The March-April edition of Poets and Writers Magazine features "The Spring 2011 Guide to Writing Vacations", complete with listings for and information about conferences and residencies in the United States and abroad. Who wouldn't enjoy four days in the Hyatt-Regency in the Pacific Northwest or studying creative writing in the heart of Rome for a summer or a year? Unfortunately, such dreams aren't in tune with my budget, so I simply look at the pretty pictures and sigh--but not necessarily with regret.
We all live within our budgets (well, with the exception of the Federal Government--sorry, I just had to get in that small snark), so I doubt that many of us waste time longing for what is beyond our means. Such exercises in futility take up valuable writing time. Besides, for every opportunity one can't afford, another is waiting to be seized.
Personally, I can afford only one out-of-town excursion a month--and that within reason. So I plan short trips with an eye to research possibilities and economy. The more economical I am, the longer I can stay. Arkansas is particuarly rich in historical and general tourism sites, and the distances are fairly short (which is good for gas economy). Sometimes I can combine another hobby, genealogical research, with a writing-research trip.
Excellent destinations for day-long 'writing retreats' are state parks. In good (cool) weather, I keep a bin packed with a supplies such as a tablecloth, hand sanitizer, legal tablet/notebook and pens, and packaged snacks. The night before I leave, I toss in a battery-operated cd player and some music cds, the latest writing journal from my mailbox, and a folding lawn chair. The lappy and a small cooler with water and soft drinks go into the car the next morning--along with the beast, her water bowl, and poop-scooping necessities. (I leave a place as clean or cleaner than I found it!)
Every October, I attend the Ozark Creative Writers Conference in Eureka Springs. A writing buddy and I split gas and the cost of the room and come out quite well. I'd like to find one more conference to attend each year, but I want to make sure it's a fit for me--that is, worth the time and money.
Meanwhile, I like to get out of the house at least once a week and find somewhere cozy to 'hole up' and write. (A location with free internet access isn't always conducive to writing productivity!) There are at least half a dozen such places in town, and a change of scenery is good--and a sandwich and drink won't break the bank. Also--the public library is always available and always free! Ours here in Hot Springs is exceptional in many ways, and I always feel my time there has been well spent.
Speaking of Poets and Writers Magazine, it's an excellent resource, but it's very thick and difficult to store. (and I never get rid of my writing journals--just share them out and welcome them home to retire). I just discovered it's available on Kindle, so I'm going that route.when it's time to renew. And speaking of Kindle, that item is on my 'wish list', but meanwhile, I've downloaded one free from Amazon.com and find it meets my needs for now.
So, while I won't be going to Rome, France, Canada, Senegal, or the Czech Republic--nor even to the Pacific Northwest--I'll be writing just as prodigiously in other locations near at hand. It's practical--not Pollyanna-ish--to bloom where you're planted. And when you write that 'great American novel', who cares where you did it?