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The $150 DIY Creative Residency

Nov 22, 2021


The concept of a “retreat” these days is pretty common: yoga retreats, business retreats, creative retreats. They always sound heavenly, even if they sound cost-prohibitive or impractical.  Even a “DIY” version of creative retreats, when folks turn off social media, log off email and make time for creativity or self-care -- this is probably something you’ve heard of. 

More recently, though, I’ve become really interested in the idea of a DIY Creative Residency. I've been fascinated with the concept of a dedicated space, specific time, and creative exploration and productivity in creative business. We see all kinds of industries use the residency format to develop new work and deepen creative growth: 

  • Ginko Bioworks hosts a residency that focuses on the intersection of creative works and synthetic biology and includes everyone from poets to coders and even has a remote option.
  • Res Artis is an international organization that facilitates arts-focused residencies which aim to "be enablers of the creative process... facilitate encounters with the unknown and... bridge mechanisms between different arts disciplines and non-arts sectors".
  • The Flying Fantastic Creative Residency Programme gives circus, dance, theatre companies, and artists the opportunity to develop accessible work and access partnerships with leading practitioners.



What lit up my imagination when exploring the concept of a residency is that it's not a “lovely retreat” or a creative version of a vacation. Often, artists’ or writers’ residencies are very structured and involve: 

  • Application or commitment process
  • Dedicated time away from regular work. 
  • Peers, mentorship, and accountability. 
  • New environment or context. 
  • Specific project or intended output of the residency. 

I was inspired by the framework and ambitions reflected in these residencies... and wondered if it would be possible to marry the flexibility of a DIY or self-administered residency and also emulate many of the elements of a conventional residency in a self-created experience.

This fall, I started thinking about my creative work (which happens within the realm of One Mill School) and how supportive a residency of this kind could be for me. That said, I didn’t necessarily want to focus on motherhood within the residency. And, because we’re expecting our second child in coming weeks (plus have a toddler to care for), I really wanted the length of the residency to be incredibly short so that the logistics of taking the time would be as simple as possible. 

So I mulled it over and spent a lot of time vacillating between extremes (“I couldn’t possibly spend the time and money to step away right now.”) and (“A residency really needs to be several weeks long for it to be meaningful at all.”) In the end, I decided that in this time before my second baby comes, the most time I want to take away from my business and family is two days and one night. And that even that length of time could be meaningful to me. I also didn’t want this to be a pressure financially, so I’ve kept the budget really low. Here’s what I ended up doing...


My DIY Creative Residency

The Structure

I started planning this in October and jotting down ideas for where to do the retreat, whether to invite anyone, and what work output to focus on. Here’s what I ended up with: 

  • Budget: $150. This ended up including $86 (my portion of the shared AirBnB for one night) plus $25 for cafe snacks over the two days, plus gas back and forth. It may sound like a lean budget but partially because my Residency was so short, it just didn’t really need to spend additional money on anything else.
  • Timeframe: 2 days, one night. 
  • Location: I chose Hudson, NY, which is about 40 minutes from my home. 
  • Companions: I don’t often get to spend time with just my siblings (I have a brother and a sister) but since they’re both involved in creative work, I invited them to the Residency. We’ve framed it as 90% quiet work time, and that we’d use meals to touch base, relax, and provide each other accountability and new perspectives on our work. 
  • Work output: Because we’re approaching 2022, I was inspired to take One Mill School’s keystone course -- Clarity Workshop -- and do a deep dive into how it could be an even more powerful tool for makers finding ways forward in their businesses and planning their year. So my goal was to reimagine our course, the Clarity Workshop. 


How It Went

It was fantastic! Here are some of the things I learned: 

  • Budget. I was really glad I kept the budget limited. It felt luxurious enough as it was and more budget wouldn’t have added to the experience. 
  • Location. The location worked really well -- the small, hip town of Hudson, NY. It was nice to have places to walk and window-shop, coffeehouses for a change of scenery to work in, and new people and ideas to encounter.
  • Companions. I really enjoyed having my siblings there. And it felt like accomplishing two things at once: my work and also spending time with these people I love. As an introvert, I always anticipate I’ll be more productive if I’m by myself but that’s not really true. And since they both had defined projects they were working on, it 
  • Focus and work output. I made huge progress on Clarity Workshop and did meet my goal of reimagining it. It was interesting to me that I also got a ton of other ideas more broadly during the retreat and it felt like a great refresh for my mind overall. 
  • Timeframe. Although it was short, I felt like I got a ton out of doing it. Before we left, I felt worried that I hadn’t made it long enough but honestly once I got back, I felt very complete in terms of the experience and the progress on my work. It was also liberating to feel like the “cost” of the retreat in terms of time I took away from my business and family were really small -- which made it feel like something I could easily do again in the future.
  • Accountability / structure. It was really, really supportive to have a clear goal I was working towards and a sense of the steps I needed to take to get there. 


And a helpful tool if you’re considering doing a DIY Creative Residency! 

It turns out that the output of my DIY Creative Residency could be a fantastic basis for your DIY Creative Residency. 

We’ve been working away to update and overhaul Clarity Workshop based on the reimagining I did. I’m so proud of how it came together.  

About the NEW Clarity Workshop: In this day-long intensive, you will move from overwhelm to clarity, gain new perspective on what’s working and not in your business, reconnect to your unique vision, and create a concrete plan and action steps to move forward. In just a few hours of step-by-step guided reflection, you’ll define success on your terms, reorient yourself in unfamiliar territory, build on the bright spots that already exist in your business, and re-establish momentum. 

This is the perfect fit if you are: 

  • Craving a powerful plan to move forward in ways that feel right to you. 
  • Feeling unclear, stagnant, or confused in your business (or an aspect of it).
  • Ready to hold new ideas and chart a new course in 2022. 

Plus, it’s live! We’re offering the new Clarity Workshop in a live, intensive format on January 26th. We ask you to save 12pm-5pm ET that day. We’ll hop on Zoom 3 times throughout the afternoon for inspiring, collaborative mini-workshops -- and the rest of the time will be protected work time for you to move through the material. Or, you can choose a self-paced format that you can work through anytime after 1/27.

Click here for a rundown of the details and to sign up -- by 12/20!

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