Teaching creative writing at my town’s Senior Center reminded me of how much good comes from putting pen to paper.
Posted in , Jun 14, 2017
When she died just before her 95th birthday, my grandmother, a published author, left me notes and research for a novel she’d been working on for several years. Paging through the ideas, details and plot twists she imagined, I realized something that inspired me tremendously—at any age, each person has a story to tell.
I brought this mindset to a creative writing course I recently taught at my town’s Senior Center. Our group was small, just four students, but over the course of six weeks, we explored character development, plot outlining, descriptive imagery and editing techniques. The students were a teacher’s dream—positive, respectful, engaged and receptive to feedback. They also did their homework without fail.
One student was working on a travel memoir. Another was compiling a family history. A third was mining high school memories for humor. The fourth was diving deep into her imagination. Each was, in one way or another, exploring the line between truth and fiction, memory and creative invention.
This is important work for older adults—research tells us creative pursuits positively impact aging adults in areas ranging from cognitive function to happiness. Organizations like The National Center for Creative Aging coordinate creative programs for seniors nationally, but most towns offer creative writing, dance, music or art programs through senior centers, libraries and community centers.
In the last session of my writing course, I shared a quote from Virginia Woolf: “Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.” In other words, every story written with attention and integrity is a “true” story in that it reflects the experiences and perspectives of the writer.
This applies to my grandmother’s historical fiction draft as much as it does to my student’s memoir. And it begs the question—which of your many stories are you ready to tell?
In 2001, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I wasn’t a good candidate for chemo. I took tamoxifen instead and gave my trouble to God—just as Dr. Peale suggested in his book, "Thought Conditioners". Since then I’ve remained cancer free. -Guideposts Magazine reader