Letters from Maine

A creative diversion


Do you have a creative diversion – a hobby for lack of a better word? One frequently hears of physicians who have creative skills not directly related to their professional careers. Furniture-building surgeons, fly-tying orthopedists, pediatrician poets, painting dermatologists ... I have even heard unsubstantiated claims that the traits that encourage individuals to become physicians make it more likely that they will have creative skills. Another one of those left brain/right brain things that probably doesn’t hold water.

If you do have a hobby or have the seed of a creative impulse you think could blossom into a hobby, I bet you wish that you could have an unlimited amount of time to invest in that activity. I am going to argue that this is another example of a situation in which you should be careful what you wish for.

A woman paints SeventyFour/iStock/Getty Images

When I was 9 or 10 years old, I bought a small carving of a sandpiper in a gift shop on Cape Cod. I still have it with its chipped bill and yellowed paper label on its driftwood base. That little bird triggered my interest in carving, and with gaps sometimes measured in decades I have been a self-taught bird carver. Some are attempts at realism with burned in feathers that takes weeks to complete. Others are free form painted whimsically, and are created in a few hours. They aren’t for sale, but to keep my inventory in check I distribute them as birthday and hostess gifts.

Ten years ago, after decades of visiting art galleries and grumbling to my wife, “I could do that,” I decided to try my hand at two-dimensional landscape painting. It was a fun challenge, and after a year or 2, I was ready to see what other people thought of my work. The first show that I entered stipulated that all of the entries be for sale. With no intention of parting with my work, I priced mine several orders of magnitude above what I thought they were worth.

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