New to Canada? First thing to do: write

A memory exercise we did in our writing class this week. I know, my handwriting is atrocious.

A memory exercise we did in our writing class this week. I know, my handwriting is atrocious.

I am so looking forward to Saturday. But no, I won’t be sleeping in and relaxing.

I’ll be doing something way more fun – getting up at the crack of dawn and taking a 40-minute subway ride to do some writing.

I recently started this awesome creative writing course here in Toronto. It’s for (new) immigrant women and it’s offered for free by Newcomer Women’s Services Toronto. We’ve had two classes so far and with each class I just love it more.

For one thing, it’s a great excuse to go to Greektown. That’s where the class takes place. I love the neighbourhood, partly because it reminds me of New York. Much of my life there was spent in Astoria, New York’s equivalent of Greektown.

It all makes me nostalgic about my very first journalism job. I did so much reporting in Astoria as a newbie newspaper reporter (read: I walked around with a notebook, approaching random people with questions and writing down what they said). I ate a lot, too. I’m still looking for hummus that would top the hummus I had in Astoria.

But I digress. Back to writing. I’ve been a journalist for the past five years, so obviously writing is what I do for a living. But I also write for fun.

Stored in the depths of my Gmail and my Mac are several short fictional stories that I’ve written over the years. They were all inspired by encounters with people that fascinated me for one reason or another. And it helped that I have this ability to elicit stories from people. I find it so touching that even people who don’t know me well trust me enough to share deeply personal things with me.

I just wish that I’d written more stories based on such encounters. The ideas have certainly been there, but I’m so good at using lack of time as an excuse.

And that’s where the class I’m taking now comes in. The structured environment will allow me – hopefully! – to write a few stories about issues that have been festering at the back of my mind.

And in the mean time, I’m back to doing daily free writing thanks to this course. If you don’t know what that is: it’s  the act of writing continuously for a certain amount of time about anything that comes to mind without editing and crossing things out.

Daily free writing is a requirement of the workshop and I’m certainly seeing the benefits. It gives me more clarity about my thoughts and feelings and just better self-awareness in general. So if I don’t do it, something feels wrong. “And something is wrong – you haven’t connected with your creative self.” Wise words from Dr. Althea Prince. She leads the workshop.

Althea is a big shot. She’s an award-winning author. But you wouldn’t know that from talking to her. She’s so humble and approachable and that’s one of the things I really like about her. And also her red scarves and hair bands.

Ok, I’m off to do some free writing.

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