Tag Archives: Chub De Wolfe

It Is Not Real Work Unless You Would Rather Be Doing Something Else

James Matthew Barrie? Chub De Wolfe? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: When I am absorbed in performing a difficult and fascinating task I do not feel like I am working. James Matthew Barrie, the well-known creator of “Peter Pan”, addressed this phenomenon:

Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else.

I have been unable to find a solid citation. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: This saying is difficult to trace because the original phrasing employed by J. M. Barrie was different. On May 3, 1922 Barrie delivered the Rectorial Address at St. Andrews University. He spoke about his time as a freelance journalist, and noted that his excitement and motivation were large enough that the experience did not seem like work. In the following passage he also referred to Robert Louis Stevenson’s success as a writer. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

But now, on reflection, a dreadful sinking assails me, that this was not really work. The artistic callings—you remember how Stevenson thumped them—are merely doing what you are clamorous to be at; it is not real work unless you would rather be doing something else.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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  1. 1922, Courage by J. M. Barrie (James Matthew Barrie), The Rectorial Address Delivered at St. Andrews University on May 3, 1922, Quote Page 23 and 24, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York. (Google Books Full View) link