We all know that enjoying the work we must do to earn a living makes life more pleasant. Tastes vary, naturally, but most people regard creative work of any kind as a highly desirable occupation. Many would gladly trade their “day job” for the chance to participate. We see one aspect of this yearning in the explosion of self-published authors currently flooding a startled world with oceans of novels and short stories. However, the idea of doing what we love applies at another level. Within the world of creative endeavour itself, it is especially important to do what we find most congenial.
French philosopher and spiritual writer Antonin Sertillanges writes, “It is very important to work in Joy, therefore with relative ease, therefore in the direction of one’s aptitudes.”
Sertillanges’ most famous work in English is The Intellectual Life. Published in 1920, it remains today one of the most practical and inspiring guides on how to organize one’s life to make progress as a thinker.
Others have garnered insights similar to those of Sertillanges. American mythologist Joseph Campbell famously advised, “Follow your bliss.” Notice the similarity in feeling tone between joy and bliss. The mid-century Scottish novelist and essayist Neil M. Gunn spent decades following what he called “delight.” Not a few, and I am one of these, prefer the more magical word “enchantment.”
It is no accident that all of the feeling tones mentioned above belong to the same family. I regard joy, bliss, delight, and enchantment as spiritual emotions. By that, I do not mean to suggest anything religious. When I refer to spirit, I am referring to the vital principle or animating force within human beings. Religious people would call this the soul. Jungians might refer to it as the Self. I think of it as will. Therefore, when I say these feeling tones are spiritual, I mean they are associated with a progressing authentic will. Note the simple peace and serenity suggested by joy, bliss, delight, and enchantment. These feeling tones are quite different from the complicated tempestuous instinctual emotions such as love, hate, fear, jealousy, and anger. They stand both apart and above.
These special feeling tones exist within us for a reason. They are a guide. When you “work in Joy” or “follow your bliss,” you are doing what you genuinely will. When you are doing what you truly will, you have a far better chance of reaching your goal.
Yet having a goal – even an authentically willed one – is not enough. Knowing where you want to go is one thing. Knowing how to get there is another thing altogether. Sertillanges understood this and advised that, “… it is urgently necessary if one does not want merely to mark time, to turn to some task which is precise, defined in its limits, proportioned to one’s strength; and then to throw oneself into it with all one’s heart.”
In other words, always have a well-defined task or goal before you, even if it is an interim one, and commit to it totally. Will is dynamic; it likes to keep moving. However, be sure of what you will, for you are unlikely to attain any goal you do not genuinely will. To discover what you will, apply the joy / bliss / delight / enchantment test. Use your inner guide. If what you propose does not stir one of these feeling tones, you may be on the wrong track. If so, why not go looking for a creative project that does stir you. Then you too can follow your bliss and work in joy.