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Tom Sawyer, Art, and the Fun of Work

14 Jul, 2013

In Mark Twain’s 1876 classic, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, the mischievous protagonist is ordered to painting a fence but convinces other boys that the task is fun, thereby getting them to do it for him.

Twain writes, “Tom surveyed his last touch with the eye of an artist [emphasis added], then he gave his brush another gentle sweep and surveyed the result, as before.” The phrase “with the eye of an artist” shows that Tom had treated— or at least had pretended to treat—painting the fence like an artistic undertaking. This story points to a lesson for the modern business person.

For instance, what if each time we had to write something—no matter how tedious—we treated it like art? How would that change our mindset towards the project? This isn’t a question of whether or not what we’re writing is art, it’s about whether we treat it like art.

At ESP/SurgeX, we write plenty of product pages, brochures, technical documents—the kinds of things most people probably would not consider to be art. But perhaps treating projects like these as if they were each pieces of art might add some fun to our daily tasks, kind of like Twain’s Tom Sawyer did with painting a fence. If we treated what we write like art, at least to a certain extent, it might make writing for a business a bit more enjoyable—and maybe doing so would inspire others to have fun doing it, too.

ESP/SurgeX Asks:
What is another common business task you think could be treated like art?

Paul Joe Watson holds an MA in Communication Studies and Mass Media and a bachelor’s degree in Advertising/Public Relations. He is the Marketing Coordinator for ESP/SurgeX in central North Carolina. Read more at espei.com.


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