short story, essay, poem, etc.
  3. Monthly: Read one book(any subject), read one craft book (writing, character, plot, etc.)
  4. Yearly: Write one book.

Why DIY?

Having just graduated, and coming off the high that a tight knit, educative, artistic community provided me, I began to panic. I do not want to go to grad school yet, have no experience to be considered for a residency and am focusing on trying to survive in this economy.

Here are some reasons to go DIY:

  1. Experience—artistic experience and in self-discipline
  2. Time—I set the schedule, duration long term and daily
  3. Money—I don’t have any, but I can use what’s at my disposal
  4. Being a Renaissance Soul—my passions oscillate and change, I need the freedom and structure to accomplish what I want without feeling trapped.

How DIY?

I’m not a daily blow-by-blow schedule kind of gal. I structure my DIY residencies by what I’m focusing on, daily activities and what I want to have to show by the end.

For example, while I live in the 01776:

  • My focus is: non-fiction writing
  • Daily activities: publishing on Medium, reading writing books and writing 2 pages in my journal
  • My goal is: X amount of blog followers and a solid non-fiction body of work that I’m proud of

In addition to this, I throw in helpful but indirect activities on the side.

  • Look at synonyms—diversify vocab
  • Read marketing books/articles
  • Meditate
  • Go for walks
  • Practice DuoLingo

How effective is the DIY Residency?

While I have not yet finished mine, I can attest to its helpfulness. I suffer a lot from depression and that general feeling of creative stagnation. The residency gives me a sense of purpose and encourages me that I am working toward something worthwhile. Even when I am not “working”, I feel that what I am doing is useful, even if only for myself and my own craft.

You don’t have to wait for someone else to give you permission to focus on your art.

Only you can grow your craft and you can grow it where you are. You don’t have to wait for someone else to give you permission to focus on your art, even if it’s just on the commute to your job. Declare yourself artist-in-residence of the M train—listen to podcasts, read, study the sounds the subway makes. There is wonder to be found.


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