“People don’t make albums anymore. They don’t make albums. They just try to sell a bunch of little quick singles and they burn out, then they put out a new one, and then they burn out and they put out a new one. People don’t even listen to a body of work anymore.”–Beyonce
It was a cozy fall evening. The air was just crisp enough to snuggle up under a blanket as I settled into my favorite chair to unwind after a long day. With a glass of red wine in one hand and the remote in the other, I flipped through the TV channels searching for something good to watch.
And then there she was. Beyonce. It was an interview I had not seen. I paused the TV just in time to catch her say, “people don’t create a body of work anymore.”
Those words hit and sent shockwaves through my body. I was shook. I almost dropped my glass of wine. Timing is everything in life, and the time was right for me to hear those words. It was truly a lightbulb moment. Ding!
Defining a body of work
Just as musicians have their collection of albums, fashion designers have their clothing lines, authors have the books they’ve written, athletes have the games they’ve poured their sweat into, and painters have their paintings. The list of legacies that cannot be erased goes on and on and isn’t reserved for the famous.
Example of a body of work
When I think of people with an outstanding legacy complete with numerous bodies of work, my friend Gabrielle comes to mind.
Gabrielle works extensively with organizations, contractors and ministries to design and implement education projects, learning assessments and monitoring systems within school systems worldwide.
She spends most of her time abroad in countries such as Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon and Pakistan, working one-on-one with locals to get their school systems up and running—sometimes risking her life to stay and get it done.
Gabrielle’s stories are always humbling. Her pictures depict remarkable journeys from riding a camel through a desert to crossing the Nile river by boat. The souvenirs she’s collected through her travels and experiences fill her barely used home. It’s like walking through The Smithsonian. My house is not. I am not like Gabrielle.
Self-reflecting on your body of work
As I sat in my living room that fall evening watching Beyonce, I realized she’s talking about me. I don’t have a body of work that I could put my stamp on and say “yep, that’s Farrah’s work.”
When I was a child, I often wrote stories and songs in my spare time. I then shared them with teachers, family and friends, but somewhere in there, that all stopped. There was nothing I could recall in adulthood that I poured my heart and soul into from my vision to creation.
I wasn’t just looking at my career. As I surveyed my life as a whole, I realized I didn’t have a side gig, I wasn’t a part of the PTA, and I hadn’t sat on any boards. There was no consistent volunteer work that I could speak of proudly.
Moment of realization
After discerning what I didn’t have going on, my mind shifted to what I did have to show. But, beyond helping others fulfill their dreams and passions by marketing their businesses, I was hard up to find much else. I didn’t find my own dreams. I was not living to leave my mark with my own albums, I was living to maybe be mentioned in the liner notes.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with being a part of a support system. It can be quite honorable. But, when it gets in the way of fulfilling your own goals and dreams, something’s got to give. So, what did I want out of life? What did I want to fill my body of work?
Looking back at what cause my derailment from completing a body of work
My childhood was filled with vivid dreams of becoming a writer. Even throughout high school, there was not a doubt in my mind that I was going to be a successful novelist, columnist or composer of many hit songs. I was so sure, and yet, as I entered adulthood, aka real life, my focus shifted to paying bills and having a traditional, stable career. I lost sight of my writing dreams.
When I started working at the age of 16, my writing dreams were alive and well. There were times when I worked three jobs (a full-time job and two part-time jobs). I never stopped working or allowed time for my passion, and slowly those once vivid dreams of being a successful writer faded until I stopped thinking about them entirely. And now, in my mid-forties, I realize that I’ve been working to make paychecks and not to fulfill a dream.
No matter how you sliced it, I had a stack of pay stubs, not a body of work—or at least not one I wanted to be known for. It was crystal clear that I needed to begin to write my own life narrative and not let life write it for me.
I don’t have a body of work, so now what?
“If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” –Benjamin Franklin
We can’t and shouldn’t all expect to invent the lightbulb, record the album Thriller, create a rocket that goes into space, set up schools in Jordan, or solve world hunger. That, my friends, is unrealistic.
However, we all have talents and dreams to explore. We have things we want and hope to accomplish. What are yours?
Building your body of work and legacy
Tony Robbins wrote, “leaving a legacy is about building a business that lives on after you are gone. It’s not about having a job to show up to every day—it’s about creating something that can exist without you.”
Questions to ask yourself
What is a cause that you’d proudly go above and beyond for?
- What is a cause that you’d proudly go above and beyond for?
- What would challenge you and make you feel rewarded if you accomplished it?
- Would would make you smile each morning?
If you close your eyes and imagine accepting an award for your outstanding achievement, what would the award be for?
Is it volunteering at a local church or women’s shelter? How about writing that book you always wanted to write? What about training for and running marathons? Maybe you’ve always wanted to start your own swimwear line. The possibilities are as limited as your heart and imagination.
Me? I’m starting with this blog. After all, I’m a writer 😉 How about you?