Keeping the Pilot Light On
especially when the room is cold
Remembering the pilot light is on is the metaphor I’ve been using to think about my writing these last few months. What am I doing when I’m not writing, when I can’t write? How do I remember that pilot light inside myself, the one that burns blue even when the room is cold?
I can’t remember the last time I went this long without doing a significant amount of writing every week, often every day. Most of you know that my dad survived an ischemic stroke in late October and that I’ve been spending time up in Milwaukee to help with caregiving. (He is recovering well! For those of you who know him, you might be interested in reading about his progress on CaringBridge.)
In crisis, the writer’s mind says, sometimes nearly audibly, “Take notes. You’ll want to write about this.” And there are a few notes I kept for myself during the earliest weeks. But I found out there is limited decision-making capacity when you have to make so many decisions about care and trying to prevent your dad from falling while you try to cook salt-free meals and sleep on the couch and call the pharmacy again. And what is writing if not a series of decision-making? It couldn’t happen.
I doubt there is a writer whose practice hasn’t been capsized by chaos recently. Some of the college writers I’m working with this semester have said that they are sick of being asked to write about the pandemic. I ponder similar questions: How many times can I rehash my story? Aren’t people sick of reading about this? But the pilot light burns in the same place.
I returned to a writing group recently, the one with whom I wrote a whole book last year. In the group, we sit silently on Zoom and each do our own work.
Returning to the group, the pilot light worked; the burner turned back on.
Where I’ll Be This Spring
In March, I’m teaching a one-day workshop called “Beyond Placeholders: Titling Poems in Ways that Work” through the Loft Literary Center.
I published an experimental essay on the words queer women use to name ourselves in the literary journal Foglifter. The issue is sold out, but I encourage you to check out their beautiful web features.
I wrote a short celebration of Miami’s fabulously flawed public transit system for Waterproof: Evidence of a Miami Worth Remembering.
Stay tuned for future micro-memoir offerings slated for the summer.