Creating a body of work

A point that has seemed striking to me recently is the idea that you, as an artist or creator, are building ‘a body of work’.

I picture it, for some reason, as a plump fruit – specifically, a nice juicy pear. Don’t ask me why, but it’s helpful to have an image to go with a thing you like to remember.

The idea of having ‘a body of work’ is well-known, of course. We tend to use it when talking about famous creators who have done a lot of things. Looking at the ‘body of work’ invites us to take a step back, and see their work as a whole, with perhaps some connecting themes, but also some range and diversity. Some things seem to fit into the big picture better than others, but in looking at a body of work, we appreciate the whole lot.

So thinking about your own work as part of a body of work makes a difference.

One aspect of it is, when you are thinking about your body of work, you don’t have to worry quite so much about each of the things.

Of course, when you are making something new – whether it is music, or a painting, a poem, or whatever – you are concerned with every little detail, and you want to make it the best that you can. Of course. You make it with love and care, and want it to be an incredible single thing.

But if we are thinking about adding to your whole body of work, that’s a whole collection of interesting things. It takes the pressure off, because now you’re making one more interesting thing among many, rather than sweating about it being your best thing ever.

Over time, you add more things, and you are building the collection of interesting things, which reflect different parts of your self and identity. Or maybe they reflect similar parts, but in different ways.

Making things and sharing them in the world doesn’t have to be about big hits: it can be just as powerful when it’s something small, shared with a few friends. As I’ve said before, it’s a matter of saying, perhaps quietly, “Here I am”, and “I made this”.

And with a body of work, you are saying “Here I am, I made this” here, and also “Here I am, I made this” over here, and so on.

Collectively, it adds up. Worry less about the tiny details of individual items. The body of work is a thing to be proud of.

If you like thinking about your own creativity and how to build it, see my new book Creativity: Seven Keys to Unlock Your Creative Self, which is full of this kind of thing.

The photograph of a pear is by Tijana Drndarski – many thanks.


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