A few days ago, I was asked, “How do you decide which essays to publish on Work Stew?” I shared the answer on Facebook, but I thought I’d share it here, too.
As I look at the drafts I receive, I consider three main things:
1) Does the essay center on the subject of WORK? I define the term ‘work’ quite broadly, but I do seek out pieces that in some way examine what it is that we choose to do with our lives.
2) Will publishing the essay be a good experience for the WRITER? If the essay brings about a certain amount of clarity for the writer and enables him/her to connect with others, that’s great. If the essay will clearly hurt the writer’s chances of getting work in the future, I either urge the use of a pen name or I decide to withhold from publishing the piece all together. While I want to encourage frank conversations about work, life is hard enough already. I DON’T want any one to suffer disciplinary actions or prolonged unemployment because of what they’ve written for Work Stew.
3) Will publishing the essay be a good experience for the READER? We can all get a lot out of writing; that’s why journaling can be so useful. But for a broad group of readers to get something from a piece, it has to be well constructed. Happily, a little editing can go a long way, so this is often the easiest hurdle to clear.
That’s about it. Thoughts? Questions?
A few weeks ago on Facebook, we were talking about Aaron Hurst’s piece in The New York Times called, ‘Being Good Isn’t the Only Way to Go.’ Work Stew reader Matthew Taylor is not a fan of the piece. In the comments section, he wrote, “You can’t just re-imagine that your job has purpose. That is being out of touch with reality. Sure, we could wander around with a fantasy of purpose in our heads, but if it is not real, then we’re just deluding ourselves.”
I disagree. Here’s my response to Matthew: “Hi Matthew Taylor, thanks for weighing in. I agree with you that not all of his (Hurst’s) specific suggestions are strong but his main premise—that meaning *can* be found in the for-profit world and that non-profit jobs do not *always* provide for fulfilling work—is one that I have really come to believe.
For me, the meaning in any role I perform is a function of three things: what I call (talking to myself usually, but I’m happy to talk to you, too): ‘Connection, Flow, and Wonder.’
Connection has do to with the interactions I have with other people: am I being myself and is my effect on other people (at least largely) positive?
Flow has to do with the tasks themselves: do I enjoy at least some of them to the point of being really absorbed by my work?
Wonder is perhaps the most complicated of my requirements to explain, but it has to do with preserving a sense of wonder about life and about the world. In jobs that have beaten me down for whatever reason, my sense of Wonder is shot, and I realize I have to leave. In jobs that I’ve enjoyed, my sense of Wonder stays intact, and—in the best jobs I’ve ever had—I’ve felt like I’m working side by side with people who “get” the whole Wonder thing, who understand that we work for many reasons: to make a living, for the intrinsic value of labor, and also, ideally, to support a life of Wonder—in my case, a chance to raise children, to see a bit of the world, to try new things.
What I’m *not* saying is that these elements are easy to find in the workplace. In fact, I think workplaces that support all three are incredibly rare. What I *do* feel is that these elements can be found in the for-profit world as much as in the not-for-profit world…so that’s the part of this article that really resonated with me.”
What about you? Where do you come out on Hurst’s piece? Please chime in. I’d love to have your voice in the mix.