Writing Life During the Pandemic

Writing Life During the Pandemic

This post was originally going to be a spotlight, highlighting and celebrating the works of two Columbia College Chicago instructors, renowned poets Tony Trigilio and David Trinidad. Both were going to part take in a reading with another phenomenal poet, Aaron Smith, whose work has been assigned by both Tony and David in various class—Aaron’s poetry collection has been well welcomed, well received, and has even become a general fan favorite of many Columbia students in the MFA program (especially in my cohort!).

Highlighted in this reading would have been work from Tony’s newest book that was released just last fall, Ghosts of the Upper Floor: The Complete Dark Shadows (of My Childhood), Book 3, work from David’s latest book, Swinging on a Star (2017), and of course, all in celebration of Aaron’s recently released book, The Book of Daniel (also released last fall). A moment to celebrate the work of Columbia faculty, and an author that has remained a steady favorite among students, was all supposed to happen on March 23rd at The Seminary Co-op Bookstores.

Book covers from left to right: Tony Trigilio Ghosts of the Upper Floor: The Complete Dark Shadows (of My Childhood), Book 3; David Trinidad Swinging on a Star; Aaron Smith, The Book of Daniel. Would highly recommend snagging a copy of all three!

But you know the rest. . . the governor’s stay at home order, social distancing, etc. And now, it’s like the world has gone on pause.

The first of many disappointments from March.

With no in person classes, no in person readings—were many of us feel a rejuvenated boast to our craft—you may be wonder “how’s life for a writer during these times,” and I can say that is a mixture, a jumbling of emotions that follow no particular sense or order. Initially, there was sense of emptiness, a loss of motivation, as the sudden changes in the world coupled with the interval of no class as everything was transitioning online, left plenty us with little desire and structure to write. To add to it all, for me personally, seeing the streets empty (I only leave to go to my other, non-Columbia related job, were I am deemed “essential”) is especially disheartening.

The new norm for a usually robust and busy Chicago Avenue.

So, where exactly have I found my spurts, moments of motivations to write? For that, I will have to tip my cap off to instructors Lisa Fishman and David Trinidad, and my thesis advisor CM Burroughs. If there is something that I have learned through this experience between March and April, it is that Columbia instructors really do care more than what we can comprehend from classroom interactions.

Lisa was able to ignite a small flame that seems to rise and dissipate at various speeds, with her first assignment for our now “online” poetry workshop, to be something of journal entry—descriptions of what we see, how we are feeling with the state of things, and a general invitation to be upfront and candid. David’s, now “online,” poetics seminar has a “check-in” space designated for all of us to simply share how we are feeling with the knowledge that the he and the class will receive our words with empathy and cure. And of course, I cannot thank CM enough for he continued communication and feedback on my thesis poems during the period of transitions and spring break, and thus a prevention of allowing my interest to fade away completely.

While everyone is still adjusting to the (hopefully temporary) new way of the world, it goes without saying that community is crucial to sustaining motivation and sanity, and for the world of writing, it proves to be no different.