Paul Graham's latest extended essay, "How to Do What You Love", is (as usual) thought-provoking and inspiring. Maybe the core of the essay is
"Always produce" is also a heuristic for finding the work you love. If you subject yourself to that constraint, it will automatically push you away from things you think you're supposed to work on, toward things you actually like. "Always produce" will discover your life's work the way water, with the aid of gravity, finds the hole in your roof.
But along the way he gives short shrift to the humanities, and especially expertise in literature.
Most good mathematicians would work on math even if there were no jobs as math professors, whereas in the departments at the other end of the spectrum, the availability of teaching jobs is the driver: people would rather be English professors than work in ad agencies, and publishing papers is the way you compete for such jobs. Math would happen without math departments, but it is the existence of English majors, and therefore jobs teaching them, that calls into being all those thousands of dreary papers about gender and identity in the novels of Conrad. No one does that kind of thing for fun.
Not so. Granted, no one writes a dreary paper for fun. But English departments are no different from math departments in the respect that they are full of people who love what they're doing, who can't imagine doing anything other than doing literature.
Except for some books in math and the hard sciences, there's no test of how well you've read a book, and that's why merely reading books doesn't quite feel like work. You have to do something with what you've read to feel productive.
Perhaps what Graham is driving at is that sitting on the couch reading genre fiction is not a career. But there is a test for how well you've read a book: the ones that get an A+ on that test get to be reviewers and professors and are paid well to do just that.
For that matter, any leisure activity can be turned into a lucrative profession if you do it well enough: running a fishing boat, reviewing video games, even blogging.
(Thanks to Lifehacker.)