A dentist asked me if I live my work.
“Dentistry is very routine,” he said. “There is no room for creativity. People come to you in pain, and you set to work.
“Writing takes your whole being,” he said, scooping his arms into his chest. “Those authors, they pour themselves onto the page. They give it every waking moment, every ounce of energy and creativity that they might muster.
“Is it like that with editing?”
I shook my head no. “Not really,” I replied. “Is it? What do you mean dentistry isn’t creative? Well, let me think. I work on projects for months at a time. This current one I started nine months ago. Like birthing a baby. But when I close my office door, I stop working.
“Wait, that’s not true. I’m working on physics right now, and I see it all around me. I’m always finding some interesting bit in the news, or something I come across in my travels, and I share that with my author.
“I don’t spend sleepless nights worrying about the project, or jump up pre-dawn to tackle some issue I just can’t put out of my mind.* But I do ‘live’ the subject. I really get into it and, like everything you get into, you suddenly see it all around you.”
It’s pretty damned awesome.
But you know, at the end of the day, I haven’t relieved anyone of their tooth pain. And I earn considerably less than a dentist. I’m rather envious of his ability to see the fruits of an hour’s labour and to know that he has made the world a significantly better place, each and every day—for his clients, and for everyone they interact with.
As for the creativity, I think he’ll find it: in better procedures, in new materials, in radical new approaches. Anyone who “lives their work” will do so.
Now, I gotta go. My day is done.
* I used to have dreams about misplaced commas.