Writing Residencies That Need to Exist, Stat

Acknowledging many writers’ fondness for writing while riding the rails, Amtrak recently announced that they’ll be offering up to 24 writers residencies on their trains. A train is a great place to get the creative juices flowing; distractions are cut way down, and plenty of inspiration can come from the passing landscape. (J.K. Rowling first dreamt up Harry Potter on a train.) But what about writers, like yours truly, who can barely punch out a text message in transit without getting motion-sick? There are plenty of other places that can offer writers space to concentrate and get creative in, and they should hop on board the residency train (sorry, I had to) ASAP.

Coffee shops

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A coffee shop is the best place to write in. It’s got a casual enough vibe for blogging, a great white noise kind of background to help you get through a serious academic paper, and the eavesdropping possibilities are ideal for novelists. Plus, writing something really scandalous while you're in public is a blast. Why hasn’t this been done already? Residency perks should include free coffee, a reserved table, a guarantee that at least one but not more than two swoon-worthy baristas will harbor secret crushes on you, and maybe quarters to feed the meter. (I’m looking at you, Crema Cafe in Cambridge, Mass.)


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Can you imagine the ideas that could come from being surrounded by any book you could ever want? I know some libraries have residencies, but you know what’s even better than library book smell? New book smell.


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It worked for Bukowski, right? Like coffee shops, the background din (as long as it isn’t past happy hour) is just enough to keep you focused. You could also overhear some hilarious or sad conversations that you could easily turn into dialogue. Throw in a Schlitz or two, and you could be next in line to win the Pulitzer.

A hotel shower

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Sure, you probably don’t write in there, but don’t you always get the best ideas while rinsing and repeating? Residency perks include sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners, and a luxurious robe.

Baseball stadiums

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There are plenty of great baseball-centered books out there (call my dad for some recs!), and they've gotta be written somewhere. Stadiums are rich in history and buzzing with enthusiasm. Writing while watching your favorite Red Sock (this is the singular of Sox, right?) or Yankee hit a home run is guaranteed to help you score your own literary home run.


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Imagine taking a break from staring at your laptop by staring at Monet’s Water Lillies or Pollock’s drips and splashes. Art doesn’t just inspire visual artists! And what better place to write your sociology text or your political biography than within the Smithsonian network? Plus, you’d get a relatively quiet place to work and unrivaled potential for people watching.


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My best friend is getting her Ph.D right now, which means she has a lot of work to do but a flexible schedule in which to do it, so every Friday morning we meet at our favorite café and write for an hour or two. Afterwards, we drive to Bloomingdale's to lightly stroke Chanel bags and try on Armani coats that we’ll never be able to afford. It’s THE BEST. We seriously lose our shit over this ritual. My point is this: I would kill for a writer’s residency in Bloomingdale's; nothing motivates me to work harder quite like having beautiful clothing and Kiehl's products dangled in front of me.

If anyone's game, I'll take payment in a residency, thanks.