Wild Women, Wild Voices
Wild Women, Wild Voices : Artist/Creator - Authentic Expressions of Wild Woman

Artist/Creator: Authentic Expressions of Wild Woman

Is every woman (or man) creative?

By Judy Reeves | Updated 5/13/15
a selection from Wild Women, Wild Voices

“The call to create is a calling like no other, a voice within that howls for expression, shadow longing to merge with light.” — Jan Phillips

Several years ago I was asked to give a talk about women in the arts in celebration of International Women’s Day. Whew! I thought, Where do I start? And then I thought, Where do I end? Women and art have existed from the beginning of time and, as long as there is time and there are women, they always will.

When I asked the host how long I had to speak, she said about twenty minutes, “and that includes questions and answers.”

Wow! I thought this time. Twenty minutes to talk about the history of the world from the perspective of women in the arts. I could just stand at the podium and say the names of women artists and fill the afternoon. I could fill the day, right on up to dinner. I could lose my voice just saying the names of women in the arts. We could have a filibuster, a marathon, a name-saying, celebration-making, piece of art itself, just naming the women we know who have created — who are creating — art.

And what about the women the world doesn’t know? The ones maybe like you and me, like my mother and your mother, and our aunts and sisters and daughters and nieces, our grandmothers — women who go through their days making art with nobody knowing our names. Wild Women, all of us. I like what Virginia Woolf said: “I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.”

Claiming Ourselves as Artist/Creator

I recently came across a quote in Courage to Change about the silkworm, which is not a beautiful creature. The quote I read described the silkworm as “fat and greedy.” But, the piece said, “out of their own substance, they create something beautiful. They have no choice in the matter. They were born to express this beauty.”

We Wild Women are like the silkworm, not the “fat and greedy” part but the fact that we can’t help but make art.

“Creativity is the work of the heart, unrelated to the economy of our ordinary lives,” said Jan Phillips in her inspiring book Marry Your Muse. “It is not about ego, not about money or success or failure. It is a calling from the spirit.”

And yet through the years, until at least the revolutionary sixties, when we began to make some serious noise about it, women were not encouraged to make art or to celebrate and express their creativity — at least not much past the age of seven or eight, when they took away our finger paints and crayon boxes and told us it was time to get serious.

“Take typing,” my mother advised, “then you’ll always have something to fall back on.” What she meant, of course, was that if my marriage didn’t work out, I could always be someone’s secretary. I’m not sure what advice mothers give their daughters these days, but I bet it’s not, “Take art, darling. You’ll be adding beauty to the world and expressing your wild, creative nature.”

You may have heard something like my mother’s counsel, too. Practical, yes, but what a shame that for many of us the practicality wasn’t balanced with the encouragement to express our authentic creativity. Instead we heard, “Stay in the lines” or “Polar bears can’t live in the jungle.” And little by little our wild, intuitive voice was tempered as we learned the rules. “Quit daydreaming,” we were told, when daydreaming is the very thing creative minds need.

Claiming ourselves as artist/creator is the same as claiming ourselves as Wild Women. To be wild is to be responsive; to be responsive is to be creative. Though we may hesitate to call ourselves artists, we can’t deny we are creative. Creativity is a natural part of all human beings, like love and hope, and even though we may turn away or try to shut it down or deny it, it remains steadfastly within us. We should all be like Janie Crawford in Zora Neale Hurston’s novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, who “had found a jewel down inside herself and she had wanted to walk where people could see her and gleam it around.”

But whether or not we acknowledge ourselves as artists, our creativity leaks out in some manner. For some of us it’s the way we prepare and serve meals; for others it’s the way we remodel our kitchens. Throw a party, paint a wall, knit a scarf. Open a business, write a proposal, write a poem. Take a photo, take a trip, give a handmade gift.

“There are many expressions of creativity; most are not recognized as art and yet they are. In each of us there is a poet or artist who takes pleasure in making something beautiful or expresses something that is truly us,” writes Jean Shinoda Bolen.

This is what I know about creativity: the more you live it, the more whole you feel. The less you judge it, the more pleasure you derive. Creativity brings a wild playfulness to our lives that is often sorely lacking.

Exploration: A Map of Creative Expressions

ExplorationRemember when you were five years old and didn’t know you “couldn’t” sing? (I write this for me, the girl who dreamed of growing up to be a singer, the one who couldn’t carry a tune even if she had a peach basket.) Remember when you were given paints and a piece of paper and you just sat right down and made a picture? And you liked it. You liked the doing of it, and you liked the picture you created as well. You gave it away as a gift and felt good doing that, too.

For this Exploration, let’s make a map. Instead of just listing specific creative expressions, throw words describing them all over the page. Use different-colored pens; make a map bright with wild statements, words, or images. Remember, we’re not talking Art, with a capital A here; we’re talking creative expressions that brought pleasure, that were fun to do or to make. Start with the first thing you remember — whether it’s from when you were a child or something you did two days ago — and then fling the memories down in phrases as they come to you.

Here’s a partial list, which I translated from my map:

  • When I pretended I could play the ukulele
  • The time I roller-skated like a dancer to “Lean on Me”
  • The collage I made at the women’s retreat
  • Writing about my father and me looking at our big green atlas
  • Dancing the two-step with R. on the cruise
  • Painting my bedroom walls cranberry
  • Creating altars for the Wild Women writing workshops

Include at least fifteen or twenty instances when you felt good in the process of being creative. This map making, like any other form of creativity, will become more fluid if you don’t try to think of the “right” expression but instead are open to any expression. Don’t judge. Just remember, write it down, and celebrate your wild, creative nature.

What to do with the map after you’ve finished? First of all, keep it close by so you can add to it. The more you see on your map, and the more varied the statements are, the more you may realize what a creative individual you are. There is no one else in all creation like you. Think of that!

As you glance over your map, the idea may come to you of writing a personal narrative essay about a particular experience, what you discovered about yourself or the world and how it changed you. Or maybe the list itself has the makings of a story or a poem. Creating the map might remind you of some creative activity or expression you loved but haven’t given much time to lately. Maybe the time to take it up again is now.

“My first felony — I took up with Poetry,” wrote Wild Woman Sandra Cisneros. We are creative outlaws, all of us.

Next: Art as Transformation »

From the book Wild Women, Wild Voices. ゥ Copyright 2015 by Judy Reeves. Printed with permission from New World Library. www.NewWorldLibrary.com.

Judy ReevesJudy Reeves is a writer, teacher, and writing practice provocateur who has written four books on writing. More »
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