Creative Writing Helps Residents Find their Passion and Purpose
August is National Wellness Month! This week, we look at how the arts fuel us with passion, purpose, and well-being – no matter what our age.
Chelsea Retirement Community (CRC) resident Helen Brockmeier is a retired teacher who in her 32-year career taught primarily at-risk children, including Head Start. She says she had never really done any creative writing. Then, four years ago, Helen was asked to be the editor for the CRC Reporter. “I heard that the Creative Writing class was where all the good writers were, and I wanted to make sure they were helping me with the Reporter,” laughs Helen.
The CRC Creative Writing class has been led for many years by volunteer Nancy Seligmann Schumann, a retired English professor from Siena Heights University in Adrian. “I really love the class, and Nancy is very, very good with a variety of abilities,” says Helen. “She’s never too hard on anyone just starting out.”
“Creative writing gives us the confidence to write about the things we love and know about,” adds Helen. “One gentleman is doing the final editing of a book he’s writing – a fictionalization of his growing up. Before COVID, we waited each week to hear his next chapter!”
Helen says she is inspired by her classmates and has found poetry to be her favorite means of expression. “Poetry makes me think in a different way and it helps me be a good editor.”
At The Cedars of Dexter, residents Paul and Connie Schubert are lifelong learners. Paul is a former Lutheran pastor who earned his Ph.D. in psychology and started his own counseling practice. Connie worked with children as a psychiatric clinical nurse.
“Connie and I went to several adult learning classes after we moved to The Cedars in 2010,” says Paul. “We met local author, Cynthia Furlong Reynolds. I really enjoyed her class and asked her if she would be interested in pursuing a writing class at The Cedars campus. The Cedar Chips class was launched, and we’re now in our 12th year!”
The Cedar Chips class welcomes not only residents, but community members as well attend from as far away as Whitmore Lake. “This is a very mature group of members who are growing in their writing experience,” says Paul. “Cynthia has been with us the whole time. She is very positively oriented; she lifts up the members and is very encouraging. She is a super leader.”
Many class members are working on their memoirs, including Paul who is working on a collection of short stories from his teen years during World War II. Paul even won an award from the Writers’ Digest contest for an inspirational piece he wrote. “Out of 3,500 entries, only 12 awards were given. I’m pretty proud of that!”
During COVID-19, Paul says the Cedar Chips class was a great outlet for the group, who continued to meet over Zoom. He is looking forward to the group getting back together in person, hopefully in September.
Helen agrees on the importance of staying creative, especially as we age. “You can be creative no matter the number on your age,” says Helen. “This [UMRC & Porter Hills] is a great place to be and to keep looking for your purpose every day. There are a lot of people here who care and are continuing to work on hard issues and hard questions. We all have different gifts and strengths. As older adults, we need to continue to follow those strengths now more than ever and to venture into anything that might seem interesting.”