Cedars-Sinai Blog

Use Recovery Time to Nurture Creativity

Rick Penn-Kraus Portrait

During his week in the hospital, Rick Penn-Kraus used music and drawings to help pass the time.

For seven years, Rick Penn-Kraus has strummed his way through the halls of Cedars-Sinai, playing his guitar for patients and anyone else lucky enough to be within earshot.

When it was his turn to be the patient, Rick used his recovery time to indulge his artistic side.

He even plays in the elevators.

"It's a step up from listening to elevator music," he says of the popular songs he shares with patients through the Cedars-Sinai Music for Healing Program. He takes requests or relies on his lengthy playlist—everything from Adele to Otis Redding. Sometimes he just quietly strums an instrumental. Whatever it takes to leave people of all ages happier.

When it was his turn to be the patient, Rick used his recovery time to indulge his artistic side.

Creativity eased hospital stay

Rick Penn-Kraus Room Sketch

Rick sketched his hospital room, and he suggests other patients try the same thing to free their inner artist.

"At first, I thought I had the flu," Rick says, rolling his eyes. "Then the pain started."

What he thought was the flu turned out to be a bowel obstruction, and he found himself admitted for a week.

"I couldn’t play the guitar right away. I was too weak. But after a few days, my nurse brought me a guitar from the volunteer center."

Rick had music as an outlet again: a little Eric Clapton to pass the time. He also started to make sketches of his room. A creative director with his own design business, Rick often relies on drawings to communicate ideas.

Use downtime to nurture your inner artist

Hospital stays can involve a lot of downtime for patients and visitors. Rick suggests using the time to explore your creativity. His tips for getting started:

Tap into your inner musician.

You don't have to play the guitar or any instrument to make music. Borrow a pennywhistle from the Music for Healing Program or ask a visiting family member to pick up a tambourine or cheap ukulele. There are also dozens of free or low-cost apps with percussion and other instruments that you can play on your phone.

Rick Penn-Kraus Fisheye Photo

Rick used a fisheye mirror and his smartphone camera to put an artistic spin on his patient experience.

Everyone is an artist.

Even you. As Rick sees it, time is one of the greatest gifts we can receive. Time and a sketchbook. "Everyone knows how to doodle," he says. "Give yourself permission to try something new. See the room that you’re in. Draw it. Use a pencil, crayons, whatever." It goes back to what Picasso said: All children are artists. But as we age, we forget how much creativity we have inside us.

Keep a journal.

Writing is a great way to dig into what you think about yourself and your life. Maybe you'll write about your illness or injury, your job or your family. Even if you don't consider yourself a writer, jotting down your thoughts can be a rewarding and valuable self-exploration.

When you're on the mend, give back.

Consider volunteering. The music that kept Rick entertained during his own hospital stay is the same he's played in patient rooms and nurses stations on New Year's Eve and Christmas. On those days, he says, good cheer is more valuable than ever and volunteers are especially needed.