Chasing Creativity

The muse of inspiration is a very elusive fellow. The mole in Whack-A-Mole comes to mind, or that crafty Bugs escaping poor Elmer Fudd. Maybe it senses my subconscious’s mixed feelings towards creativity (like, why did I choose such violent analogies?) but whatever the reason inspiration is certainly not sleeping in my bed at nights.

Of course, if being inspired isn’t part your day job, it’s much harder to clear the cobwebs from your boxed up dusty mind at whatever odd times you can snatch to first be inspired then find the time and will and consistency to write or paint or choreograph. If you’re not in a state of continuous and conscious open-mindedness (as, for example, in my day job where being closed off happens whether you want it to or not) your task is that much harder.

My problem isn’t getting inspired though. I frequently think of topics I’d like to talk about at length, or story ideas to get on paper (someday) but at the exact moment of inspirational breakthrough I am nowhere near pen or paper or laptop. I’m in a taxi, or about to head out to work, or in the middle of seeing a patient and my brain goes ‘We’ll just file it away for later’ and it goes the way of the Dodo.

(I cannot be the only person whose brain does this).

The obvious solutions are to jot down a quick line on my phone so I can remember at least what I was so inspired about. Or to walk around with a voice recorder (or, again, use the one on my phone. Ha.). But, that quick line on my phone often fails to capture the essence, the vivre, of my brief excitement. The line goes dead and hangs limply in black pixels, mocking me with its wasted potential. Repeat ad nauseam.

Perhaps the real solution is to quit my day job and roam the streets, laptop or notepad in hand, digging for inspiration like a coal miner: grubby, starving and desperately grateful for the light of the sun.

All of Only Halfway There

What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do? Physically, emotionally or mentally. Have you ever stretched yourself to the absolute limit?

What did you find? Did you break, or just bend? Did they crush you?

I bet you survived. Humans are like that. Determined as cockroaches.

My Paediatric experience will be unlike any of my batch-mates. We manned the special care nursery at a time of national crisis – babies were dying, health ministers were being impeached, the public was furious. We interns, the most junior staff, were the bulk of the paediatric department. To say we were screwed was an understatement. Every odd was stacked against us.

And yet.

We survived. Not just survived, thrived.

Of course, the first six weeks were the worst hell imaginable. I cried at work. Twice. I pushed IV medication and the lab staff and myself. I lost weight, I was anxious all the time. We all had chronic fatigue.

Then slowly and painfully, like a lizard shedding its skin (does that hurt? I feel like it should hurt), we metamorphosed, Kafka-style. Almost overnight we hardened, gained competence. The odds were still stacked, but we got better at playing them. The workload lightened. For doctors who were molded by an overpopulated nursery (thirty babies our first few weeks), taking care of eight newborns (plus or minus three) was child’s play. I moved from the desperate panic of ‘How will I survive this?!’ to the weary surprise of ‘I must have been stronger than I thought’.

Like all things do, my three months on Paediatric Medicine passed. January 4 I stumbled into the staff meeting bleary eyed and battle-worn but ready to take on whatever staff assignment they threw at me. Internal medicine was my new playing field. Game face, on.


Engage Me. Engage, Me.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that human beings love interaction. It’s one of those inescapable facts of life, like me quoting Jane Austen. We like interaction in all its forms: good publicity, bad publicity, likes on Facebook, retweets on Twitter, and comments on WordPress

Yes, comments on WordPress. Nothing feeds a blogger’s greedy little soul (and writers are always greedy for recognition) more than having people respond (thoughtfully, cleverly, desperately) to what they write. And in this age of instant gratification, no one is sitting at home waiting for fan mail. So it’s disheartening to write something that goes unnoticed and unremarked upon. It simply means that as a writer you’re . . . unremarkable. But this is not to be borne!

The internet is teeming with advice on how to write more engaging blog content. 16.1 million articles, to be precise. It’s a bit overwhelming, to say the least. And I can’t quite convince myself that it’s not all one big scam.

