Helping people with coughs and lacerations pays my bills. I love working as a PA, and don’t plan to leave the urgent care clinic even if we have a repeat of 2020.But there’s another job, the one that ignites my imagination.
I first saw Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson’s Red Box of Awesomeness at about age 6. I had no idea what D&D was at the time, but my dad’s friend, who owned the box, said it was too complex to play when I asked. Then he distracted me with his matchbox car collection. But something about that box and the dice and pictures of swords and dragons resonated. Three years later, when I read The Hobbit for the first time, I was hooked on fantasy forever.
Seeing Star Wars (episode 4) at the drive in as a kid made a huge impression, too. Being a science nerd on top of that, I often found myself wondering what would happen if DNA were tweaked just so, if plants have neurons we haven't recognized yet, or if our brains were wi-fi compatible. I wondered if I could craft fun ideas like that into a story.
The answer is no. I couldn’t. Same with the second attempt. They both sank into the swamp-like Prince Herbert’s father’s castle in Monty Python’s Holy Grail. But his fourth one, and my third attempt, stayed up. One day, all this will be yours.
Bonus points if you just asked, “What, the curtains?”
Since Houses of Common, my first novel that worked well enough to publish, I've written several more. The latest is Space Boots, published by Immortal Works.
The stories that worked resulted from looking deeper and making connections. I wasn’t thinking about sci-fi as I bent my brain to medicine so hard for so many semesters of PA school. But the fiction mixed with the science and bubbled into my consciousness.
I suspect I wouldn’t have penned these novels had I been in grad school for political science or music. But something else creative would have forced itself out, nonetheless. Learning and creativity are inextricably linked human characteristics. They feed each other. Bill Watterson, my favorite cartoonist and wise man, often mentioned how learning new things got him out from under quite a few deadlines and led to meaningful letters from readers. It also gave humanity ten years of Calvin and Hobbes. Ten years!
Here is the take-away for those looking to be more creative. Grab a book or screen and look up something new that interests you. Jump in. The more intense the focus, the bigger the creative spark. When I need a new idea, I take an academic tangent. I’ll research it until a story forms.
I’ll likely never dive so deeply into learning as I did in PA school. But I’ve found a direct correlation with the effort I put into learning, my excitement for a project, and the creative rewards.