The biological experience of being a woman with its cyclical nature has long been an influence on female artists. However, it seems that a woman’s creative strengths and abilities could vary greatly depending on her menstrual cycle.
According to a number of female creatives, the differing emotions during the course of their menstrual cycle affect the direction that their work takes. This could be in themes, colour palette, or even their choice of words. Creative writer Sasha* believes the tone of her writing varies greatly during the month. ‘When I’m premenstrual I just have this searing nihilistic outlook on everything. I think about bleak, dark things all the time and have no desire to write comedy at all. However, I do find a renewed clarity when trying to write about other things or write down all the uncomfortable things I think about during this phase.’ This experience seems fairly common among women undertaking varying creative acts; from penning poetry to sketching a sunset or composing a symphony.
Strokes of genius
The overall feel of a creative project can be influenced by hormonal influxes, but what may be even more crucial for female artists is to learn what the best time is to produce high quality work. Creativity is an attribute that is difficult to measure or even define. What after all is creativity in a biological sense and how is it linked so closely with our hormones? When studying this phenomenon, scientists often address factors such as divergent thought processes, the ability to think laterally and the degree of motor perseveration. In other words, the tidal waves of signals and impulses in our brain that give birth to those more subtle, dreamy mental processes that we often prefer to view as strokes of genius or lightning bolts of inspiration.
So what’s the best time of the month to whack out the paintbrushes and create that critically acclaimed masterpiece? Apparently, this should be sometime just before you begin ovulating, when your planning and organisational skills are on point. An experiment led by psychologist Rosemary Krug tested seventeen women between the ages of 21 and 31 who participated in a number of creative thinking tests throughout each stage of their cycle. It was found that their creativity was usually greatly improved during the pre-ovulatory stage, when motor perseveration is notably decreased but oestrogen levels are soaring. Basically, during what is essentially a colossal influx of pure girl power.
Listen when ovulating and daydream just before you menstruate
If we can recognise the heightened skillsets that come with each stage of the cycle, then we can begin to utilise our time to the best of our abilities. For example, when you are ovulating you’ll generally be better at listening, absorbing information and expressing yourself verbally. If you are a journalist this may well be the best time to interview people, as you’ll probably be able to ask much more in depth, articulate questions. The premenstrual phase usually gets a bad rep, but this can actually be an incredibly useful time to let your mind drift and have a daydream. At this time you’re able to look at the bigger picture and see emerging patterns. Perfect for working out that niggly twist in your latest mystery novel.
Knowing that your creativity may well be restricted by the varying stages of your menstrual cycle can of course feel a bit frustrating. However, this knowledge could also be viewed as an opportunity to plan your monthly calendar accordingly in order to complete a successful, standout creative project.
*Sasha is a fictitious name.