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Twain's Tom Sawyer, Art, and the Fun of Work

28 Aug, 2013 By: Paul Joe Watson

In Mark Twain’s 1876 classic, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, the mischievous protagonist is ordered to paina fence, yet convinces others 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?  That our task had priority, importance; a specialness that was appreciated by others as well as ourselves.  And that others wanted to partake in or learn more about...

How would this change our mindset towards the project? To the people around us? This isn’t a question of whether or not what we’re writing or doing is art, it’s about whether we treat it like art. Think about it.

At my company (ESP/SurgeX), we write plenty of product pages, brochures, technical documents—the kinds of things most people probably would not consider to be high art. But when we treat projects like these as if they were part of a piece of art, it adds some fun and new interest to our daily tasks... kind of like Twain’s Tom Sawyer did with painting a fence.  If we treat what we write or create more like how we value art, at least to some     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.

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

About Author: 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. Visit http://espei.com for more info.

About the Author: Paul Joe Watson

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