We tend to think of creative work as a craft. Something that requires focus, genuine care, patience and practice, which eventually turn to skill. We respect and prize this level of commitment. Yet most of us likely hesitate from referencing our own work as craft. We may shy away for a litany of valid reasons― seems like a lofty ideal that might attract eye-rolls, others may think we’re posturing, our work environment is so transactional that it laughs in the face of such care, we had this attitude once but circumstances have beaten it out of us, we never got the chance to practice our work like it mattered. Our reasons will come in many flavors and feel relatable to others. We might also note that most of these reasons have an external orientation, where we look to others for definition.
What if, rather than making external proclamations, we change our internal orientation and start thinking of our work as craft regardless of external incentives. What if we defined our work in terms that are personally meaningful to us? Then, what if we commit only to ourselves to show up everyday with that internal rudder?
Would we color outside the expected lines to come up with novel solutions, stick with a hard task despite hurdles, commit to something without needing external nudges? Would we be able to think beyond our self-interest? Would we show up not only with an open mind, and open heart but also an open will*? Essentially, would we do the creative work of inviting in a future we truly want for ourselves and others?
This level of silently powerful presence in our work requires a recurring choice. It’s easier to make this choice after we allow ourselves to see our own work as craft.
P.S.: The idea of job crafting is another practical way to go about shaping our work. Harvard Business Review offers a few pithy articles on this idea. Here are a couple:
*Credit: Otto Scharmer and Theory U
“When you stop downloading, you realize that you actually have a choice — a choice in how you respond to any situation. You can respond by turning away, or by turning toward. Turning away means closing your mind, heart, and will — in other words, acting from ignorance, hate, and fear. Turning toward means opening your mind, heart, and will — acting from curiosity, compassion, and courage. These are the choices we face in any moment: Do we turn away and close down, or do we turn toward and open up, activating the deeper levels of our humanity?” (Read full text here) ― Otto Scharmer, Senior Lecturer, MIT Sloan School of Management and co-founder of the Presencing Institute.