Wednesday, August 27, 2014

starting on a creative path



“What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me . . . is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” 


-Ira Glass

Friday, August 1, 2014

on exhaustion and creativity

There's an inverse relationship between exhaustion and creativity.

This past school year has been a mixture of extremes. I've reached pinnacles of both fulfillment and burnout that I didn't think existed. For a few months, I worked six to seven days a week and then came home every night to study. During three different commutes home, I was so afraid of falling asleep on the road that I called my parents to keep me company on the phone.

On one of my weekends off, I slept for 24 hours straight. There were weeks when my lunches consisted of a bag of chips and bottle of soda. I felt disgusting--inauthentic---but I kept pushing. A classmate and I shared a delirious laugh when we both realized that we wanted to cry because we were so tired. Sometimes I would think about the difficult patient cases, the ones who were dealt with an unfortunate hand in life, and be unable to focus on anything else. 

During any free time, I pushed myself to write. That's what they say to do, isn't it? Not wait for the mood or the opportune moments but create those things for ourselves. 

Well, I've found that in order to flourish creatively, we need to rest first. That may not always come in the form of sleeping but logging at least 7 hours always helps. So does taking time to socialize and experiencing a world  and interactions outside of work. Even with all of the exciting things coming up, the past year caused my creativity to atrophy and it often took time just to get back on track. I have to learn to be okay with that, with the impulsive nature of medical student life. 

There were great things in the midst: kind patients, excellent physician teachers, friends' weddings and bachelorettes, planning for our own wedding, getting a chance, through The Clinton Foundation, to start an idea I've had for a long time. But even for those occasions, I was exhausted. And I realized, at some point, that I never want to be too drained to relish in the present.

When your days have a film over them, a weight that rests on the shoulders and back, you are taking a route towards a small, corrosive life. 

I'm still figuring it out and will probably have setbacks with the way this year looks. But there are some things I can do:

-Prioritize sleep
-Cultivate the art of relaxation
-Add novelty into the daily banality
-Allow people to help
-Learn to set limits and say no

How do you handle burnout?