While visiting with friends a couple of nights ago, our conversation touched on careers and work. We talked about work in which a person is so interested that he feels gladly immersed, derives satisfaction from it.
I was asked whether I had this feeling while painting--did I feel absorbed to the point that I could lose track of time? Are there any other forms of work I feel that way about?
With art, definitely. Producing images can be a frustrating ordeal, and it can often be hard to focus. I can be tense and even angry. But mostly I want to keep working and I wish I didn't have to look at the clock.
I also thought about coin collecting. It goes beyond simply looking at and trying to acquire coins. Reading about their history and trying to understand their cultural context is engrossing for me. I can be quite consumed by performing "detective work" on a mystery coin. However, it still feels more like a hobby, and I feel a lot of my motivation derives not from joy in the work but from a primal desire to possess, and to compete with rivals who want to possess, and to cooperate with others in honing my skills at acquiring. It's no wonder that my favorite coins have animals on them; it's hunting. What would the world of numismatics be like if a large percentage of coins featured scantily-clad women?
Later, after our conversation had moved on (I would have mentioned it, but it would have been too much of a digression), I realized that gardening was probably closer to art in terms of feeling like deeply satisfying, engrossing work. It's harder to do, logistically speaking: much of the time it's too cold, or too muddy, or to mosquito-y. However, there is always, always more work to do, and I want to do it. Much of the time I am inside the house, I can feel the plants outside pulling me. I want to tie and stake, trim, and mulch. I want to flip and stir the compost. I want to look for harmful pests and disease. I want to dig more space and plant new things and eat what's growing. I don't know why it feels so satisfying, but I only stop when I really feel like I have to meet other obligations or when I realize that I am harming myself physically (through sunburn, bug bites, and dehydration.)