How To Recognize Your Life’s Work

1 08 2012

While gearing up for the launch of my current webcomic, I began to think of it as my Life’s Work. But what the heck is a Life’s Work anyway? That’s one of those phrases that takes root in my mind, but seems suspect the minute I write it. Why should anyone’s life be dedicated to just one work? There’s no need to put that kind of limit on oneself.

But I’m still stuck with this label. I’ve attempted to figure out why, and identified the following reasons. Perhaps you’ll find them useful if you’re an artistic type with too many projects in the pipeline.

  1. It won’t leave you alone. Aethernaut started out as a handful of character sketches in high school. In college, I learned some new things that lead to building the world around them. I made a graphic novel out of it for my thesis (The U of O Honors College is the only way to study), and spent the next 17 years making notes, revising and expanding the story. So I’ve literally been working on it my whole adult life. Obviously it’s important to me.
  2. It brightens your future. This is the flip side of #1; the project stretches forward in time as well as backward. Generating comic pages from my notes on Aethernaut will easily keep me busy for the next ten years. My failing has always been doing too many things, never arriving at a signature style or project or (gods help me) brand. I will undoubtedly continue to have side projects with different aims, but the prospect of dedicating myself to Aethernaut for the foreseeable future feels liberating rather than limiting.
  3. It enhances your life. My own experience of this one is complicated to explain. I’ll try to keep it simple. Since working on Aethernaut, I’ve become more interested in lots of things, especially the planets and the history of science. But more than that, the whole world is more vibrant. Real life has all the magic of escapist fantasy. I can look at something, the Moon for instance, and see a distant mass of rock hanging in space, as well as a made-up, within-reach alien world, and both are equally uplifting. It’s bizarre, and wonderful. If you find a project that makes your personal world better, stick with it.
  4. It’s your most unique contribution. This is sort of a flip side of #3; a measure of how much the project adds to the world at large. I won’t claim that Aethernaut is absolutely unique and original, but it’s the most unique and original thing I’ve ever come up with. If you can follow Shel Silsverstein’s advice and “put something in the world that wasn’t there before,” please do.
  5. You’d hate to die and leave it unfinished. Do you ever imagine what would happen if you were to die right away? Not wish for it, not obsess over it, just consider it at idle moments. I think it’s a normal thing to do. Anyway, along with the obvious sadness of seperation from loved ones, when I think about dying, I want Aethernaut to be finished. That’s probably a pretty good sign that this is the project to get cracking on.
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One response

2 08 2012
Beep Club

I can certainly say, I’m at this stage myself, and it shows in my own webcomic, hosted on my own WordPress blog for the time being… Anyway, I hope that we both get our comic finished before we die, too.

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