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Thursday, June 8 • 3:30pm - 4:15pm
Brightly Burning: A workshop for primary caregivers

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Novelist Doris Lessing (1919-2013), who tried to “keep brightly burning that lamp above the dark blind sea which was motherhood,” would not allow herself to be submerged by the chaos of taking care of her home and children. She was fully aware of the “stressful and burdensome” role of the caregiver, which includes “physical and psychological strain over extended periods of time, [and] is accompanied by high levels of unpredictability and uncontrollability, has the capacity to create secondary stress in multiple life domains such as work and family relationships, and frequently requires high levels of vigilance.” (from Physical and Mental Health Effects of Family Caregiving by Paula Sherwood PhD, RN, CNRN and Richard Schulz, PhD, published in American Journal of Nursing in 2008).  A lesser known strain of caregiving includes a forfeiture of time and space to dedicate to creativity, which may lead to loss of identity, resentment, depression and/or other health issues.

Frequently, caregivers will begin revealing the trials of their duties by prefacing their complaints with, “I love [insert person being cared for], but…” or “Don’t get me wrong: I love [insert person being cared for], and…” to avoid judgment, to avoid being perceived as ungrateful or a person of ill intent. This will usually jumpstart a conversation of woes. Brightly Burning is an interactive writing workshop that assumes that introductory sentiment of love and yet challenges participants to avoid such obligatory statements and instead jump into the meat of their experiences unabashedly in the interest of communal understanding and in the interest of time.

Brightly Burning is mainly for primary caregivers of small children, though all caregivers of all types of human beings are welcome, in addition to anyone else who would like to join to discuss/write about themes including caregiving, self-care, time and creativity. This is a space for caregivers to emote and to share. It is for us to come together and feel taken care of, albeit for a short amount of time. It is an opportunity for us all to unearth kernels of creativity that we may have buried or ignored on account of being someone else’s pillar. My hope is that it will serve as an escape, a haven, a beacon. Because society sees caregiving and creativity as being at odds with one another, it is vital that we create spaces where caregivers are encouraged to practice and release their creative impulses.

In this workshop, we are asked to think about and dissect our own narratives in a nonjudgmental way by giving ourselves the gifts of time and reflection. We are asked to keep brightly burning our ideas, our own selfhood, and whatever makes us unique and weird. The Brightly Burning format will be similar to workshops I’ve held for socially engaged artists: We will welcome one another by briefly stating community guidelines (including but not limited to the fact that there will be no constructive criticism in this workshop, given the rawness of the material that will be devised). Then, I will read a passage on caregiving from Baby on the Fire Escape by Julie Phillips that we will then use as a diving board for a writing prompt. This is just the warm-up, and we will write for about 7-8 minutes. Following this, we will read a poem on this topic, discuss it (including craft and thematic components), and use that as the second writing prompt. The second free-write will be for roughly 15 minutes. We will use the remaining time to share and affirm one another’s work. No need to prepare anything in advance or bring anything other than something to write with.
Ideally, the next iteration of this work (after HASTAC) will include the same workshop format with the additions of this being in an in-person format and also including qualified childcare, so that participants are able to attend with their children.


Thursday June 8, 2023 3:30pm - 4:15pm EDT