Productivity and creativity are not the same thing. Neither are they mutually exclusive, but they are not the same thing. I didn’t always know this.
Like most nurses, I have always been productive. Whether making things with my hands, painting the dining room, running 10Ks, growing my own vegetables, or hand-making pasta, I often sat down for dinner around 9:00 p.m. It wasn’t until a breast cancer diagnosis flattened me on a couch that I realized the artist inside of me was starving.
In retrospect, there were early symptoms before the differential diagnosis that a creative resuscitation was necessary. Do you have any of these symptoms?
- You think, “I can do better than that,” when watching friends or colleagues succeed in a creative endeavor. Maybe you can. The question is, why don’t you?
- You daydream about what your life would be like if you didn’t have commitments to a job, spouse, children, etc.
- You use the universal sign of creative strangulation: When you talk, you tend to place one hand at your throat, with the thumb and index finger forming a V around it. What words and ideas are you choking back with that hand?
- You use the universal sign of carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders: When you talk, you place one hand on the back of your neck. What burdens weigh heavily on that spot? Can you set any down?
- You feel vaguely unfulfilled despite your accomplishments.
- You hang out on the periphery of creative people. You have an inexplicable desire to help them succeed, but don’t believe you possess their level of talent.
- You’re bored despite high productivity.
- You fear releasing your creativity will destroy life as you know it. You believe you cannot be fulfilled creatively and hold a job or have a family. Or be a nurse.
- You knew what you wanted to be when you were a child, and it is not what you are doing as an adult.
Nurses recognize when productivity is mistaken for quality in health care. We sometimes fail to make a similar assessment about ourselves.
Do you suffer from any of these symptoms? Can you add to the list?