There are people who sacrifice everything for their art—their happiness, their marriage, their friendships, their health—and for what? So that perhaps, if they’re extremely lucky, millions of people will look admiringly upon their work and say what a great artist they were? What a difference they made in the world?
I believe that far more important than the work itself is who we become through the process of creating the work. Does it add to who we are? Does it add to our happiness? Our joy? Our relationships with others?
We can leave behind great work—books and paintings and music and inventions that change the way future generations live in the world—but it will always pale in comparison to what we leave behind through the lives that we directly touch. The most profound gift we can leave behind in our absence is love. That isn’t to say don’t do the work—please, do the work—just realize that the highest purpose that art can serve is to deepen our human experience of love.