Monday I returned from a short trip to New York. While that lede sentence could take this post pretty much anywhere, what I want to speak about is energy. My dear friends and I flew Porter Airlines, which arrives and departs from the Toronto Island Airport at the foot of Bathurst Street just south of Lakeshore/Fleet Street. As I was walking back to my apartment in the Little Italy neighbourhood of Toronto, near the corner of College and Grace Streets – about a 30 minutes walk – I was struck with the energy deficit I was feeling. I don’t mean that I was extremely tired, though travel days do take a bit out of me, nor was Toronto experiencing a black-out. The energy I’m speaking of is more of a social-kinetic type for lack of a much better term.
For background, this was my fourth trip to New York City. In addition to Manhattan, I have also spent time in the Bronx and back in August of 2010 I stayed with friends for a weekend in Brooklyn’s Chinatown. By no means would I say I am a seasoned New York visiting veteran, but I do feel I have a decent amount of experience with the city, as in I could comfortably negotiate the subway system and give directions to the more well-known areas of the metropolis if need be. But I would say that’s more a nod to the genius of it’s planning than my own knack as an amateur tour guide.
Before we returned, I had a couple moments to myself and I made sure to be still and take in my surroundings, some of them very familiar and some foreign. What I tried to focus on was the energy I have mentioned. I did the same thing as I was walking home. Toronto is a beautiful, vibrant and diverse city. We have creativity and we have history, though we do need to do a much better job at preserving what heritage buildings we have. Besides the history ingredient they add to our city they also add a flair of wonder and a beauty that can and, most likely, will never be re-created. Unless you enjoy concrete giants, then, well, you disagree.
What those buildings also add is energy. They add energy in and of themselves, but also add to the energy of the city. Buildings, architechture and planning aside, my biggest take-away from this short jaunt is that everyone in New York is moving. They are all going somewhere. Even if it’s just to grab some milk, the energy of the city is motivating. The energy of New York is kinetic and, I think what I’ve been trying to say all along (and probably should have led with it) is the principle of inertia it inspires, in my case, creatively is unrivaled. This is obviously my romantic view, but standing and looking up and around at Union Square or Washington Square Park or hanging out in the Lower East Side, I felt as though I was being filled with the energy of the people around me, even if they had never picked up a pen or paint brush.
Toronto has this energy but I realized it’s not necessarily bursting forth from the city itself. Though now I have just started an internal (and maybe external?) debate with myself about my skewed perspectives of each city. Maybe that’s an even bigger take-away from this trip that I am literally discovering as I write this post. Maybe I need to take a walk and look at Toronto from the perspective of someone unfamiliar with the city. This would be hard because I grew up within Toronto’s borders, even if a lot of those years were spent in Etobicoke. I was going to speak about how New York’s energy is present in stunning amounts in both its people and its space, whereas Toronto’s is simply present in its people, however, I think I have just given myself a new project of which I will no doubt blog about in the near future. Give Toronto a walk and view it from the perspective I view New York. I’m not sure if that is even possible, but I’m up for the challenge.
This all relates to writing in a simple way: your physical space, if you take a minute to be aware of literally everything around you, not only immediately but also afar, can have and should have a serious impact of your writing. Picture yourself as the Sun and your surroundings as your Solar System. I’m not trying to promote even more narcissism amongst creative types, but it’s the best metaphorical similistic example I could think come up with at this point. But yes, you are the center of what is around you. Take in the energy that is being thrown at you and also give your energy back. Remember that philosophic gem about “what you put out there comes back”? It works for your relationships with people but I’ve learned it now also works with your physical space. At least it did for me. I was seeking motivation and I found it. Obviously traveling to one of my favourite cities and a hub of creativity helped, but I think it helped as much as it did because I went with the intention of finding it, just not in the way or volume that I did. Which is how I am going to approach my new “project” with Toronto and everywhere I travel from here on out. What is my intention? What do I want to find? What do I want to discover? What to I want to take home with me? What is here that I can make a part of me for the better?