Carving out a Creative Routine

From Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad by Austin Kleon:

In his book Daily Rituals, Mason Currey catalogs the daily routines of 161 creative individuals: when they woke up, when they worked, what they ate, what they drank, how they procrastinated, and more. It’s a wild collage of human behavior. Reading about the habits of writers alone is like visiting a human zoo. Kafka scribbled into the night while his family slept. Plath wrote in the morning before her children woke up. Balzac slugged fifty cups of coffee a day. Goethe sniffed rotten apples. Steinbeck had to sharpen twelve pencils before starting his work.

It’s undeniably fun to read about the routines and rituals of creative people, but what becomes clear after a while is that there is no perfect, universal routine for creative work. “One’s daily routine is a highly idiosyncratic collection of compromises, neuroses, and superstitions,” Currey writes, “built up through trial and error and subject to a variety of external conditions.” You can’t just borrow your favorite artist’s daily routine and expect it to work for you. Everyone’s day is full of different obligations—jobs, families, social lives—and every creative person has a different temperament.

I’m not always sure that what I do here qualifies as creative work, but it’s so easy to fall into the jealousy trap looking at the routine of a full-time professional creative. It’s not hard to read a book like Cal Newport’s excellent Deep Work and think, yeah, that’s how you do it–if you’re an academic or knowledge worker.

I’m an academic physician working in a private practice. When you break it down transactionally, I trade time for money and then do a whole bunch of unpaid work on top that helps give my job extra meaning.

I’m a dad and a husband.

And that’s why it’s so much easier to have an amateur’s mindset instead of a professional’s: to do something because you like it or when the stars align.

But I’ve also found that I do better work and find more satisfaction in the work when it’s part of a routine (i.e. a modified professional mindset). My routine just isn’t one that involves long uninterrupted periods of deep work or a cabin in the woods.

I think the key is carving out a habit–or maybe a better word is a pattern–that allows you to fold in your avocations in a way that allows for regularity despite dominant competing obligations, recharges your battery, and still results in enough forward progress on your larger projects (if you have them) as to not be demoralizing (and it’s actually that last part that’s the hardest).

RBG on Writing

Former two-time law clerk for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Post:

Most of what I know about writing I learned from her. The rules are actually pretty simple: Every word matters. Don’t make the simple complicated, make the complicated as simple as it can be (but not simpler!). You’re not finished when you can’t think of anything more to add to your document; you’re finished when you can’t think of anything more that you can remove from it. She enforced these principles with a combination of a ferocious—almost a terrifying—editorial pen, and enough judicious praise sprinkled about to let you know that she was appreciating your efforts, if not always your end-product. And one more rule: While you’re at it, make it sing. At least a little; legal prose is not epic poetry or the stuff of operatic librettos, but a well-crafted paragraph can help carry the reader along, and is always a thing of real beauty.

Even paraphrased, that’s a satisfying approach.

When Ginsburg was in law school, she was passed over for clerkships literally just because she was a woman. Later she became one of the most influential justices on the supreme court while consistently applying the principles of equality and fairness to her jurisprudence.

American law didn’t just change during her lifetime, she helped make those changes.

What a legacy.

Student Loans: In Print and Online

I published the first edition of Medical Student Loans: A Comprehensive Guide in 2017. Waiting almost three years to put out a print version is what happens in the perfect storm of total DIY, extreme retentiveness, and being a generally lazy procrastinator. Oops!

But I’m happy to say I finally put the finishing touches on the print editions for both of my loan books this month, so those of you hankering for the perfect beach read need wait no further:

Hurray!

Even better?

But in what is surely a terrible business move, I’ve also put the entire text up online at benwhite.com/studentloans/.

So yes, you too can join the ranks of folks still exchanging money for that hard-fought knowledge (thanks!).

And yes, you definitely still download a nice ebook file in the format of your choice in temporary exchange for your email address so I’ll have a nice big audience for that infrequent newsletter I’ll probably never actually start. (PS I even put the unsubscribe link in the first sentence of the download email; did you know it actually costs a bunch of money to have an email list? Crazy.)

But if you just want to scroll through 45k words in a web browser, now you can do that too.

Student loans are crippling a generation of Americans and have a chilling effect on personal+financial wellbeing. I’m just trying to do whatever I can to help you get the information you need to make thoughtful decisions about managing your debt.

Updated Student Loan books

Nice, productive holiday weekend. I also got around to making some minor revisions and 2019 updates to Medical Student Loans and Dealing with Student Loans, both of which you can always download for free right here. Yes, these beloved best-in-class books are completely free, because student loan debt is crippling generations of Americans, and that outweighs every other consideration.

If you already have a copy, you can still drop your email on the download page and get this most recent edition in your inbox. (And of course you’re always welcome unsubscribe immediately.)

While I would recommend reading one of the two books to literally anybody with a student loan from current college students to seasoned physicians, I strongly recommend any graduating students to take a few hours this month and get your financial house in order.

This is literally the perfect time.

Updated Guide to Fourth Year

I’ve just updated my guide to being a senior medical student, Fourth Year & The Match. It remains awesome and free as well as being up-to-date for 2019-2020.

Even if you’ve downloaded the old version, you can still receive the new one by dropping your email address here.

 

Get your free book download (ebook and PDF) of Fourth Year & The Match.

 

I have yet to actually start that planned infrequent/sporadic newsletter, and even if I had, I have no interest in cluttering your inbox. But if you just want the freebie, no sweat: just click the friendly unsubscribe link in the download email.