Defining Hard Work in an age of Sit-down jobs

I’m a writer. I sit down while I work. And I hate it. Really.

Before this, I was a teaching assistant, and I sat down for my 30-minute lunch. Every day. Five days per week (except for summers – such an awesome benefit). You can bet I was happy to take a load off once I got home.

In process of writing my latest novel and getting it reader-worthy, I’ve worked so hard my back ached, my head ached and I saw spots dancing before my eyes. All of this while sitting in front of a computer.

Isn’t hard work defined as physical labor?

I raked a load of bark dust over my flower beds. Thankfully, I wore gloves and spared myself blisters. I dripped sweat, got a first-class kink in my lower back and suffered from stiff shoulders the next day. Must have been hard work.

When I watch movies of life in the pioneer days or earlier, I shudder to think of living in such a time. I like having time to sit on the deck and read a book. Those people sat down and fell asleep because their bodies needed to rest.

What constitutes hard work in an era when most of the desirable jobs involve a high-percentage of sitting and utilizing brain power rather than brawn?

This is my take on this subject. Five things that might mean you’ve worked hard:

Something gets accomplished

It might just be all the clothes washed, dried, folded and put in their appropriate spots. This is one task I would have despised as a pioneer. Washboard anyone? I’ll pass.

Visible results

Some people might say this is the same thing, but I think there’s a difference. After all, anyone who’s done laundry knows that all the clothes are never done. What happens when you get ready for bed on wash day? Right. You throw a bunch of dirty clothes in the hamper.

I wrote three blog posts today. Then I put them up on my website, programming them to automatically post on the appropriate day. I can show you this using the “All Posts” tab on my WordPress dashboard.

You feel it physically

Let’s face it, they don’t call that hour-long kickboxing class a workout for nothing. You will work your body. You will sweat. You will grunt. If it’s been awhile since you did it, you will groan for a few days to come.

Things like accounting and marketing don’t require the use of the same muscles as your cardio class. They do, however, make your brain sweat. My eyes feel like crossing after looking at the computer screen too long. I’m feeling it in my body.

Someone pays you to do it

Okay, I personally hate this one. I don’t consider some things people are paid for “work.” For instance, sitting at a front desk, smiling at people and showing them to the right room.  I know people who get paid to do this. I do consider revising and editing my manuscript brain-straining labor, and no one has yet to pay me for doing it.

Satisfaction follows on its heels

This is the biggest indicator. Labor for hours and finish a project. Afterwards, you can sigh and say, “That’s done.” (If you’re a mother, you will have to do the same exact thing again tomorrow.)

Work should bring with it a sense of accomplishment. I have had jobs that gave me nothing more than a paycheck. Some of them were physically demanding, and I worked quite hard while on shift. Afterwards, I just left tired.

When you do the work you’re meant to do, a sense of satisfaction rides on the bumper. Even in the midst of the project, you can look at how far you’ve come and feel good about it.

Why do people want to avoid work so much in this era? I have never gained the same flood of joy from playing a game or watching a movie as I do from writing a single scene in my novel. It just feels good to finish a job.

What’s your definition of hard work? Do you think a strong work ethic is being emphasized in today’s American culture?

What do you think? Add to the discussion here.