Women’s Creativity

September 18, 2015 | By

by Dr. Zanaida Griffin

We are traditionally rather proud of ourselves for having slipped creative work in there between the domestic chores and obligations. I’m not sure we deserve such big A-pluses for that.
—Toni Morrison

As a little girl, I dreamed of painting huge murals with bright, bold colors creating various designs and textures; when the mural looked just the way I had envisioned, I would move on and do the same with another (huge) one. I envisioned this as a perfect life—spending all day creating mammoth works of art splattered with various colors that gave me joy.

This was my childhood fantasy. Instead of being allowed to paint these huge creations, I was taught to do what society says we should do. I went to school, participated in extracurricular activities, went to church, and obeyed my parents. When I was praised for my good behavior, I worked even harder to perform well in my various activities, to make everyone even more pleased with my behavior. But I still yearned to PAINT!

I was a good girl. I DID figure out how to slip some creativity in there. I made my own clothes and frequently rearranged the furniture in my room. Most of my energy, however, was spent making good grades so that I could get into a good college, have a good job, marry, and have 2 and a half children. By the time I was a young adult, those little bits of creative expression became fewer and fewer. I rarely made my own clothes—store bought clothes looked more “adult”—and I even hired a decorator to arrange my furniture! I continued, however, to frequent museums and art galleries and purchase art that I loved and could afford. I NEVER, thankfully, went so far as allowing a decorator to help me purchase art.

One crisp fall afternoon I was walking with my close friend, Virginia, who is a talented photographer. We were delighting in the fall foliage. Virginia has a way of seeing things differently than the rest of the world, and I was inspired by this heightened vision. I told her that as a child, I had always wanted to paint, and she said, “I have heard you say that so many times…why don’t you just DO it?” And so I did. I found a gifted, nurturing art teacher who focused on color and the process and not the end result. She handed me a canvas and said, “Say a little prayer, and see what happens.” The significance of what happened was not on the canvas but within me. Carl Jung would have said I accessed the God within. I felt a sense of transcendence I had never experienced. I lost all concept of time, and focused on color and shape and texture, and it was exhilarating!

This was four years ago, and painting now is part of my daily life. I have taken more classes and worked on various techniques, but I do not allow that judgmental critic in me to emerge (saying “your work doesn’t look exactly right” or “you’ll never be a real artist”). I treasure the inward passion and the exhilarating process. My painting has added another dimension to my life. It changes the way I see things and experience my environment. It has led to a fuller and richer life for which I am so grateful. The Ph.D. part of me, however, began to research the theory behind this transformation I had experienced.

The good news is that we do not lose our creativity. It is a dark ember smoldering inside us, just waiting to be fanned and tended to a glowing flame. This can be achieved by mindfully scheduling regular creative activities such as attending museums, art exhibits, and concerts, spending time alone connecting with your artist self to nurture your creativity—whether it’s a walk outside by yourself focusing on nature, or a visit to a store simply to explore, not with the thought of purchasing a given item—and regular journaling, in which you allow the artist within to express herself. Living a creative life has so transformed the richness of my own personal life that I feel led to facilitate the creative way to others. I am teaching a creativity course at Samford After Sundown and conducting regular creativity retreats in Santa Fe, New Mexico. To learn more about the retreats, visit my website at http://www.womensretreat.web.officelive.com.

Filed in: Library, Women's Issues

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