End of Residency Blues

My residency at Virginia Center for the Creative Arts was scheduled to end today, a full month after it began.  As wonderful as the month had been, though, two days ago I was feeling pretty down. The residency was coming to an end, I wasn’t feeling good about the book I’m working on, and to top it off, snow was in the forecast for the weekend, promising to complicate travel.

Over the course of my weeks at VCCA, I’d met some wonderful artists–writers, visual artists, and composers–and it was going to be very hard to say goodbye. I hate goodbyes! And, although most days I chugged along on my book, I’d gotten to the point in the manuscript where I felt I didn’t know what I was doing. Had I just been wasting my time? Should I be working on a different project? Should I give up writing and go back to practicing law?

On Friday morning, I could feel the mood come over me. The book was awful. I’d soon have to retreat into my solitary life at home. Plus: the snow. At lunch, I don’t think I said a word. There wasn’t much I could or wanted to eat (self-imposed dietary restrictions), and I left the fellows kitchen where we eat feeling very low. For an even-keeled guy, which I usually am, this was disturbing.

Given my mood, I didn’t think I’d get much work done, so instead, I changed into workout gear and headed to the gym. One of the unique things about VCCA is its association with Sweet Briar College, which means fellows can use the gym, the pool, the library, and other facilities. I used the workout to contemplate my options, although when another fellow came into the gym I realized I still had not decided what to do. But on the way back to my studio, I made the decision. I would leave immediately.

By the time I had packed up and loaded the car, the snow had started. I had planned to just leave a note saying goodbye to everyone (coward!), but as I was dropping that off in the residence building I ran into some of the folks I’d spent a lot of time with, so got to say a quick goodbye in person. That was a good thing. On the drive home, I second-guessed my decision. The snow wouldn’t be that bad, I’d miss another day of pleasant conversation at breakfast and dinner, I’d get control of the writing during the time that was left to me (basically just Saturday, at that point).

Friday night at home was miserable. Of course, if I’d still been at the residency, I’d have been alone in my studio, probably, so my isolation wasn’t any different than if I hadn’t left. I just felt more alone. On Saturday, I began the chore of unpacking and also catching up on bookkeeping, bills, opening mail, etc. It was a gray, snowy day–we ended up with only about an inch here–and my mood was sour still. Late in the afternoon, when the snow had stopped, I headed to my own gym and got some exercise. That made me feel somewhat better. In the evening, I did some reading. But I felt very drowsy, so I went to bed absurdly early.

This morning, I feel great. Maybe I was just tired after a month of hard work and daily social interactions. Or maybe it’s because the sun is shining. If I were still at the residency, I’d be having breakfast with my comrades or beginning the task of packing up, anxious to be on the road. The roads are probably just fine, so my worries about travel were likely for nothing, but as I’ve noted, that was only part of my decision to leave. Today I am engaged in housecleaning. Later, I’ll go into town, or read, or do some non-writing work that I am committed to.

My outlook today is much, much better. I even think the book I’m working on might be worth the effort, so I’ll get back to that on Monday. And I’m looking forward to my next visit to VCCA or another residency elsewhere.


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