I’m only a couple of weeks into my new bicycle-commuting routine, and I can’t get over the difference in how I feel on Part A versus Part B of my journey. Part A takes me along the West Toronto RailPath, an asphalt strip set between two chain-link fences running parallel to–you guessed it–the railway tracks. Part B is Dundas Street between Landsdowne and Ossington.
For Part B I am utterly focused: on not wiping out on streetcar tracks (thank you, bitter experience), on not getting doored (ditto),on not losing a tire in a pothole or broken glass, on not being smeared into the curb by a delivery truck.
But Part A couldn’t be more different. The RailPath is soft-focus, wide-lens. It’s exhale. It’s whoa, look at that crane moving that truss! It’s cloudscape, redwing blackbird-song, graffiti, weird bits of fur in the grass.
Have I struck on an analogy to writing, here? The difference between academic writing (check your premise, anticipate counter-arguments) and creative writing (banish the inner critic, nurture the inner child)?
Maybe it’s more about head space than genre. Feeling hemmed in or embattled, needing to be vigilant–this is no way to write. Writers need safe spaces, both physically and mentally, in order to be able to slow down, to breathe, to look around and really see.
My RailPath experience, though, suggests that an artist-space doesn’t have to be a cabin in the woods or a two-week beach vacation. It can run right through the center of the city, right along the factories and the construction sites. Just fence it in, and keep out the cars, and you’re good to go. A RailPath for the writer’s soul.