Thursday, July 9, 2009

Doing Work You Love

"Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work."
Aristotle (384 BC - 322 BC)

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who love the work they do and those who work to make a living.

In today's economy, it seems greedy and idealistic to talk about finding work you love when so many people are not able to find work at all. This recession has given me a whole new perspective on the importance of work — not just as a source of funding for our leisure activities, but as the basis of self-worth and the true strength behind a healthy family.

In case I haven't made it clear, the work I love is writing. I love everything about writing — reading about it, doing it, talking about it, working at it, teaching it. I'm energized by the burst of creativity that springs from a new idea or connection. Discovering new words makes me unreasonably happy (especially if I can remember them). Editing and rewriting are not burdensome chores, but a joyful honing and polishing of rough beginnings. 

I used to divide writing into that which I did for work and that which I did for fun. As a professional writer since college, for more than 20 years I've done all kinds of business writing. That was work. Then, several years ago I found myself thinking about a children's story. That was fun. When I started listening to the stories within me, it opened the floodgates to a reservoir of creativity that I didn't even know existed. It has completely changed the way I feel about all my writing. 

Now, each new assignment is divine challenge, a chance to practice my craft, to apply a new technique, to draw from my own deep well of inspiration to make the writing at hand the best it can be. My head spins with ideas — snippets of dialogue, themes for an essay, visions of characters. A writer friend and I recently discussed our dismay at the discovery that not everyone walks around with stories and characters buzzing in his or her ears, clamoring to be realized on the page. 

The two halves of me — the professional craftsperson and the creative artisan — are beginning to integrate into a productive whole. My husband wishes this merger would result in a little better return on our investment, but that's coming. I feel it. Or maybe it's just the caffeine.

If there is one rule of writing, it's that thou shalt not plagiarize, but you know what they say about rules. I have broken this commandment by stealing both the title and idea for this post from a new friend, Carolyn Brandt Broughton, who has started an entire blog called Doing Work You Love. For years, Carolyn has interviewed practitioners of all manner of work, the only connection among them being that they love what they do. It's an inspired idea and an inspiring series that she plans to share with us through her blog.

Carolyn and I connected through Off Campus Writers' Workshop, a group of Chicago-area writers who meet weekly during the school year to learn all about writing. Joining a community of people who share your passion is a great way to find inspiration. In real life, I have Off Campus and my critique group. Online, I've been lucky to join the Silicon Valley Moms Group, which operates 11 regional blogs featuring the words, wisdom and experiences of more than 350 writers. I have found gracious professionals in the notoriously stingy world of publishing — people like Lisa RomeoNathan Bransford and J.A. Konrath — who freely and willing share their hard-won wisdom with other writers.

Just today, I joined an exciting new online community called She Writes. It's literally emerging before my eyes, garnering 145 new members since I joined earlier today. It's a fascinating social networking experiment and I've already discovered some generous, dedicated writers. 

While doing work you love for a wage-earning living may be a luxury, you can still do work you love even if it isn't your job. This is a lesson I'm trying to teach my oldest boy, who will turn 18 in November. I truly believe if he could find his passion, he would be set and happy for life. Which leads me to my second plagiarism infraction of the day, stealing this cool video from Laura Didyk's blog, outloud. I found Laura over at She Writes, and we both found inspiration in The Beckoning of Lovely video. I hope you do, too.

What lovely have you beckoned into your life? What is the thing you most love to do and do you do it? Click here to let us in on your work loves (or hates).

"My grandfather once told me that there were two kinds of people: those who do the work and those who take the credit. He told me to try to be in the first group; there was much less competition."
Indira Gandhi (1917-1984)


Carolyn Brandt Broughton said...

Thank you Susan. We have a mutual inspiration society going here. This post is a 'beckoning of the lovely' on so many levels!

Sam Palmer said...

I'm inspired by your entire blog concept. The whole "2 kinds of people" is such a great starter for so many different topic that I cannot help but give obeisance to a truly genius concept. As of now, you are going on my blogroll. Hope to see much more inspirational writing from you. Oh, and I am definitely one of those people who love to write, though I confess I have one of those "real jobs" people always tell us writers about, and I don't love that one so much.

Sam Palmer

Written in Gray

Barbara said...

Susan, this post is packed with love and inspiration. Thank you! The "lovely" video made me wish I was there making communal art at the Bean last summer...

Unknown said...

I needed to be reminded! I left what I thought I loved in careers, to what I do now. But with no actual job in sight it's hard sometimes to stay focused. Thanks for the reminder

Tricia said...

Thanks for reminding me that writing makes me happy. With so much doom and gloom in the publishing industry, it's nice to know that the journey to publication, even if I never reach it, wasn't wasted if it was pleasurable.

Sue Roupp said...

Working in the writing field is like eating chocolate whenever you want to and only feeling better because of it.

There is something about putting words down on a page that allows us to be introduced to ourselves and then others. While nibbling on our chocolate we are often amazed at what we write. Sure we have to revise and trim and line edit and copy edit. But in a funny way we creative people get to know ourselves better through our writing.

Then we get to have even more fun by sharing it with others and get another nibble of chocolate for our effort.

What could be better than that? Besides Off Campus Writers Workshop ( is just the best. An organization that has about 200 great members and is 63 years old. We cheer you on, give you information about how to improve writing, where to publish and lots more. Even, sometimes, provide chocolate as a reward. Join us sometime - Thursdays 9:30AM to noon, Winnetka Community House, Sept. through May.

Anonymous said...

Wow Susan! What an inspiring post for an aspiring writer. The video made me laugh, and cry, and feel tingly all over. The quote is so true and very fitting at this time; the beginning of my writing career. Thank you!

Mary Akers said...

Great post! I'm just wondering where the photo at the top came from. I would swear that it is from inside the Bookbindery in Colonial Williamsburg. I worked there for four years and seeing that picture was like a shock wave to my brain. A good one. Thanks. :)