In the first decade of my adulthood, I have often come back to the idea that I was lacking a body of work. I have realized that the body of work comes over time. That may seem like an obvious statement. But it is not so obvious. I listen to podcasts and read books by people who have been working on their body of work for decades. The disparity in my thinking rested in that I did not see the correspondence between accumulation and expertise. There are a couple of points to further look into here, accumulation and the building of a body of work.
First, let’s look at accumulation. Now, depending on what we find to be our calling or great interests, we can look at accumulation in more than one way. Accumulation can also occur without a direct gain of knowledge (let’s talk about this in another blog post). Let’s take writing as our first example. I have been working on building a body of work for my writing since I was about seven years old. Most of that time was spent unknowingly doing such. But let’s say my body of work started about 4 years ago, when I started this public blog. In the past few years, I have been accumulating blog articles.
These blog articles demonstrate a few things, including: I am interested in writing outside of being paid to do so, and I have the diligence to continue studying beyond structured schooling. Now, this is my public accumulation. It is for the sake of releasing information into the world that I think is interesting because it offers thought alternatives. Of course, I also have a decent body of private accumulation of writings. These live in about 10 journals that I’ve filled up. I used to get rid of all of my private writing. But since becoming more comfortable with my process of self-exploration, I have kept all of my private writing.
In addition to accumulating public blog articles and private journal writings, I also have a professional body of work. Now, this is owned by companies, so I don’t show this work in a portfolio. It is often enough in the professional world to simply give companies and other professionals a good understanding of what body of work I have written for pay. Aside from professional work, I have also created a body of work comprised of two novels, one of which is now published and available on Amazon.
This may seem like a lot of work. And it has been. I write every single day. But I would not have it without accumulation. I remember starting my blog and believing that it was too late for me. I wasn’t a traditionally published author, so what place did I have carving out my own little plot on the internet? Who was I to put my name on a website URL and publish my personal thoughts? I did it anyways. And shortly after I started my blog, I gained the courage, through discipline and letting go, to begin writing my first book.
I used to feel that I had to qualify what I spent my time on. I asked myself the value in all that I was doing. But I felt that contributing to this blog and writing books was what I was being called to do deep inside. Writing is my complete release and my raging freedom. I don’t have to publish everything I write, and I definitely keep most of my writing private. But what I do put up is my public accumulation, my contribution to my body of work. The ego was not the part of me that wanted to attach a body of work to my name. The ego was the voice making me question my place in the world, when I have a good idea of it.
So the first part of building a body of work is simply accumulating. It’s not releasing daily content. It’s not putting monetary pressure on the things you love to do most. It’s diligence over the duration of time. There is no need to be an expert now. There is no need for perfection. At the end of the day, when I am finished my professional work, I am still a writer. I will continue to write and create private and public works. There is no incentive beyond the feeling I get that I am fulfilling what my soul most wants to do, which is get words onto a page.
Building a body of work is the more calculated form of accumulation. A body of work shows a personality behind the work. An accumulation can be bits thrown to a wall. For a writer, it can include a drawer full of poems written on napkins, old grocery lists, photo-collages meant to be book covers. Accumulation is disorderly, contains mediums that are extraneous to the main themes of the work, unedited. It’s private, primal, un-curated, insecure, weathered, worn, hyperbolic.
The calculated body of work takes many forms for a writer. For me, it’s these blog articles because they show the themes that I like to work with in my writing. This blog is my outlet for alternative thoughts that I can’t otherwise speak into existence. It is here whenever I absolutely feel the urge that I need to get a thought out. The calculation rests in that I sensor my thoughts in this medium. This is not done to distort the message or manipulate the reader. It is meant to create a more understandable narrative. If I were to use a completely uninhibited stream of consciousness, the articles would become crowded with distracted thoughts that only I am able to make connections to. We all form strong mental associations to words and images, but it’s not useful for me to speak about the formations that I make as they are highly personal and amoebic.
The body of work gives other people a lot into the workings of the creator’s mind. With writing, you can learn far more about me from the words on this page than what I am saying directly. The more material I create and publish, the more you can make your own ideas about how I think and live my life. This idea of who I am lives uniquely in your brain as your perception. Although I can mostly control what goes into my body of work, I cannot fully control how my work is interpreted. The body of work does that for me. A consensus of my writing is made outside of me, based on what I have released.
The value of a body of work is immense. Consistency and perseverance are required. There is romance is the daily toil. One must accumulate, and simultaneously build a body of work. One must work in private, and also show something – not everything – to the world.