‘Listen to me,’ they’re all shouting ‘I’ve got the best advice on the web’. Maybe they do, they’re all saying the same thing. Do search engine optimization, host polls, ask questions, be witty, have great titles. All good advice. And yet a niggling feeling in the bottom of the stomach at the back of my head (there is in fact a stomach at the back of my head; it’s what digests the words) leaves me skeptical.

And the simple reason is this: all the bloggers I love to read don’t look like they’re following any of this advice.

I don’t read many (any) professional blogs; they’re all little bits and pieces of some suburban housewife/working mother’s life (yes, my demographic confuses me). I don’t see my suburban demographic carefully selecting their titles to pull in more readers, or liberally sprinkling keywords throughout their writing or even asking questions most of the time. Or maybe they do and make it look so effortless it’s unnoticeable.

Mostly what they do is write interesting, funny, or heartwarming stories about their lives. Or share pictures of Paris or their cats. Or talk about their insight into a particular issue that wandered across their mind some idle Tuesday morning. But it’s usually written in a way that makes it seem like such important content, content that I need to keep reading because I’m consumed by a desire to know about them and their lives and what makes them tick and how is it different from what makes me tick and how can I apply the principles they’ve figured out to my own life?

I want to mirror their methods, but I’m concerned about talking about myself too much on the internet, or I don’t have enough stories or this isn’t even really a personal blog – I only started it just because.

And my answer is this. You are interesting enough. Your life in Jamaica is just as interesting as their lives in Texas and Washington and South Africa. Your passions are not their passions but you have your own passions that people will love hearing about. You do things and you think about things and yes, you’re afraid of sharing most of the things you do and think about but 2015 is the year to beat that. It’s the year to do like Hemingway: sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

standards of happiness {ii}

I once stamped the word DRAFT on my arm to remind myself I was a work in progress.

standards of happiness {i}

From depths I could not fathom a voice inside me roared, “I AM ALREADY GOOD ENOUGH.”

And the tiniest of voices replied, “Okay. Now get better.”


I follow a blog called The Physician’s Palette. It’s written by a art minor turned medical student and every post features an artist’s interpretation of some aspect of the medical field. I found it really inspiring that someone who’s passion was art could transduce that passion into a field so strongly scientific. Not that medicine (especially the clinical and surgical aspects of it) isn’t artistic, but there’s so little room for creativity.

Taking that blog as an example, I set out to find a way to translate my passion for books and literature into medicine. It started with a book list: stories about doctors and stories written by doctors. I was already hooked on Robin Cook (his medical mysteries, not his series – blech) and I found Cromwell’s Kay Scarpetta moderately interesting, but I’d never really paid particular attention to medical novels.

And then I discovered medical blogs. They were perfect. I’m following two blogs by doctors, one by a fellow medical student and a weekly medical comic that’s drawn by a radiologist. I find them clever, insightful and very slice-of-life-y. I love taking sneak peeks into how other people live; I get great perspective from it. I like how reading about the medical field in other countries broadens my horizons, reminds me that I’m not the first person to survive medical school, and that it’s okay to have passions that lie elsewhere. It’s a comfort to know that not everyone has it all figured out at this stage, and it makes me feel connected.

So, today I’m pimping:

A Cartoon Guide to Becoming a Doctor
Domestic Diva, M.D.
Doctor Gargamel
Poor M.D.

Are there any subject specific blogs that inspire you?

Speaking words

I wanted to have a geek post about Neuroscience or medicine, or something else I’m studying that I feel like the world should know about (because education should be about the sharing of knowledge, not just its retention), but every time I move to start typing some long esoteric word, my fingers hesitate and I second-guess. And third-guess. And delete instead.

Because I think passions should maybe come naturally, without the need for a jump start. And if I was really interested in what I had to say, the words would be flying on wings like my fingers on these keys right now. They only stop when they hit a cloud bank.

So instead I will share something that I am passionate about, that has inspired passion in me, and was born of passion in someone else.

Staceyann Chin is a Jamaican, just like me. But that’s pretty much where the comparison ends. She is half-Asian and a lesbian and a feminist and loud with crazy hair, not afraid to scream her mind. She is skinny as a colt, with lungs like an elephant, and she is unapologetically, rawly beautiful.