Yesterday, I got excited about writing again while reading an article on the Books page of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. John McPhee, winner of the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, awarded by the National Books Critic Circle, defined creative nonfiction as “not making something up but making the most of what you have.”
I love writing creative nonfiction, making the most of what I have. McPhee adds the creative part comes from “what you choose to write about, how you go about doing it, the arrangement through which you present things, the skill and the touch with which you describe people and succeed in developing them as characters, the rhythms of your prose, the integrity of the composition, the anatomy of the piece (does it get up and walk around on its own?).” (Laurie Hertzel, March 25, 2018, p. E10).
That’s what blogging means for me. Take what I have and make the most of it, whether it’s on writing, growing older, adjusting to a move in later life, and now the experience of preparing for the death of my spouse. It’s challenging to tease and worry words from my mind, and get them down on paper in some soul-catching rhythm that will take off on its own once the words are down on the page.
Last summer, I had the chance to make that kind of writing experience happen at the Write-by-the-Lake Writing Conference at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. I worked on the blog post I’d written as A Tribute to My Sister Esther: 1937-2017, lengthening it to give it more meaning and depth. And, I’ve just been notified by Amy Jenkins, the course teacher, that my piece, “Caught,” has been accepted for an anthology, Corners: Voices on Change (forthcoming, Jack Walker Press). I’m excited to know I’ll have my sister memorialized in a publication.
I also found out recently that some of my academic writing from my career days has been published. Thanks to editors Paul Heintzman and Glen Van Andel, my dissertation findings, “The Meaning of Leisure for Older Persons,” were just published in Christianity & Leisure II: Issues for the Twenty-first Century (Sioux Center, Iowa: Dordt Press, 2017).
It was thrilling to read my article again. I loved conducting those forty interviews. I learned contentment from my retirement home participants. I felt their strong faith as they made adjustments to their old age. I saw their resilience in spite of the losses they’d experienced. I’ve mentioned this before here, but I could be one of those participants now in my doctoral research because I fit the requirement of age and leisure time!
And, finally, after reading that article yesterday about creative nonfiction, I got motivated to hang out at Starbucks this morning to work on a class I’m teaching for OLLIE next week. I’ve recruited two other transplants from Chicago to present a class on our transitions here. I’ve blogged a lot about our move, all the changes, and thought what the three of us have learned would be helpful to other OLLI members as many of us change locations as we age, some maybe only from our own homes to an apartment, but no matter, moves as an older adult require a lot of adaptation. So, fueled by a freebie mocha, I scratched out the outline for my presentation. It’s been fun again to dive into nursing theories to provide a framework, write a course proposal, and anticipate the fun of teaching.
To be able to use my mind as a writer is a gift. I’ve never mastered painting or piano or pottery, or handwork, so to be creative when I have the leisure time to hang out and enjoy the wordplay is just another thing to be thankful for on an icy bleak wintry day in Sioux Falls.