“Do something creative because you can’t NOT do it.”
–Kermit the Frog
Last week or so I was in a morbid mood, indulging in my self-defeat and wallowing in self-pity as I looked at my life: Working two jobs to make ends meet, which sucks up all the time I’d rather be spending on researching and writing. One job transcribing/editing other people’s words instead of writing my own; the other job working in retail, making me feel like I’ve come full circle and ended up right back where I started in high school, as though all my education and training and experience and suffering over the past 20 years has all been for naught.
Desperately in need of some inspiration, I turned back to Kermit’s TED talk from 2015, and that was very helpful. One part was particularly helpful, and you know how much I love to take other people’s/frogs’ words and put them into big block quotes, so here goes:
“We need to help kids–and all of us trying to connect with our inner tadpole–to pursue our passion, even when the going gets tough. Now, for grown-ups, that just might mean, folks, you gotta have a day job. Cuz let’s face it, it’s easier to take creative chances when it’s not how you’re trying to support yourself. That can be tough.”
That made me feel better about taking the second job. No shame in doing what it takes to survive, so long as you don’t hurt others in the process. And if that means I have to try to bang out part of a blog post in the time between stopping one job for the day and starting another, then I guess that’s what it takes. It’s not ideal–it’s not at all the way that I prefer to work–but if that’s what the situation calls for, then I’ll just have to be flexible and learn to adapt, which is a professional skill on which I have always prided myself.
Kermit goes on to say:
“But even when you’re working whatever job that pays your bills, and allows you to go to those expensive sushi bars with the pig of your choice, you can always look for ways to be creative. Whatever you’re doing, think outside the box.”
My main job, the one I’ve invested the most time and effort to get skilled and credentialed in, is medical transcription/editing, which is intellectually challenging work that requires a lot of deductive (and sometimes inductive) reasoning, but I was having trouble seeing it as a creative endeavor. It’s really hard to take creative risks when your potential success or failure could literally mean life or death for somebody else.
But then I realized that there is scope for creativity in my transcription/editing work because it comes with its own problems, and wherever there are problems, there is potential for creative problem solving. Which is not to say that it’s easy to find it; in my work, even the problem-solving has rules that apply to it because, again, mistakes and misunderstandings can be potentially deadly for the patients behind the records that I deal with.
So the scope for creative problem solving is limited–and reasonably so, I might add–but it’s still there. For example, the software that we use has the option of creating text expanders so that you can insert long words or phrases by typing just a few letters. This is important when you get paid based on how much typed text you generate in a given amount of time; the less time it take you to type a word like “esophagogastroduodenscopy” (or “blepharoplasty”–which, in case anyone is interested, is the term for surgical reconstruction of the eyelid or eyelids), the more efficient you are and the more you get paid. So while creating text expanders is a small way in which I can be creative, each and every one is specific to me and custom-designed to make my job a little bit easier and more efficient.
Which is not to say that my expanders are all 100% original. Sometimes I’ve used abbreviations that I’ve learned elsewhere. But it still counts as creativity; as Kermit says, “To be creative, you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel. Sometimes, you can start with someone else’s wheel and put your own spin on it.”
So Steve…thanks for inspiring and guiding me, and at the risk of pointing out the obvious, you don’t need to have a puppet on your arm to be a mentor and make a difference in the lives of others.