Acclaimed author and our guest blogger, Lydia Kang, discusses the benefits of having a creative outlet to go with your day job, as well as the benefits of using both sides of your brain.
Let’s be honest. In any job, there’s a fair amount of burnout that can happen. It’s the reason why Happy Hours and cupcakes exist, right? Well, sometimes it’s necessary to take another kind of mental break when performing chair yoga or taking a walk doesn’t cut it.
Find a creative outlet.
For me, that outlet was writing a novel. I work full time splitting my days between two identities—a doctor who practices primary care internal medicine and an author of young adult fiction. I never planned on having a dual career. It just happened after I got infected with the writing bug and decided NOT to look for a cure. A lot of people asked me if I’d quit my job as a doctor after I got my book deals. But the truth is, I need both jobs to be happy.
Taking care of patients is a mix of science and humanity. I like to console and cheer on my patients; I like to solve medical riddles and make people healthy. But it also comes with mountains of paperwork and headaches that go hand-in-hand with practicing in today’s dizzying healthcare environment.
For me, writing relieves those stressors. On days when I struggle to get a prior-authorization for an MRI that my patient really needs, it’s good to know that in my books, I get to play God. I create worlds; I make messes of my characters’ lives but also have the power to fix them.
Having a creative outlet – whether it’s writing, or painting, or playing an instrument – empowers you with the control you don’t have in most traditional job roles. You don’t have to get approval or cut through red tape; you just have to make the time.
But before you quit your job to become the next Picasso, know that creative fields come with their own set of issues. It’s a very solitary, sometimes lonely endeavor. As an author, I sit in front of a computer, alone, for hours. And it’s never fun to get that phone call from your editor that the manuscript you’ve slaved over for a year is riddled with problems and hey—maybe you need to rewrite that whole novel from scratch. Publishing books also means your work is out in the world, open to criticism from anyone with a Goodreads account or a blog. In situations like those, helping a patient lose those stubborn fifty pounds and achieving a fantastic blood pressure feels pretty damn good. Perspective is everything.
While it’s sometimes exhausting working two full-time jobs (not to mention balancing life at home), utilizing both sides of my brain – the creative and the analytical – is what keeps me balanced. If you work at a cubicle 50 hours a week without a creative outlet, life can get pretty depressing. On the flip-side, it’s hard to get inspired if you’re alone with your art rather than out in the world. And while it often feels that there’s never enough time, I know first-hand that there’s always time to be made. By dedicating time to each practice, you’ll excel at both.
Lydia Kang is the author of the YA novels CONTROL (available now) and CATALYST (out March 24). She is a practicing physician who has gained a reputation for helping fellow writers achieve medical accuracy in fiction. She believes in science and knocking on wood, and currently lives in Omaha with her husband and three children. For more, visit www.LydiaKang.com.