This is the fourth part in my series of takeaways from Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing.
So far we’ve covered paying attention to your passions, inspiration and avoiding time-sucks. Today we’ll examine different types of work we encounter, and why work on its own isn’t a bad thing (in fact, when done right, it should feel quite fulfilling!)
“Not to work is to cease, tighten up, become nervous, and therefore destructive of the creative process.”
Most people think of work as Agony. I grew up thinking that Agony Work is all you would do in life. Before I had my first job I was told that you can’t have sick days at work (what?), that you have to sacrifice everything for your job because Money is Tight. As a result I developed a lot of unhealthy associations with work. Calling out, even if it was justified, made me sick with guilt. Going on vacations – despite being planned for months, with ample notice given to managers – filled me with dread and I could never fully relax. I had anxieties about returning to the office and being sneered at by co-workers for taking the time off while they were hard at work. Of course it was all in my head, but it’s a hard mentality to fix when you’re used to your dad putting in hours and hours of overtime every week. By comparison, I always felt like I was never working hard enough.
Then I discovered Happy Work, by accident, when I got my first few gigs as a web designer and developer. I loved designing and mucking around with code, so any assignment I had felt almost like fun (!!). I learned that, ideally, working should feel natural, like it’s what you were meant to do. Finding yourself “in the zone” is easy. Hours slip by at night. Bradbury even goes so far as to say being engrossed in work is actually more gratifying than finishing something. Maybe that’s why there are so many abandoned projects. Could be why I’m writing this on a Sunday night instead of getting drunk and watching Teen Wolf. Bradbury says as long as you keep working and don’t stop, you won’t fail. I can get behind that.
From the ever-inspiring Marlo Meekins.
That’s not to say if you keep doing busy work, you’ll succeed. Busy Work is the insidious thing in-between Agony Work and Happy Work. It’s checking your email a million times a day. It’s checking Twitter/Facebook/Tumblr. It’s checking off little tiny boxes that become un-checked the next day. Monster Hunter is great at checkboxes. It’s having meetings. I hated company meetings because nothing was ever actually set in motion. Just a bunch of talking with no direction. Whenever I meet with people these days, I make sure that whoever’s included has stuff to do once we’re done. A client has to provide me with art assets for their company. Or I have to gather some data to present to someone at the next meeting.
Instead of job searches, I wish you could just hold up your hand and say “I love researching technology!” and some wise and noble manager would come over to you and give you a job researching technology for them. Instead of someone who went to computer school because that’s what their parents told them to do and now they’re sweating in front of HR, wondering if they forgot to put deodorant on before their interview and desperately wishing they were home baking cookies instead. Then they’ll get the job and love it at first but hate it after a few months of not being able to exercise their full potential. Each day starts with the thought “is this how it ends?” and you find yourself covering the clock on your computer with a Post-It note so you can’t see how slow time is crawling by.
What kind of work have you been doing lately?
Next up: On Doubt & Trusting Your Gut, and Quantity Turns Into Quality. This is the last post in the series.