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Is writing 'work'?

16 May 2011

'I've always had uneasy loyalties about the relevance of the term 'work' to the activities I perform every day, and which occupy the hours when most other people are in fact "working". I write novels and stories and essays for a living. And while I fairly mindlessly refer to what I do as "work"... it's hard for me to think that work is what I really do.

Work, after all - to me anyway - signifies something hard. And while writing a novel can be (I love this word) challenging, (it can also be tedious in the extreme; take forever to finish; demoralise me into granite and make me want to quit and find another line of work), it's not ever what I'd call hard. A hard job, okay, would have to be strenuous and pressurised (writing's almost never that way)...

Indeed, a smug, self-aggrandising part of me doesn't really understand how anybody who's not a writer gets along in life. Not only is writing easier than almost any occupation I know, but you also run your own operation; you have at least a chance to admire what you do and feel a kinship with the greats; you get to make excellent use (by sticking it in your work) of the constant flood of life's jetsam - the daily freshet that drives most people crazy; and you have a chance to please total strangers with your efforts, and at least potentially, marginally make the world a better place... True, you usually don't make a lot of money, which is a drag, but I associate making a lot of money with jobs that are so tedious (and hard) that only big money would make you do it. My little job I'd do for free - and often have.'

Richard Ford in the Guardian