Creative Fulfillment

How I Love | by Norbert Blei

Jeff Winke

Creative Fulfillment

So I decide last night to drop in on a writers group that takes place at a storefront office. I arrived and sit down at the table filled with stereotypes of what you’d expect to find in a writers group (which got me wondering what role I fill — it must be that of the critical complainer). There is the loud know-it-all dressed in Army camouflage pants and a wide stripe shirt. There is the mousy woman who writes about Armageddon or vegan feminism or some such. There is the native American whose writing was heavily sprinkled with Ojibwa or Tolkein-talk. There is the 30-something attractive woman who writes self-confessionally about how flawed she is. And there is the plain woman, dressed thrift-shop plainly except for a large brooch inherited from her grandmother who writes meticulously-researched historical fiction. The group coordinator is like the sober, clear-speaking narrator in this life story. I like her. I was taking all of this in when a woman–the same age as me–sits down in the chair next to mine and looks at me and says: “Jeff?… Jeff Winke, is that you??” I’m sure I had a deer-in-the-headlights look since I don’t have the facility for remembering faces from my past. I hate when this stuff happens because I know that my younger self will now be compared to who I am today. It makes me realize that I didn’t vary far from what I was destined to become. We knew each other in high school. So, when the “catch me up on what you’ve been doing” conversation came up later over a beer for me and a Diet Coke for her. I was regretting that I’ve never come up with a life history mythology for myself (“What have I done… nothing really… Spent a few years in the Merchant Marines, almost married a Bolivian stripper which kept me in La Paz for a spell, studied pollution trends evidenced in Greenlandic ice at a research center 90 miles north of Nuuk, and then felt homesick and moved back to Milwaukee and married Carol and decided that the whole 8:30-to-5, raise-a-family thing would be an incredible adventure.”). I guess what’s so utterly depressing about meeting someone who I haven’t seen for 40 years is how we each have fulfilled our expected roles. I could have guessed pretty accurately what her life’s been like as she could for me. I feel depressed and I’m not sure if I’m down after looking at this overweight woman from high school still struggling to be “totally involved in all areas of art and achieving creative fulfillment” or if these encounters from the past get me reflecting on my areas where I haven’t achieved the “creative fulfillment” I expected to reach…


  1. Alice D'Alessio

    I like this;( I can play the mousy woman who writes about Armageddon and veggie things.)
    Winke voices the inner doubt we all have – to greater or lesser extent. It’s the pebble we skid on, the boulder we fall over…on our way to that Nirvana the overweight woman has labelled Creative Fulfillment.

  2. jean

    It’s just possible that when someone is creatively fulfilled, that creator can no longer be creative, hence the longing is part of the process. I liked his “group.” Such an interesting variety on the hunt.

  3. Charlie Rossiter

    In a way I find it heartening that so many different adults with so many different motivations might do this—drop into a writing group because they believe they have something they want to say and would like to think they can learn better how to say it. It reminds me of the people in group guitar classes at Old Town School of Folk music chunging away at chords singing “This Land is Your Land” just because they have the personal urge to do it.

  4. David Dix


    If/when you go back to that writing class try not to exchange your above didactic with your old friend.


    I like it, though……

  5. Anne Emerson

    The Art of Disappearing

    When they say Don’t I know you? say no.
    When they invite you to the party
    remember what parties are like
    before answering.
    Someone telling you in a loud voice
    they once wrote a poem.
    Greasy sausage balls on a paper plate.
    Then reply.
    If they say we should get together,
    say why? It’s not that you don’t love them any more.
    You’re trying to remember something
    too important to forget.
    The monastery bell at twilight.
    Tell them you have a new project.
    It will never be finished. When someone recognizes you in a grocery store
    nod briefly and become a cabbage.
    When someone you haven’t seen in ten years
    appears at the door,
    don’t start singing him all your new songs.
    You will never catch up.
    Walk around feeling like a leaf. Know you could tumble any second. Then decide what to do with your time.

    Naomi Shihab Nye

    • jeff winke

      Great insights. Great advice!

  6. Sharon Auberle

    I would be the mouse (really, not the mousy woman) in the corner, saying little, but occasionally coming up with something I really like, and to hell with anyone else’s opinion of it, which seems to me the goal of creativity…
    love the painting, Norb!

  7. Eric Chaet

    When we behave other than people expect us to behave, mostly they don’t notice. They perceive what they expected to perceive, rather than what is happening. So, there is no payoff. Also, they may punish us for complicating their existence by forcing them to consider what we are doing. Our behavior is a challenge to the assumptions on which they base their own behavior. So, unless we are doing what we are doing because of a cherished ideal, which we insist on realizing, we fall back, & do what is expected of us. If we persist, despite others’ not noticing, or punishing us, our lives change the situation.

  8. Jeffrey Winke

    Thanks Anne — love The Art of Disappearing — I plan to post it prominently in my home as a code to live by.

  9. Ralph Murre

    But getting back to that Bolivian stripper . . .

  10. Gretchen Maring

    Norb, you are a visual artist, too! I just knew that someone who could write pictures could draw them, too.

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