Are You Circling The Drain? Self-Diagnosing A Creativity Resuscitation

Voiceless mixed media on vellum by jparadisi

Voiceless mixed media on vellum by jparadisi

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?