Soul Crushing Work

There is a phrase David Milarch of Champion Tree Project (now Archangel Ancient Tree Archive) used a few times when I interviewed him for A Life’s Work: “soul satisfying.” I like that phrase, it’s self-explanatory and it’s what we all aspire to do with our time. Soul satisfying work for me is shooting, editing, interviewing; writing and revising; practicing guitar and performing for friends or just for myself.

There is work, though, that is “soul crushing,” and this work need not be of the operating-a-jackhammer-in-the-middle-of-August-in-Phoenix variety. No. Soul crushing work for me is grant writing, hustling for money, submitting stories, and sending out query letters to potential publishers. (I understand some people enjoy doing this work. I would like to meet them and hire them to work for me.) I mention this because it seems like I’ve been doing only this work for the last two and a half months. I suppose this work can be satisfying when you see results, but that satisfaction is very fleeting, at least for me.

What bothers me the most about the soul crushing work is that it takes away precious time from soul satisfying work, the real work. But it must be done. I suppose if I want to keep my marbles, I should do it in small doses, but some times that’s just not been possible.

What work do you find soul satisfying and soul crushing, and how do you deal with the latter?

Okay you turkey necks, gather around and listen to The Crusher.


2 Replies to “Soul Crushing Work”

  1. Soul satisfying work: reading papers, designing a study, watching monkeys, trying to interpret the results. Soul crushing: getting funding, collating data, figuring out the statistics, writing the paper.

    1. Interesting. I understand many people find writing soul crushing, even creative (as opposed to academic) writing. I never did.

      It looks like the soul crushing work is strewn throughout the entire process. Not just in the beginning or end of a project.

      And watching monkeys! You rock.

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