Very grateful to friends M&M (for excessively lovely dinner last night) but also giving me a chance to opine/refine what I mean by the difference between hard work/working hard. I always get irritated when people in the arts (and writers especially) say what we do is ‘hard work’. I’m happy to allow that most of us do, mostly, work hard at it, but hard work? Well, my Dad was a labourer most of his life (except for the four years he spent in a PoW camp during WW2) – that’s hard work. I once spent one summer holiday working in a plywood mill where it was too loud to hear the person next to you, the temperature was a constant 30+ degrees – it was hard work for the time I was doing it (6 weeks) but I was lucky I didn’t have to do it for my living, for my life. I paid my way through university (and a good half of my 20’s) by working as a house cleaner – that too was hard work. But again, I didn’t think I’d be doing it forever, so the temporary nature (even if it was a ‘temporary’ eight years!) tempered the ‘hard’ part at least a little.
Cleaning houses – especially those that are not one’s own – is hard work because you go in, you make it all better and shining and gleaming, and then a few days or a week later you come back and do EXACTLY the same thing all over again. There is no appreciable difference.
And it’s the appreciable difference counts.
(Yes of course, this is a semantic argument, but it’s one that matters I feel, not least because we cannot expect the world to take us seriously as artists/craftspeople if we constantly over-state the difficulty/importance of what we do.)
It’s the Sisyphus thing :
‘Hard work’ is work that makes no tangible difference, you can do it, and do it really well, but tomorrow or next week or even in a month’s time, you’re going to have to do it all over again. And the reason this is hard work is because it breaks the spirit in the long run. (And no, not all work can be fun/enlightening/enjoyable, not all workers want work to be like that, some are happy to use the money from work to have their fun/enjoyment … but in truth, I think most of us do want more from our ‘work’.)
‘Working hard’ is what you do when you take it seriously, put all your effort into it, go at it with the same spirit as the ‘hard work’ above, but there is an appreciable difference at the end. You finish your first/2nd/9th draft. The garden blooms. The cake rises. The child grows into a lovely/kind/bearable adult. The new paint job makes the room look lovely. The new painting is done. The tech eventually finishes and a dress rehearsal is possible. The orchard bears fruit. You finally understand the quadratic equation.
Appreciable differences – what human beings like.
(All IMO. Obviously.)