Toronto – my creative boot camp

“Creativity takes courage.” ~Henri Matisse

If you’d told me a year ago that I’ve be living in Toronto and be more creatively stimulated than I’ve been in years, well, I would have spit my hipster Vancouver coffee out on the spot. Creativity runs deep in my family. My mom is a writer, my dad is an artist (he worked as a stained glass artist when my parents were young), my sister is a talented quilter, my nieces are both artistic and creative, my family is full of musicians and writers and storytellers and creators. It makes me vibrate with joy when I think about it. You see, I think everyone is creative in one way or another, but the creative arts are their own special category in my opinion. To be creative takes a lot of guts, a lot of vulnerability and persistence.

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Surrounded by sky scrapers yet feeling nourished.

My own creativity has taken on many forms over the years, from my deep and abiding love of making music (I started playing piano at age six and eventually got a degree in music and a Master of Arts in Ethnomusicology), to my desire to tell stories (I started my first novel at age 10 or so I believe….and I still haven’t finished it), to drawing and art, my obsession with film and TV and my desire to dance like really drunk people are watching. I may have more talent in some areas than others (my dance career was cut short after a year of rhythm gymnastics and learning to badly dance the Tennessee Wig Walk in school), but I love them all. I love to watch a contemporary dancer tear my heart apart with their incredible ability to speak through movement. I love a work of art that I simply cannot look away from. That I know must be a part of my life. I love a film that plants me firmly in another person’s reality, so much so that I can feel what they feel, understand what they might be thinking (Moonlight did this for me big time.)

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Finding inspiration at the Toronto Light Festival.

Ironically I can’t fully describe in words what the arts mean to me. What they mean to society. What they mean to the world. Their importance is woven into the fabric of life at large and my life in a very personal, essential way. If I don’t nurture my own creativity I feel unhappiness start to creep in. I imagine creativity like a fire within and if continually stoked it will keep you warm and alive, but the moment you neglect it it slowly turns to embers, and once forgotten takes a lot more work to get started again. At the moment I see my creativity in the homeless people on the street stage. A bunch of my creative sides gathered around a trash can fire with fingerless gloves on, beconing me towards them.

“There she is! Damn girl, we’ve been waiting for you to hang out with us.”

“She looks a bit pale, don’t you think?”

“No, I think she’s just cold. You’re cold Kristi! Come join the party!”

“Do you have any food? We’re freakin’ hungry.”

I’m not sure what the creative voices in your head sound like, but mine are really cool. Don’t you think? I kind of love them. So my garbage fire is burning but I have a long way to go.

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Chilly outside but warm inside.

Back to Toronto in winter. My yoga teacher said something today that really stuck with me. Yin yoga is one of my favourite yoga practices. It’s the cool side of yoga…and by that I mean it literally is the cool side, as opposed to the fiery or warm side. It is the balance to the whirlwind of life, the zen. You hold poses for up to five minutes sometimes and it forces you to be okay with discomfort. It forces you to stay put, be in the moment and just give in. It’s the practice that has gotten me through some of the hardest times in my life and right now it’s a wonderful healing balm to the rough fall we had and this challenging transition.

But I digress. So, today my yoga teacher talked about winter and how winter was a yin time. In winter we slow down, we hibernate, we move into the yin side of ourselves and we become introspective. Winter may not seem like the most creative time of the year, but it has a magic that other times of year don’t – the magical ability to force us to be inside and be in our own heads a whole hell of a lot. So here I am, in a brand new city, where I didn’t know a soul, with my partner who is working full time. I decided to take this time to write (both my novel and freelance in general), to heal, to nurture my creativity and find my way on that path and it turned out to be the perfect time and place to do it.

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Winter in Toronto’s funky Distillery District

You see when you’re new to a city you have a lot of time on your hands (if you’re not working full time, that is.) You have time to wander, to try to things, to take classes, to just…be. Sometimes that’s hard (flash back to that uncomfortable pose in yin class) to just be, hard not to have a fixed schedule, people you see daily, someone telling you what to do. But it’s in this freedom that I’m finding my creativity coming back to life again. I signed up for an art class (that is currently kicking my butt), I’m doing yin yoga, I’m drawing all the time, I’m working on my novel and researching it like crazy, I’m writing blog posts. I’m part of an online group that’s currently working on The Artist’s Way together and I’m taking a writing class through U of T on writing fearlessly. And let me tell you….it’s as humbling as it is exciting. Yesterday I felt like my ego was pretty much thrown on the ground and smashed into a million pieces. I looked at the pieces and thought, “well, I guess this is how it all begins.”

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My first still life since high school.

So amongst the concrete, the bustle of Canada’s largest city, the cold of winter and the unfamiliar my creative soul is being shaped, guided, humbled, excited and nourished. I don’t really know what I’m doing, but, as my writing teacher said last night, none of us really do. All I can do is throw myself into the tantalizingly blue deep end and see where this journey leads.

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