Writer Christy Strick Reflects on Her May Residency

Christy Strick, a writer from Charlottesville, Virginia, spent the month of May in residence at TSKW.
Read her thoughts on her experienced below.

Magic in the Mango Tree

I arrived for my residency at The Studios of Key West bone-tired from a day of delayed flights, missed connections, and a four hour shuttle ride.  It was 10:00pm by the time I finally lugged my suitcase and laptop up to the Armory, and I had this irrational fear circling in my head that the staff had given up on me and I might be spending the night on the street.

Then I walked into the Armory and the magic that is TSKW. A cabaret was in full swing, and the room was filled with people who were dancing in their seats and singing along. A volunteer saw me and grabbed me a drink and a chair, and just like that, I was part of the group. By the time the cabaret was over and I had settled in the Mango Tree House, I felt like I was at home.

I fell in love with Key West that night, and every day I became more enamored. I fell in love with the Mango Tree House and my deck up high in the fruit-laden branches of the mango tree. I fell in love with the Victorian architecture, and with the food and the sunsets and the beaches.

But mostly I fell in love with the people, the welcoming, non-judgmental, creative and varied people who call Key West home. The incredibly dedicated and enthusiastic staff of TSKW who work so hard to make the environment ripe for creativity. The people who show up for gallery openings and readings and fundraisers for the arts. The people who work hard all day and still have the energy to go salsa dancing half the night. The people who welcomed me into their community without reservation.

Something amazing happens in a place like TSKW, where your work as an artist is valued and nurtured. A creative force surrounds you, and you’re infused with the passion and the energy of all those wonderful artists who’ve been there before you. The first time I walked through the Armory alone, reading the walls and breathing in paint, I felt it, and I felt it every time I went into the space or sat in the Sculpture Garden or talked to a staff member or volunteer. For three weeks in May I was lucky enough to live in that magical circle.

In the time I was in residence, I was able to finish a hundred pages of my novel, more than I had gotten done in an entire year in the outside world. But my residency gave me so much more than those hundred pages. It gave me permission to take chances, to play in my work, and to have fun in a way that’s hard to do when you’re stealing two hours here and there to write. Writing became a joy again instead of a task. I allowed myself to take time to fill up the creative well, to spend long lazy afternoons in the shade of the mango tree reading or napping. (Even my dreams there were magical. During one nap my subconscious unraveled a knot I’d been struggling with in my plot, and after I woke I wrote for 5 hours straight.)

I was able to bring some of that home with me. Every time I start to think up excuses not to write, I ask myself why. After all, no one is forcing me to write. I do it because it’s what I love to do. TSKW gave me back the joy I had when I first started down this creative path. If I ever feel it slipping away again, then all I have to do is remember Key West and the magic that TSKW was for me.

Check out Christy’s thoughts on writing, wandering, and the writing life at her website, www.christystrick.com.

The Studios of Key West