I'm currently reading Lewis Hyde's wonderful book, The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World. In it, he explores the nature of the "gift economy" vs. the market economy and how creative types are caught in between these two fundamentally different ways of operating in the world.
One of the issues Hyde discusses is the difference between labor and work. He says:
When I speak of labor, then, I intend to refer to something dictated by the course of life, rather than by society, something that is often urgent, but that nevertheless has its own interior rhythm, something more bound up with feeling, more interior than work.
What occurred to me in exploring these passages is how often I try to turn my labors into work, wanting them to happen according to whatever--usually ambitious--external schedule I've established to accomplish the task. I then become frustrated and angry with myself when I cannot make myself, through force of will, accomplish that labor in the time I've allotted, according to the "rules" I've established.
Clearly I could as easily turn lead to gold. Making the labor of creativity and invention conform to the schedule and tasks of work is an impossible alchemy that I'm crazy to even try.
A fundamental problem we face in doing anything that is original or creative is understanding which part is work and which is labor. Unfortunately, we live in a culture that has separated the two and expects us to be able to engage in our labors as though they were work. And all too often, we buy into this notion.
Question for the Day: Do you confuse "labor" with "work"?