You have less control over your environment and the environment in which your children grow than you think. The variables are infinite. For two weeks I’m writing about Creativity’s Terrain and the variables you can control. Yesterday I wrote about Finding a Love and Attending to it for Life.
Highly Creative people need inspiration and a light on their path.
When Elizabeth Blackwell (first American woman to earn an MD) graduated from medical school in 1949, she had no place to intern or clinic to practice what she’d learned. Her adviser directed her to Paris, France to intern at La Maternité. She had to continue her training as a student midwife, not a physician.
Blackwell’s father educated all his children, girls and boys, alike and inspired her to love learning. He died young, and although Blackwell had work as a teacher for many years to save money for medical school, she boarded with a physician’s family. There she spent free time reading medical texts and asking hard questions at the dinner table.
In her turn, Blackwell inspired many women into medicine. Today, 51% of medical students are female.
Recently, I sat next to Urologist Monisha Crisell at a dinner party. I asked her if she liked her work, she said she loved it. Intrigued that this classy-looking physician would have specialized on the male reproductive system, in the first place and continues to find meaning in helping men with erectile disjunction and kidney stones, performing vasectomies and treating prostate cancers, I said,
What made you decide to go into Urology?
I like urologists. They’re easy-going and funny. Nice to work with.
She did say she liked the patients, as well. But, the reason she’s a Urologist today is, urologists inspired her as a medical student.
Elizabeth Blackwell would have smiled knowing in the future, women in medicine would have such opportunities. But it is the work of Marie Zakrzewska (whom Blackwell mentored) that actually paved the way for Dr. Crisell to choose a specialty she enjoyed, rather than be limited to obstetrics.
In 1862, Marie Zakrzewska founded the New England Hospital for Women and Children and opened clinical training for female physicians to specialties beyond obstetrics.
Zakrzewska’s veterinarian grandmother and midwife mother took her along for house calls throughout her childhood. She watched cows labor and women deliver their children. She trained as a midwife in her native Germany, at a time when professionally trained midwives were male. When she emigrated to the United States, a few years later, she found little support for a woman in medicine, here as well. Elizabeth Blackwell encouraged her on to medical school. But, even as a physician, Zakrzewska struggled for respect and found no work.
Blackwell and her sister Emily (also a doctor) recruited Zakrzewska as the first resident physician for the hospital they founded, the New York Infirmary for Women and Children.
Creativity thrives on mentor-ship. Mentors point to the right path and encourage would-be Creators, but they need not be Highly Creative themselves.
American poet, Maya Angelou’s mentor was her fourth grade teacher, not a poet herself, but she saw a spark in the little girl and knew where to direct her. Angelou says,
Mrs. Flowers took me to the library in the black school. The library was probably as large as a telephone booth. It may have had 110 books in it, maybe. She said, ‘I want you to read every book in this room.’
And I found poetry.
I consider that a lifeline, because finally, when I was about 12 and a half, almost 13, Mrs. Flowers–who would allow me to come to her house and she would read to me– she said, you will never really love poetry until you speak it, feel it across your tongue, over your lips.
Not every Highly Creative person has the same mentor, lifelong. But placing yourself where a caring someone might direct you to the next step is crucial to creative development.