‘Writing the Pandemic’ with the Center for Creativity


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Nancy Kirkwood, an assistant at Pitt’s Center for Creativity, led participants in a virtual writing workshop on Friday afternoon.

By Anna Ligorio, Staff Writer

Pitt employees, undergraduates and graduate students who recently encountered pandemic-induced writer’s block needed to look no further than their laptop screens for some inspiration on Friday.

The Center for Creativity held a virtual writing workshop via Zoom, titled “Writing the Pandemic: When I can ___ again, I will ___.” About 10 participants attended the free event, which was the second in a series of four different workshops. According to C4C’s website, the “Writing the Pandemic” workshops are all focused on exploring different aspects of this time of social and physical distance.

Nancy Kirkwood, an assistant at the C4C whose main creative focus is writing, facilitated the virtual workshop. According to Kirkwood, she was inspired to facilitate these workshops because many of her own friends and colleagues have been struggling to find inspiration during the pandemic.

“A lot of writers I know are having trouble writing during this time, so it was just an idea that maybe everyone was having trouble expressing themselves,” Kirkwood said. “The idea behind this is to get you started thinking creatively with words, however you want to do that.”

The workshop, which lasted one hour, consisted of three different prompts. Attendees responded to these three prompts and created their own nonfiction or poetry works. According to Kirkwood, these workshops are a creative outlet for anyone who wants to attend.

“In the workshop, we’re working on the basics of what comes up in your mind during this pandemic,” Kirkwood said. “It’s like a creative release valve for the participants.”

The theme of last week’s workshop was the feeling of hope during the pandemic. Participants spent most of their time imagining and reflecting on what they will do and how they will feel when the pandemic is over.

Attendees were first asked to make a list of five different things they were looking forward to doing when it is safe to do so. For five minutes, they listed activities such as going out to eat, riding the bus again or having weekly brunch with family.
In the second prompt, the participants were given more time to elaborate on their initial list with more detail. If the participants listed going out to eat, for example, they then added more details on who they wanted to eat with, where they wanted to eat and what types of food they would order.

Lastly, attendees were asked to write about how they think things will be different in the future. Participants wrote and reflected on how some events or areas before COVID-19 may be drastically different because of safety precautions and guidelines once stay-at-home orders are lifted. Some attendees reflected on how their favorite small spaces will change, such as restaurants, gyms and businesses.

The final two “Writing the Pandemic” virtual workshops are scheduled for June 5 and June 19. According to Erik Schuckers, the C4C’s manager of communications and programming, the “Writing the Pandemic” workshops are available to anyone, regardless of their academic or creative interests.

“The Center for Creativity is a way to bring makers of all kinds together, whether it’s music, writing, visual art, apps, drama or creative business ideas,” Schuckers said. “We’re here to bring together makers across campus and across the students, faculty and staff of all schools and departments.”

For Kirkwood, these workshops are especially important because they can help anyone isolated at home to have an outlet for their thoughts and feelings.

“Being at home, you start to feel like you have a lot of things going on inside of you and feel like you have no way to get them out,” Kirkwood said. “But this is one way to get those feelings out and exercise some creativity, regardless of whatever level you come in at.”