Welcome to Tortured Artists, a writing residency where you’ll be forced to endure the profession you claim to love for more than 30 minutes at a time. Here, at our campus deep in the Adirondack mountains, 100 miles from the nearest cell tower, you’ll be completely alone with your own thoughts. How harrowing.
You’ll be staying in our Stephen King room, which was inspired by the prolific writer’s most bone-chilling thriller, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Initially, we considered locking writers in fiery cages or snake pits, but as it turns out, nothing curdles the blood of an anemic writer like a room of one’s own without a TV.
Inside this small, sparsely furnished monastic cell, you’ll find a backbreaking contraption called a “Desk and Chair,” which faces the wall and contorts the human form into an excruciatingly painful stress position: sitting upright. If preventing you from lying horizontally on a couch, where you “write best” seems coldhearted and inhumane, that’s because it is. We’re monsters.
Every residency program has its own approach to help writers to bleed onto the page. Ours is a mind-numbingly crude process called “The Pen,” which involves using the sharp end of a ballpoint pen to scrawl out one sentence after another. Don’t mind the screams coming from the hall. We all respond differently to being compelled to integrate actual, physical writing into our creative process.
Did I mention that our onsite medical doctor, Dr. Michelson, specializes in writer’s block and nervous breakdowns? Please refrain from asking her to manually extract your thoughts with a pair of rusty pliers or by juicing your head like a lemon. For legal reasons, she’s not allowed to comply, no matter how pitiful you look or how many times you rant and rave about the blinking of that accursed cursor.
We do have Wi-Fi, but due to our remote location, it’s spotty and only works under the following circumstances:
- To scroll through social media so that you can see all the things you’ll miss out on while you pursue your “life’s greatest passion” in total isolation.
- To check up on other writers you know to see how much better their careers are going than yours.
- Email notifications will pop up on your screen, but you can’t click on them, which means that instead of writing, you will spend all day taunted by headlines like “What Brad and Jen’s Body Language REALLY Means!” and “Which Disney Villain Are You Based on Your Sweetgreen Order?”
- You can view incoming messages, but you can’t reply, so all of your friends will assume that you hate them. At the end of your time with us, the guilt you feel for neglecting your personal relationships will drive you to a friend of a friend’s socially distanced birthday thing where everyone will ask what you’ve been working on, and you’ll spiral into a blind panic because you have absolutely no idea.
On my right is the Rack Room, our common area where you will be required to participate in a barbaric ritual called “Peer Review.” Once a week, you will read what you’ve written aloud in front of the entire group, and they will rip apart your work — which is no longer merely an extension of you, it IS you — piece by piece.
Our residency is fully funded, so you can forget about using a 9-to-5 or side hustle as an excuse not to write. There’s nowhere to run from Untitled, the manuscript you’ve been “polishing” for the past five years. Your only ticket out of this place is 400 pages of the next great American novel. Just kidding! You can leave at any time — only, you won’t. You’ll follow your dreams, even if it kills you.