Almost every one of my healthcare friends has some sort of artistic endeavor they’re passionate about. I know a pharmacist that plays Oboe professionally, a nurse that repurposes scrap metal and makes them into funky fishing rod holders. I also know a social worker that writes poetry.
You probably have a creative outlet too—something you make just for the love of it. An activity that is an outlet for expressing yourself or to sharing something with others. Maybe you used to do artsy things but you abandoned it. Maybe you didn’t think you were talented, or you started to view it as a waste of time.
Human beings are naturally creative. It’s fun to express yourself artistically. It’s not a waste of time. It’s crucial to your well-being.
FOUR FORBIDDEN WORDS
Before I became an artist in creating Marythemedicinewoman, over the decades, I’ve taken college-level drawing and photography courses, acting classes, voice, and piano lessons. I was lamenting to a physician friend, saying, “I’ve done all of these things only to discover I have no talent!” My friend said, “Don’t ever say you don’t have talent.” I’ve thought about those words a lot over the past year. What was driving me to continue to pursue things I wasn’t good at? All of those artistic avenues allowed me an outlet for creative energy. Those activities gave me a chance to express myself and we’re even a form of validation for the artist within.
I have no song, no painting, and no photograph worthy of sharing, but that doesn’t matter. Each endeavor helped me get through the many stressors of my job and my struggle with anxiety and depression. They made me a better pharmacist—more present, empathetic, and patient.
HOW TO REMEMBER TO YOUR INNER ARTIST
If you don’t remember what kind of artist you’d like to be, here are a few ways to find out. For starters, you can try looking in your attic. Find out where you stashed your saxophone 12 years ago. Explore that box of old photographs you took in high school or those poems you wrote in college. Look around your mom’s house. You might even find some poetry you made or a painting you gave her. Do any of those things make you want to create? Do they inspire you? Do you hear your inner voice say, “This looks like fun!”?
When we were kids, my sister and I would make up plays. We had costumes and everything. What did you enjoy as a kid? Remember those big boxes of crayons? Or how about a big fresh white stack of thick paper that you can draw or paint on? The thrill of the blank page! Do you have fond memories of ballet class? Ballet may not be your thing at this point in your life, but what about some other kind of movement as an artistic outlet? You are talented. You are creative. You’ve just forgotten how much you love to create.
HOW TO RECONNECT TO YOUR INNER ARTIST
If your art is stale or uninspired, you’ve probably decided to abandon it. Wait! Don’t! Instead, consider the idea that your inner artist just needs some inspiration. I was shocked to learn that many artists spend many hours alone just walking in the woods or sitting on the deck in their backyards. One singer-songwriter I admire said that she gets paid to walk in the field.
In other words, the art came from the quiet hours spent doing little. And without those walks in the field, there would be no songs, and with no songs, there would be no livelihood. It’s the same for us in that you may not need your art to make a living, but you do need it to stay happy and healthy.
Spend time outside every week going for walks in the field, taking hikes in the woods, long rides on the trail, or just sitting on your deck. If you can’t get out, make time to sit quietly in prayer, meditation, or doing morning pages.
If you need more convincing, spending time in nature—even just with your own human nature—is also a good remedy for the ugliness of the mechanical landscape we practice in. It’s noisy at work. The lighting can be hard on our brains and even gives many people headaches. People are scared and angry and you pick up on all of it. You need time to hear the thoughts in your head and the longings of your own heart. Then find ways to express those very things in whatever way sounds like fun.
Whether you are currently in touch with your inner artist or want to get reacquainted with it, your artistic creative side is an important part of your humanity. Therefore creativity is crucial for you to stay happy and well.
The artist and scientist both live inside of you. The linear-thinking side of you gets plenty of time for expression with the work you do. It’s the creative side that needs attention. Being creative is part of being human. Your patients need your humanity as much as they need your intellect. You need your humanity if you’re going to continue to thrive in the current state of healthcare.
Here is a great article I found from the Harvard School of Medicine about how having an artistic outlet is good for doctors.