Life Work

Well, not to be tooting my own horn, but I think this would be of interest to readers here: I wrote a piece on a slim memoir by the celebrated poet Donald Hall, Life Work, that was published over at Fieldnotes Magazine today (a magazine which, in the interest of full disclosure, I edited through March of this year). I teach Life Work to my first-year writing classes and so have read it several times, and each time I love it more. Here’s an excerpt from my piece:

What I love about Life Work is that it’s all about the work of writing, and what it is to love work, love writing, love reading. Hall wakes up in the middle of the night excited to get started on the day’s work and, like a child on Christmas Eve, has to keep himself in bed until the clock says he can finally get up. Weird? Or amazing? I can’t decide. Usually when I wake up that early, I just want to sleep longer.

Yet I love my work, which is like Hall’s, writing and reading and teaching and editing. I didn’t grow up in a community where I saw many people love their work, so it can be hard for me to accept the gift of pleasure, joy, and deep satisfaction I receive from my work. I have some of the stereotypical Puritan in me, and so a voice in my head tells me dourly that if you like work, it should be because you have evolved to some higher plane and can find enjoyment in labor by somehow transcending the act – not because you enjoy the work itself.

I hope you enjoy it! And even if you don’t, I hope you read Hall’s book, because it’s masterful.


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