One of the best cartoons ever about work is Dilbert:
It’s a somewhat less benign version of W1A, the recent BBC series taking the piss out of itself by itself. I recently had an epiphany about this where it struck me that Theresa May is exactly like the character on W1A who has been promoted beyond her abilities, has no clue what she’s doing and goes around saying ‘Yes, exactly yes. The fact is, this has to not happen.’ W1A is a terrific series which may come in for some more detailed sitcom analysis on this blog – but today we’re talking about work. W-O-R-K, work. A t-shirt I’ve seen on sale proclaims ‘You don’t hate Mondays, you hate capitalism:’
and it’s probably true: most people work because they must; because without the money that work provides they wouldn’t be able to do the things they most enjoy. Like eating, for example, or wearing clothes. Some people dream of a time when they don’t have to work; a time spent like sitting by a pool with a martini or working on your garden. But for most people work and non-work are clearly defined. Even if, like a teacher, say, you take work home with you, you know when you’re doing it and when you’re spending time on leisure. (Yeah, I know, ‘leisure?’)
But when you are a self-employed writer with very few (if any) actual funded projects on the go, you have to define both your hours of work and what actually constitutes work. For example, I am about to go to my weekly reading group where we read and discuss short stories and poems. Is this work? On the whole I think it is, since it introduces me to new authors and sharpens my critical faculties. But often when working I can appear to be doing nothing at all: staring into space, chewing my pen or doodling on my pad. Then again, if I’m on Facebook, is that work? On the whole, I’d say no – it’s a distraction. But occasionally I can see stories that give me ideas, or join an argument which helps me to hone the expression of my thoughts. So it isn’t always worthless.
And how many hours should I do? At the moment I’m doing about five or six hours a day. But to me, six focused hours are as good as ten unfocused hours: as critics of the ‘long hours’ culture have pointed out, more time does not equal greater productivity.
And what about this blog post? Does that count as work?