Sue and I have known each other for years through the International Center for Studies in Creativity where she is Assistant Professor. This paper 2007 presents woman’s wisdom on creativity Sue collected and synthesized for her Ph.D. It’s posted as one way to celebrate International Woman’s Day, March 8.
Lessons from Mature Women and Beyond: Some Thoughts on Nurturing Creativity by Dr. Susan Keller-Mathers
My journey in creativity began the summer of 1987 as an eager graduate student in Dr. Mary Murdock’s theory of creativity class. I had just resigned my job as a teacher in the New Orleans Schools and headed to Buffalo to study creativity. Reflecting back on that journey I have been so fortunate to gain wisdom from the lives of so many amazing women like Drs. Mary Murdock and Ruth Noller.
As a young woman, I was fascinated by autobiographies of women. Most recently I became intrigued with the work of Ravana Helson, Sally Reis and other scholars who are studying women and creativity. These scholars inspired me complete a qualitative study of 11 mature women of creative accomplishment for my dissertation. My inquiry in creative women is just beginning and thanks to the many women who’ve spent decades examining this topic, both through studies of creativity and through the articulation of the everyday life of women, I’ve found an area of inspiration and growth. As a mother of a 17 year old, I share with you some of my initial thinking about nurturing one’s creativity as a female. Thank you to all of the scholars and everyday inspirational women for their contributions.
- When it comes to learning, attitude counts. Bring a curious mind to what you do, explore areas that you enjoy and think, develop and make it your own. Learn the knowledge base well and then go beyond it.
- Stick to your convictions. Be true to yourself, pay attention to your intuition and hunches and reflect on your directions. Seek to improve and take feedback as a gift.
- Seek out those who support you. Develop a “thick skin” when you move in a direction that is novel. Surround yourself with positive people and rise above, as successful people fail (a lot!) when they take risks.
- Follow the lead: Listen, learn and laugh. Leadership is greatly enhanced when you can empathize with others. Strive for understanding and tolerance. Seek to learn from others and find their gifts. Develop your sense of humor and use it.
- Build problem solving skills. Set goals, sense opportunities and redefine issues. Develop your ability to think of lots of ideas and turn ideas into action.
- Make life happen. Make deliberate choices. The road less traveled is bumpy as being different takes courage. Clarity is not always available so be okay with ambiguity sometimes. Make life happen, don’t let it happen to you.
- Model it all the way. It’s about what you do, not what you say. When faced with adversity rise above others’ poor behavior. Leave YOUR ego at the door and think of good role models you know. Act like ethical people you admire.
- Look at life as a whole. Balancing personal life and professional life is a challenge. Success is defined by you and the degree to which you blend personal/family time and career is your choice.
- Life’s a journey and tough choices are made. Be aware of compromises you wish to make. Make informed decisions and live with your choices as your own. When you make your choices, have no regrets, only reflections. Be in control of yourself at all times. You can be spontaneous and playful, yet thoughtful. Become wiser, develop knowledge and learn from experience.
- On Women and Creativity (leeannewhite.squarespace.com) A great picture of Dr. Keller-Mathers and research bits on women’s creativity.