Self-expression doesn’t have an age limit, and living long and well means seniors have many stories to tell. There are myriad benefits of creative writing for those over fifty and plenty of resources in Buffalo for anyone who wants to give it a try.
Robin Jordan, writing center coordinator for Just Buffalo Literary Center, stresses the profound benefits of creative writing for scribblers of all ages. “Creative writing can heal, inspire, create communities, spur essential feelings of empathy, and play an integral part in sparking political and social change. For so many, without creative writing, we are nearly voiceless,” Jordan says.
Olga Karman, JBLC board member, is one of the founders and group leaders of the Stadnitski Workshop, a weekly senior citizens writing group. She says participants have developed a sense of community there, which is so important for seniors who can become isolated due to health issues and far-flung friends and family. Stadnitski writers are also building confidence and developing agency in grappling with sometimes-painful memories.
“The emotional benefits are several and they are the reason I continue to dedicate time and effort to this project,” Karman says. “Participants are encouraged to remember and describe times, places, persons, and events that formed them. This activity helps to integrate their past with their present. In giving form to memories, they get a chance to ‘write their histories’ and thereby to control them.”
Mimi Dow, another founder and JBLC board member, says the workshop helps seniors recognize their value. “(Participants) are writing things down, and we’re paying attention,” she says. “We all write and we all share. It’s a confidence-builder.”
To see everything Just Buffalo has to offer, including the Writers’ Critique Group, Studio Poetry Series, and Literary Buffalo, visit justbuffalo.org.
Amy Christman, librarian and manager for the Kenilworth branch of the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library System, started an adult journaling workshop in 2002, and that small community of writers—many of them seniors—remains strong.
The group meets monthly on the first Tuesday from 7 to 8:30 p.m. “The group is open to all adult writers, and the goal is that their writing leads them back to some self-knowledge. Journaling is about learning who you are, and you can do that at any age,” Christman says. For more information on Christman’s journaling group, call the Kenilworth branch at 834-7657.
Mary Jean Jakubowski, library director for the Buffalo and Erie Public Library System, recognizes the importance of creative writing for seniors, and points to the library’s author resources. “Our homepage has a plethora of materials on creative writing and getting published, both in print and online,” she says. “We have tools to enhance the writing process and contact information for adult education programs and workshops in the community.”
She adds that the Buffalo libraries have many creative writing events, like poetry slams and read aloud nights. The library also houses local author collections, so writers can bring their books in to get them put into circulation! Events are free and open to the public, and Jakubowski always welcomes new ideas for programming. For the full schedule of events or to peruse online writers’ resources, go to buffalolib.org.
Many senior authors are penning their memoirs; recording their storied lives for future generations to laugh, cry, or gasp over. Sarah Einstein, who recently published Mot: A Memoir (University of Georgia Press, 2015), has some helpful tips for memoirists-in-the-making. “Read and study work you admire,” she says. “Study the way the author smooths out the vagaries of memory and finds larger meaning in the (remembered) events. Memoirs can be organized in all sorts of interesting and useful ways, and chronology is only one of them. Structure should follow the needs of the main narrative arc, not simply the timeline of events. Take a class or two, but mostly, read, and then write many, many drafts!”
It doesn’t take much to incorporate creative writing into your life. Start a journal, attend a poetry reading, or join a workshop group or start your own. The experience can be life-changing, eye-opening, and instrumental in building a healthier, more connected life. Pick up a pen or flex your typing fingers. Your stories are worth telling.