To earn one’s bread by the sweat of one’s brow has always been the lot of mankind. At least, ever since Eden’s slothful couple was served with an eviction notice. The scriptural precept was never doubted, not out loud. No matter how demeaning the task, no matter how it dulls the senses and breaks the spirit, one must work. Or else.

Studs Terkel

I couldn’t get myself to read the want ads. The thought of sitting in front of a man behind a desk and telling him that I wanted a job, that I was qualified for a job, was too much for me. Frankly, I was horrified by life, at what a man had to do simply in order to eat, sleep, and keep himself clothed.

Charles Bukowski, Factotum

An ideal world: money falls from the sky and into my lap for each word that I write. A one-dollar flat rate. A twenty for a real zinger.

Weike Wang, Chemistry

Normal is . . . getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to the job that you need so you can pay for the clothes, car, and, especially, the house that you leave empty all day in order to afford to live in it.

Ellen Goodman

I do not particularly like the word work. Human beings are the only animals who have to work, and I think this is the most ridiculous thing in the world. Other animals make their livings by living, but people work like crazy, thinking that they have to in order to stay alive. The bigger the job, the greater the challenge, the more wonderful they think it is.

Masanobu Fukuoka

I am not at all in favor of hard work for its own sake; many people who work very hard indeed produce terrible things, and should most certainly not be encouraged.

Edna St. Vincent Millay

“I have no profession,” said Cecil. “It is another example of my decadence. My attitude — quite an indefensible one — is that so long as I am no trouble to anyone I have a right to do as I like. I know I ought to be getting money out of people, or devoting myself to things I don’t care a straw about, but somehow, I’ve not been able to begin.”

E.M. Forster, A Room with a View

It has so happened in all ages of the world, that some have labored, and others have, without labor, enjoyed a large proportion of the fruits. This is wrong, and should not continue. To [secure] to each laborer the whole product of his labor, or as nearly as possible, is a most worthy object of any good government.

Abraham Lincoln

Labor is like motherhood to most of our political leaders — a calling so fine and noble that it would be sullied by talk of vulgar, mundane things like pay.

Barbara Ehrenreich

There are stories — legends, really — of the “steady job.” Old-timers gather graduates around the flickering light of a computer monitor and tell stories of how the company used to be, back when a job was for life, not just for the business cycle. . . . The graduates snicker. A steady job! They’ve never heard of such a thing.

Max Barry, Company

Apparently I lack some particular perversion which today’s employer is seeking.

John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces

Work is a world apart from jobs. Work is the way you occupy your mind and hand and eye and whole body when they’re informed by your imagination and wit, by your keenest perceptions, by your most profound reflections on everything you’ve read and seen and heard and been a part of. You may or may not be paid to do your work.

Alice Koller

A man is worked upon by what he works on. He may carve out his circumstances, but his circumstances will carve him out as well.

Frederick Douglass

I see them all hanging up before me, like clothes on a rack, all the jobs, tinker, tailor, soldier, and you have to pick one and then you have to pretend for the rest of your life that that’s what you are.

Graham Swift, Last Orders

I spent a busy day today, but got little done. This is because I am at last becoming perfect in the art of seeming busy, even when very little is going on in my head or under my hands. This is an art which every man learns, if he does not intend to work himself to death.

Robertson Davies