The creative community every artist needs

I came to Ottawa to do my graduate degree in International Affairs. While in school, I read mountains of political journals, and at work I wrote mountains of briefing notes and memos. I came to know the people who were interested in human rights and international affairs, and went to conferences and gatherings on these topics. It was exciting to be able to immerse myself in international afairs and associate with people who were just as passionate about these topics as I was, but for two years I had completely disconnected from creativity. I stopped creating, I stopped attending creative events and events celebrating creativity, and I stopped being around creative people.

The creative community of Ottawa snuck upon me slowly and deliciously. Once I completed my graduate studies, after work I didn’t have to rush to class or home to write essays. And the first thing I decided to do was to take an art class. There was no instruction, but I had three hours each week to sit in front of a canvas and paint and be surrounded by others who were doing the same thing. It was the first time I picked up a paintbrush to do a serious painting in six years, and although my first strokes were unsure and clumsy, I created something I was proud of and a spark was lit which made me want to create more. I have been painting since, and this class was key in giving me a push to paint. Just talking to other artists, being inspired by their work and discussing our collective struggles made me want to explore and push my own limits.

The next thing to tackle was writing. I haven’t done any creative writing in eight years, and once again I felt inadequate and clumsy the first time I wrote down a few sentences. Then I went to a poetry slam. I was blown away by the talent and I started shyly dabbling in poetry. Yesterday I hung out with poets, writers, singers, and other people who create, appreciate and love art. Two people which made the biggest impact on me were a professional poet who brought a few people to tears  and a writer who is struggling with the same issue I am struggling with – being able to create characters and focusing in detail on specific events from their lives, but being stuck when it comes to weaving a coherent story from those snippets.

Today both  my internet and television were disconnected, so I spent the first half of the day painting (I’m working on project number four!). Then I went to a cafe and started writing. I wrote what I do best – snippets from my characters lives – because when I heard the girl from yesterday read her snippets I thought they were amazing and worthy of an audience. I wrote and wrote and wrote. Some of the snippets turned into short stories. After writing down everything that was in my head, I actually have a better idea as to where the larger story is going. And you know what? Keeping my story as a series of snippets from my characters’ lives is growing on me!

I needed to write this post because I wanted to express just how important it has been for me to be surrounded by others who create. Being able to discuss my issues, fears and passions regarding writing and being in a room where every conversation sparked something in someone was an exhilarating feeling. And I am so happy to finally be just a little more embedded into Ottawa’s creative society and meet other artists and creative kindred spirits.

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