My Creativity Coop

For the past six months, I have behaved like a mother hen. Who are and where is my flock, you might ask? It’s kind of presumptuous to even call these chicks my “flock”, but that is how I feel about them. I’ve had the privilege of facilitating an “Exercise Your Creativity” class at a fitness center in Winter Park, Florida. Fitness center is really an under-representation of this beautiful space which is dedicated to facilitating the mental and physical well-being of its surrounding community.

The class is a creativity primer. My chicks (and they vary from session to session) are exposed to multiple art mediums, including painting, pottery, calligraphy, and beadwork. Some are more proficient than others. But I am so proud of each of the thirty or more women who participate each month. Even showing up is brave. The term “creativity” can be intimidating, and often misunderstood. Many people have been saddled with the label “not creative” from an early age. It’s risky to sing in public or have the person next to us peek at our unfinished still-life painting. Unveiling our creations exposes us in much the same way as dropping our drawers.

But, as I tell members of my flock, creativity is good for you. It’s good for your brain, it’s good for your body, and it facilitates social connections, which become even more important as we age. I am an avowed creativity evangelist on a crusade to spread the word about the life-changing potential of creativity. I wrote a book on the topic of creative aging–Be Brave. Lose the Beige: Finding Your Sass After Sixty. My book argues that creativity promotes creative thinking and creative thinking is an excellent partner in the quest to retain even a little control while navigating this aging journey. It’s fun and freeing to color outside lines that have constrained us for much of our lives, and creativity offers us a lightheartedness our aching backs and clogged arteries keep trying to steal.

Caveat: While it may feel magical when you are engaging in creative expression, creativity is not made of magic. Snapping your fingers to summon creativity is not really a thing. You must exercise those creative muscles. We all recognize the benefits of physical exercise. Weight training, biking, skiing, and swimming most certainly contribute to good health and well-being. Exercising our minds has similar benefits. We take classes, read novels and news magazines, and solve crossword puzzles and other brain games in the interest of keeping our noggins nimble. But once we transition from our teens, we tend to spend less and less time on creative endeavors. And just like physical muscles that fail to be engaged, so too can our creative muscles atrophy.

The Center for Health and Wellbeing, where we meet, is the perfect place for our creative calisthenics. There is a fitness center upstairs with state-of-the-art fitness machines and weight training paraphernalia. The Center offers yoga and spin classes, as well as continuing education programs. Fitness is the focus of people walking in the door, so it’s the perfect place to exercise our creative skills.

The women (and occasionally a man or two) pay close attention to the description of the project of the day. Seasons and holidays provide opportunities for inspiration. Hearts of varying colors and shapes graced hand-painted Valentines in February; “What can bloom anew in you?” was the theme for March. Participants created triptychs (a trilogy of three canvases) telling a visual story of how they view spring. I see shoulders relax as the tension of the day dissipates as my flock focus on their artwork. New friendships develop during these sessions. Two of my students have become movie mates, sharing in their mutual love of independent films. Studies confirm creativity is a stress reliever and builds social connections which are critical in the aging process.

The conclusion of each of the chapters in my book features creativity exercises such as:

  • Doodle for your Noodle – Doodling is a great technique for exercising one’s creativity and it’s a perfect activity for enduring monotonous meetings.
  • Tell your story in six words. Six-word stories are a two-for-one exercise that not only exercises your creativity but also helps with self-reflection.
  • Sketch your pet. Drawing challenges us to be brave. Those first few lines are wobbly and imprecise. Refinement of the lines comes later.

The exercises are designed to help readers nurture this important skill on their own time while also discovering interior truths about themselves.

Christopher Bailey, the Arts and Health coordinator with the WHO (World Health Organization) said, “there is a difference between curing and healing. The true meaning of health is the attainment of the highest level of living, and art helps us achieve this goal.”

Feeling control over our destinies is the best indicator of good health. It helps us imagine a more hopeful future.

“There is a difference between curing and healing. The true meaning of health is the attainment of the highest level of living, and art helps us achieve this goal.”

Feeling control over our destinies is the best indicator of good health. It helps us imagine a more hopeful future.

Liz Kitchens

Liz Kitchens conducts workshops and seminars on creativity and directed a creative arts program for teens in underserved communities. She has also been a market researcher for thirty-five years and is the founder of What’s Next Boomer? a website dedicated to helping Baby Boomers navigate retirement options; and of the blog, Be Brave. Lose the Beige!, which focuses on issues facing Lady Boomers (women of the Baby Boomer generation). She is a contributing writer for the online magazine, Sixty and Me, and has been published in various online and print publications. Be Brave. Lose the Beige: Finding Your Sass After Sixty is Liz’s first book publication. She is married, the mother of three adult children, and the grandmother of three grandchildren.



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