“The test of a vocation is the love of the drudgery it involves.”
-Logan Pearsall Smith
I saw this quote the other day and it spoke to my little writer’s soul. Isn’t it the truth? You know that you’re meant to do a job if you can stand the mind-numbing tedium that comes with it. And let’s face it — every job includes some dose of mind-numbing tedium. I bet even an exciting job like being an astronaut comes with a fair amount of boring nonsense. I mean, I bet astronauts have to do a lot of paperwork.
I should have known early on that I wasn’t cut out for law firm work when I found myself dreading even the non-tedious work involved in my job. In fact, a weird inversion would happen at the lowest points of my tenure as a Big Law attorney wherein I’d look forward to the more tedious, less demanding tasks given to me (making PowerPoint slides, say, or reviewing documents) while facing more challenging assignments with white knuckles and gritted teeth, because I usually found them both difficult and dreadfully boring. An assignment that is both hard and tedious really is the worst of both worlds, isn’t it?
Of course, I always did what I was asked to do and I’d like to think I performed adequately, but did I enjoy the process? Dear God, no. I hated every minute of it. Working at a law firm — both the drudgery and the brainwork — was an entirely miserable experience for me that often clouded my enjoyment of life. Now, you might think I’m being a tad dramatic here, but no — something about the firm managed to spark some real Dark Night of the Soul-style existential wrangling for me. Never did I fall to my knees and cry out, “Is this all there is, God?” because, you know, that would have been a little over the top, but, to be fair, I did cry in my office a lot.
It’s not just me who feels this way, by the way. Sure, my hate for that particular job was probably more vehement than most of my colleagues’, but I’d venture to say that very few of the lawyers I encountered at my law firm genuinely loved what they did. Many of us came to a firm in the first place because we had debt or we were trying to save money or we wanted to get training or we needed to have something prestigious on our resumes. But the number of people who woke up looking forward to their workdays was quite small. And almost no one I knew enjoyed the drudgery. And oh, the sheer drudgery of being an attorney! It’s indescribably dreary.
Now that I’m writing for a living, the Logan Pearsall Smith quote, above, makes perfect sense to me. Some context: Smith was an essayist and critic who was known to take days to perfect a sentence. (He also came up with some awesome quotes). So the guy clearly had a fondness for the drudgery of writing. And gosh darn it, so do I. Don’t get me wrong, writing is hard and it takes an effort, even as self-disciplined as I am, to make myself sit down and write 2000 words a day in my novel and then crank out a daily blog post. But even when it’s a struggle, I enjoy it. There’s something satisfying about gritting through, forcing my brain to shape words, digging ideas out of the attic of my subconscious. And maybe the glow of writing will wear off eventually – after all, I’ve been doing this full-time for less than two months — but I don’t think so. I think this is my vocation, as Smith would have it. And so far I’m loving the drudgery.