5 Writing Residency Rituals


We’ve written a lot about our residencies at Dorland Mountain Arts Colony these last few years, including about some of the ways our approaches and experiences repeat and change. Here are five of the constants—besides writing and revising—this time, which echo the past too.


Doug finished The Great Gatsby and is now in the midst of James Michener’s Space, a fictional tome that spans from World War II through the early Space Age. A mention of the latter will surely find its way into the revision of Generation Space, which is the focus of this residency.

Anna finished Silence, a book by John Biguenet that’s part of the Object Lessons series to which she’ll contribute Tumor. She started reading Waste, another book in the series, to get a sense of the range for the series. She’d already read a couple of others before submitting the proposal she wrote during our last Dorland retreat.

The Hill

The colony and its two cabins for visiting writers, artists, and composers are situated on a steep hill, part of a mountain range. We walk the hill every afternoon, usually twice. Doug often runs it a couple of times, too. This exercise is a way to calm the mind, reinvigorate the body, and appreciate the amazing landscape that surrounds our work. It’s a ritual we’ve maintained through every residency here, skipping a day on The Hill only occasionally, a result of heavy rain or exhaustion. The time out of the cabin for physical exertion seems to make us more productive at our desks.


DoritosMany colonies supply meals to residents, but, at Dorland, you’re on your own. As we’ve written before, we allow ourselves taco-flavored Doritos, a lunchtime side or an evening snack. We also stock up on a sourdough wheat bread available at Sprouts and all-natural peanut butter, a quick, filling breakfast or snack. We rely on cans of soup and frozen macaroni, pizza, and veggies. Sometimes, we panfry fish or cook pasta, but we keep meal preparation and cleanup quick and simple. We generally treat ourselves to one dinner in town each week, a break that reminds us the rest of humanity is out there. All our meals here are breaks to sustain writing, not events in and off themselves, even as we enjoy them.


We don’t set an alarm, and the day falls into place anyway. We write and revise to exhaustion, often crawling into bed earlier than we do at home and reading for a few minutes. We sleep deeply, occasionally fitfully. We wake but don’t rush, then we’re back at our desks. The day’s sections fit together and rationalize each other’s role in the whole, and we fall into each moment more easily, not thinking much about past and future that seems necessary at home.


PonteGrapesWe don’t drink every night, as that might slow our overall progress. (Caffeine, we admit, is a daily staple, though seemingly less pressingly than at home.) Temecula, though, is wine country, and we like to support the local economy, so we treat ourselves to a bottle from Ponte or Bel Vino now and then. On Monday, we built a fire in the stove and poured a couple of glasses of Ponte’s Meritage. The cabins have no heat, and, while space heaters suffice, a fire in the stove was an especially cozy complement to a relaxing evening halfway through our residency, a time to talk about what we’d accomplished and what’s left to do.

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