Revisiting "Love of Work": How to Love Unlovely Work

I just re-read my blog “Perfectionism and ‘Love of Work’” from March 2013, which ended with the line: “‘love of the work’ may be one way to have high standards without perfectionism.” That line begs the follow-up question: Can I have “love of the work” when I’m doing work I don’t love? If so, how?  

Yes, I think we can have “love of the work” when we’re doing work we don’t love. How? I’m going to address that with a story.

In high school, my AP English teacher, Mr. Dumaine, was enthralled by words. He would bounce on the tips of his toes, animatedly explaining the subtle differences between two synonyms or the implications of a metaphor — and at 8:00 a.m. no less. 

Unfortunately for us students, Antigone and Hamlet had some pretty convoluted words, and we didn’t always share Mr. Dumaine’s amazement with them. 

One day, I told Mr. Dumaine that I was having trouble starting a paper. 

“Are you interested in what you’re writing about?” he asked.

“Not really,” I admitted.

“Find a way to be interested in it,” he said. “There are at least 200 pages in this book. One of them — even half of one of them — must be interesting if you think about it.” 

So I thought about it. One of the last pages was interesting (it had beautiful language) and one of the middle pages was interesting (it had the same beautiful language!), so I wrote about those pages.

I think tackling just about anything in life could be like writing an AP English paper.

Not interested in your textbook? There are at least 1,000 pages in this book. One of them — even half of one of them — must be interesting if you think about it. 
Not interested in your job? There are at least 40 hours in the work week. One of them — even half of one of them — must be interesting if you think about it.
Not interested in things overall? There are at least 365 days in the year. One of them…well, you get the idea.   

Focus on one interesting aspect of the work, and see if that motivates you to get through the rest.


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