Susie Gladish Snyder woke me up to the “Duh!” fact that I am innovative. From my teens, the message I received from the person who was my sun moon stars – my 8-years older sister – was that I was derivative, not fiercely original… like she was.
In a way, she was right, in that I pick up inspiration from unexpected places – – it doesn’t blossom, wholely unique from within my deepest core. The thing that still deeply connects me to my beloved community was inspired by someone else’s activity. As a volunteer at a hometown fair, I was put in charge of icing & decorating cupcakes with kids, helping them frost them & add sugar decorations – – jelly beans, sprinkles, gum drops. From that was born The Cupcake Lady. The year before, had been part of a six=week farmer’s market, a short run in order to see if the idea had legs. I sold whoopie pies. The next year was our first full season, from the first Saturday in May to the local high school’s homecoming in mid-October. For the first six weeks, I offered just the whoopie pies. Then, I helped with the fair. It hit me, decorating sugar cookie crowns with kids, that it would work equally well with cupcakes.
Voila – I became The Cupcake Lady! One large cupcake, one frosting, three sugar embellishments – $3. I still did the whoopie pies, but the cupcakes were what sold like hot cakes. I added a small cupcake – one mini, one frosting, one embellishment – $1. It was clear that I wasn’t derivative, but that I saw possibility in a sugar cookie & made it my own.
It was at that first full season that Susie, who managed the farm market, said, “Aunt Deev, you are always so innovative!” because of some solution I’d come up with for a set-up problem that struck me as nothing out of the ordinary. Her one statement blew my consciousness wide open. Wow, I AM innovative! Her one sentence, which to her seemed obvious, made me see myself in a radically new way, started the run-up to 2014.
In a flash, my past came whooshing into my head. All the times in teaching & my corporate life where my successes had rested on being an innovator. But I’d never seen it. Looking back, saw that I’d shrugged off things that won unexpected acclaim because they hadn’t been any big deal, hadn’t taken a lot of thought or energy or even action – they’d just made sense. I came to them easily, often within a fun flow, without arduous effort or pain.
That is still true. My challenge now is determining which are the few that are worth my time & energies. While I am emotionally invested in making Cyber Access for the Technically Timid and Values Vision Dreams finally HAPPEN, my right-now focus is making A Creativity Jam for Age Justice a success, developing a client base for our playfulness coaching, figuring out how to make the Rx for Caregivers page-a-day calendar happen, acting as a magnet for the many creative forces it will take to make The Whole Elder Catalog online resource a reality.
It means a lot to me to help people connect to their own inner innovator. For some funky reason, too many humans seem to blow off our great ideas rather than running with them, too often think “How great an idea can that be if I came up with it?” One of my goals is to be an innovation incubator, to wake people up to their natural creativity, to the fun of running with an idea that might fail but lead to another & another.
Being a reader-activist helps. Whether I am reading Krista Tippett or Mark Nepo, Danny Iny or Brene Brown, Gene Cohen or Gretchen Rubin, my radar is up & running, scanning for fresh perspective & insight.
My current work is primarily with olders elders ancients, but my reading spans books & articles & videos on creativity & creative business practices, personal dynamics & spiritual growth, picture books & eldercare. Something completely outside my work, like Steve Pressman’s The War of Art or Jean Houston’s The Wizard of Us or David Richo’s Coming Home to Who You Are, sparks new ideas for the work I love.
Stewart Brand’s iconic The Whole Earth Catalog, its revolutionary vibe & community-rooted purpose birthed The Whole Elder Catalog‘s collaborative, cooperative, community-based “access to tools” vibe.
What a wow, in my 60s, discovering I am a life-long innovator. So are we all. We just need to let go & let it rip. Am reminded of a Robert Frost poem, The Pasture. I am an innovator – you come, too!