We often draw a distinction between work and play, especially when it comes to doing “work” we are passionate about. It is pretty easy to reserve your passions for your after hours time. Working hours become the time when you do what you need to do to pay the bills.
Unless, of course, you find work that feels more like play because it is closely related to your passion.
I quoted Seth Godin recently in my post titled “Your calling and meaningful work”. One of the quotes really appealed to me:
It’s not that important where. It matters a lot how. With passion and care.
It resonated with me although I didn’t really explore the idea much further until I read this quote in a Brain Pickings article titled “Ray Bradbury on Failure, Why We Hate Work, and the Importance of Love in Creative Endeavors”:
“A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play,” the French writer Chateaubriand is credited with saying. “He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.”
I watched Neil Gaiman’s 2012 commencement speech at the University of the Arts this morning. One of the many insights he shared was this:
I learned to write by writing. I tended to do anything as long as it felt like an adventure, and to stop when it felt like work, which meant that life did not feel like work.
What struck me when I read each of these pieces of advice (and others I don’t remember right now) is that a better way to approach work is not to see “work” as the necessity to earn money to pay for “passion” and/or “play”. Instead, work should be another opportunity to refine and enrich your passion.
To paraphrase Chateaubriand, pursue your vision of excellence in whatever you do. Sometimes that happens during working hours and sometimes after work. Ideally you have an opportunity to do this during more of those hours than not or those hours are wasted. As Ray Bradbury observed:
I can only suggest that we often indulge in made work, in false business, to keep from being bored. Or worse still we conceive the idea of working for money. The money becomes the object, the target, the end-all and be-all. Thus work, being important only as a means to that end, degenerates into boredom. Can we wonder then that we hate it so?
My day job is to write marketing copy. It is easy to see that work as divergent from the writing I’d rather being doing. The more I think about it, though, even that writing is an opportunity to become a better writer. The more I write and the better I write, well, I become a better writer. Whether I do that during working hours or after hours shouldn’t really matter, as long as I am pursuing my vision of excellence in my writing.