The Spark

Michael, seen here playing with our macro lenses a year or two ago, has been a creative force in my life since we were teenagers.
Michael, seen here playing with our macro lenses a year or two ago, has been a creative force in my life since we were teenagers.

As my readers know, all my life I have been motivated by the idea of being creative. Non-creative people baffle me. Why do they even exist? How can they find meaning in life, I wonder, since creativity gives so much meaning to my life?

In the fall of 1979, when we were juniors in high school, Michael and I took Principles of Writing I class from an outstanding teacher named Ruth Dishman.

“Mrs. Dishman thinks Michael and I should co-author some satire. She says that I am ‘gifted’. I wish she would turn us loose. Then I could show this class what I can really do.” -My Journal, 08-31-79

The hardest project in the class was Dishman’s annual “handicapped” paper, which we did early in the semester. As a class, we interviewed several handicapped people, then wrote an essay based on those interviews. It was more like reporting than creative writing, yet it was my weakest offering of the year. Michael, on the other hand, got very interested, to the point of spending an entire day in a wheelchair. “Strange, I don’t recall doing anything today. The first and last thing I remember doing is putting the wheelchair in (Dishman’s) car,” he wrote in his journal.

As the years have marched on, creative endeavors with Michael have been some of my most productive.

This is my first girlfriend Tina, whose real name was Yvonne.
This is my first girlfriend Tina, whose real name was Yvonne.

I met my first girlfriend Tina in Dishman’s class. I had been flirting with her nearly every day when she suddenly stopped showing up for class for a week. The grapevine informed me that she’d been in a car crash and was at home, so I went over to pick glass from her hair and flirt more. Oddly, until I got married 24 years later, she was my longest romantic relationship, lasting just over two years. At one point she even wore a promise ring I gave her, although I never seriously considered marrying her.

The classed ended up being so fruitful and significant to me that when I was a senior and had an idle hour in my schedule, I routinely sat in on Dishman’s Principles of Writing class.

We once played a prank on Mrs. Dishman, mostly because she was the only teacher we thought had enough of a sense of humor to appreciate it. We photographers had keys to the yearbook darkroom which, inexplicably, also opened the main school doors and all the doors to all the classrooms. (I know – what was the faculty thinking?) One late night we entered the school and Mrs. Dishman’s room, where we removed all of the students desks and distributed them evenly into the surrounding classrooms, making it appear that all her desks had simply disappeared.

My journal: from paper to web pages, its creative nature keeps ideas flowing.
My journal: from paper to web pages, its creative nature keeps ideas flowing.

And then there was “Jay’s Journal.” I got ahold of this book when I was a junior in high school, a gift from Tina. At the time, I thought it was a real journal of a troubled teenager, and the fact that I wrote a journal also was very meaningful. The book has since been revealed as morality fiction, but still holds a place in my thoughts.

The logical extension of the journal has been my blogs and photo galleries here at richardbarron.net, but my career as a professional photographer certainly affords mountains of creative opportunities as well. Creative activities with my wife Abby are among my favorite things in the world, from shooting weddings and magazine pieces together, to our time on the road looking for adventure, the creative spark is still with us.

Principals of Writing class at my high school was taught by a great teacher named Ruth Dishman. This photo shows an exercise in creative thinking given the class by a clinician from the Poet in the Schools (PITS) program in the fall of 1980.
Principals of Writing class at my high school was taught by a great teacher named Ruth Dishman. This photo shows an exercise in creative thinking given the class by a clinician from the Poet in the Schools (PITS) program in the fall of 1980.
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1 Comment

  1. “Non-creative people baffle me. Why do they even exist? How can they find meaning in life, I wonder, since creativity gives so much meaning to my life?”

    My theory is that many such people actually were creative, but they were never given great avenues to express their creativity, or had that part of themselves blunted by life/experience.

    An alternate theory is that they actually are creative; just in ways we don’t recognize: the seemingly boring accountant who’s juicing the numbers daily for his well-paying clients, or the seemingly boring welder who finds patterns in the sparks to keep his mind occupied.

    Yet another alternate theory is that the human race is already starting to diverge into more than one species; some of us evolving to tolerate the mind-numbing boringness of repetitive work and others evolving with expanded minds.

    However, I’m not feeling creative enough right now to actually dig deeper into any of these theories.

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