The Surge of Creativity at Exam Time

The SURGE of Creativity at Exam Time

A guest post by Vanessa of Olivia’s New Life


Medical school exams are scheduled in six days. It’s past midnight and instead of sleeping, I’m in front of my computer, typing at a fast rate. I just can’t stop, I’m seeing clearly, I’m inspired and this inspiration is called: procrastinative creativity?!…. OK, I just made up this expression, but it’s a good description of what happens in my head. I am a second-year med student, but I also write and draw a fictional blog. It’s incredible the quality of inspiration I get during my revisions’ period.

I usually struggle a little bit to come up with ideas. However, during revisions, my brain is already full of acetylcholine to enhance the capacity of my memory, and this neurotransmitter must be stimulating an inhibitor (I don’t know which one) which leads to procrastination and this new state stimulates dopamine, the apparent neurotransmitter for creativity.

Should I ignore this surge? Of course, not!

To be honest, I tried for several days, but the surge just went crescendo. It’s like my brain is not synchronized anymore, and my right lobe (creative part) wants to take over. That would be a crime to creativity to refuse the natural process of inspiration to unfold. Imagine Ed Sheeran saying “no” to a surge of inspiration, we wouldn’t have had “thinking out loud”, and so many weddings may not have happened. Therefore, on behalf of all artists/med students, I must respond. So, I stopped my revisions, took my computer and started writing.

Here I am, after a paragraph of 78 words, the flow of words stop. Nothing is coming anymore. Perhaps, the ideas rush to be translated into words, but I’m too slow to type and they disappear before I had time to capture them on the white screen. I have an idea, I will record my ideas first and then type. Great, I start the process…

… five minutes later, I’m just high and dry. Frustrated, I put down my phone and with a heavy heart, I go back to my revisions. As soon as I open my immunology book, I swear at the third or fourth page, the sight of all these immune cells inspire me again. After all, Einstein said “creativity is contagious”. OK, so I will give it another try, but this time I will draw. I take my drawing tablet and begin this new piece of art.

And this is the result:

What do you think? Was it worth the three and a half hours spent on it? Or was it just pure creative procrastination?

Alright, alright, I got you, I think I will go back to my books and bury any form or type of creativity for the next six days…


(Editors note: I think many of us can relate to this post on that surge of energy/creativity that often comes when wanting to do about ANYTHING other than start a long grind of study days. For me, I always cleaned my entire apartment before a study marathon… then covered it entirely in notes/books/etc. Give us a comment how you’ve used this “creative procrastination” before! )

Vanessa is a medical student/mom and author/illustrator of the blog Olivia’s New Life. She can also be reached via twitter @oliviasnewlife.


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