Since I was a little girl, I’ve been a creator – molding clay into tiny people, building houses out of cardboard, stitching scraps of cloth together.
It’s been such a big part of who I am that some days, I forget that I have the power to create even though I’m still doing it. And sometimes, finding that power comes with finding a creative space.
I write but it somehow seems so normative, I draw and it feels average. That fire – that feeling or realizing that you are creating something out of nothing is exceptional – and that’s the feeling you need to always connect with.
I carry my creativity with me wherever I go. As a teenager, I suppressed it because my school didn’t care much for those who thought outside the box. I was almost afraid of it, afraid of claiming the title of artist in a world that didn’t seem to have the patience or creative space for art.
Then, I lived in Rome for four years – four years of history, art, and literature coming together, pulsing through the city.
Everywhere I went, there were artists and art. Everyone was staking a claim in the metropolis mess of the city of the past. Taking cover to paint on a lone bridge in the city, singing in the middle of a crowded piazza, and drawing at the modern art museum.
Trapped in the crevice of Trastevere, there were open mic nights every Wednesday night, space where all kinds of writers, artists, creators came together and read or played their sounds of music – there is always a creative space for artists in Rome.
And god, I belonged. There is no one that wouldn’t belong there. That’s the true power of art.
Now, it’s been three years since I’ve moved back home to Karachi. The artist community here is growing. There’s been a revival coming and you can feel the city come alive with shows, readings, and crafts, but getting your foot into that door is not an easy task.
It’s not enough to just show up and say, “okay, I’m here, I’m an artist, and I’m ready to be a part of this movement”.
Here, everything comes down to the clique game. I go to open mics, and yet somehow I feel like poetry loses against the strumming of guitars, beatboxing, and comedy.
No one likes sad poetry.
People want fun. And laughter. And hope. Confetti dancing in the open air.
The thought that art, sometimes, has to be geared towards the sole purpose of entertainment frustrates me. More so because I know it takes a lot more to sit down and read a story, as opposed to listening to a song or immersing yourself into a piece of art. It’s a commitment, one that most people aren’t ready to take. It’s not like I’m writing mainly for other people, I always, always write for myself before anything but the idea that the work you put into the world may not have the value you hoped for… that’s what we need to work on.
I always hear about poetry nights and open mics just for writers, so I know they’re happening. I myself have hosted some as well but the problem is deeper than that. The problem is that you can’t just walk out your door and find a place to share your work. Karachi isn’t like a lot of cities, it requires effort to find the things you want to do, and sometimes, after a long day of work, you don’t really want to make that effort. And what ends up happening is that your writing takes a back seat.
You become complacent. You forget that writing is a craft that needs constant work and care and nurturing.
So, for myself, I’ve decided to take some time off and really focus on my work, community or not. At the end of the day, being a writer is lonely and it’s a journey that you gotta take on your own.
So find that room of your own, claim it, and create some beauty with your words.