Ars Longa, Vita Brevis
Art is long, life is short.
One of my greatest fears is leaving this world without ever adding to it something meaningful that changes people’s lives for the better.
For many years I thought this would be my experience with Software Engineering. I wanted to make an app that makes life easier.
Everything has already been done before.
There are no more original ideas. There’s a pretty good chance that anything you try to create has already been done before. We live in an age of ingenuity: People create art and art changes lives. This is the way it should be. But for many people that chance will never manifest.
I decided to create with my words instead. I had stories living inside my mind even before I started high school. To this day, some of those stories have not been told before by other people or in different angles. Writing is the only avenue left to us that we can create something genuinely new.
But even that has its limitations. You will not create a winged fire-breathing scaly beast, and won’t name it a Dragon.
Even if you do create something truly yours, people need to have a point of reference. So they won’t call it a Dragon, but they will say it’s like a Dragon. That defeats your purpose.
Instead of creating something truly unique that people will need to understand for the first time, use something that people will recognize and can relate to, but create compelling characters. I mean, the whole story is about the character. They are pushing it forward.
Hippocrates had a quote that I loved:
Ars Longa, Vita Brevis
Which means: “Art is long, Life is short.”
When you create something so unique, you need to make sure it lives on. J.K Rowling did that with Harry Potter. The original books came out in the ’00s. Harry Potter is still getting video game apps, plays in Broadway, and many other interactions that keep the franchise very much alive.
George R.R. Martin is doing it very well with ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’. These books were written so long ago and still, we have ancillary content coming out, and the TV show is still going strong. The Franchise is very much alive (Although we would appreciate that sixth book, George. Please.)
I hope that one day I have a book out and it will thrive on its own. People will create a subreddit for it, FB groups, podcasts and all sorts of fan content that entices new people to read the book.
But I’m willing to settle for changing a few people’s lives with my words. This endeavor isn’t about getting rich or getting to as many people as I can. I want to leave a mark even if it’s small.
Everything I do leads to that purpose. I’ve started a blog, I’ve started a facebook page, I’ve started a mailing list, I’ve started writing here, on Medium. And yet — I’m not quite there yet. I don’t have a book out, and my mailing list consists of people I’m friends with in real life and not fans who like my work. I found my voice but not my crowd.
It is frustrating, to say the least. What am I missing? Is it such a massive undertaking? How come other writers have done it before me? There are some writers in this world that fare better than the average writer. Maybe I’m just the average writer. Maybe I’m not all that special on my own. The only thing I can be sure of is that my voice is my own. No one else has the same voice and that means somewhere — there are people who will listen. Everyone has a crowd. Even the most obscene things you can imagine are liked by some people.
I will find them eventually. I will keep writing so that my lighthouse can show them the way to me even if they discover the light after I die.
After realizing the enormity of what I had set out to do, I discovered the secondary meaning to Hippocrates’s quote: Art is long. It may take a long time to create what you intended. Life is short. The fruits of your labor may not even be seen in your lifetime.
It is a paralyzing thought if you take a moment to consider what that means. You create either words, paintings, songs, to live on for years to come. People will read what you wrote or discover your paintings and will have an emotional reaction. It will be different for each one. None of them will know what moved you to create the piece in the first place.
At first, this will sound daunting. What will people think? But do not let that decide how you write. You have that special someone you write for. the one person which represents the type of people who you write for. Don’t let the enormity deter you from writing for that special someone.
Not everyone in this big world desires a public voice. We writers, we need it. We have something to say. Often we don’t even know what it is — but it’s there, and we need to let it out.
So maybe I won’t see my message spreading to the masses, but I will keep on creating. I will keep writing and basing my lifestyle around being a writer. This is who I am. Is this who you are too?
Art is long, and it is complicated and vivid and intriguing. Art paves the way to new and exciting things. But, unfortunately, life is short. We have to make do with the time we have and plan for the future.
I wonder, what will you create? How do you deal with the creative process? Do you have that same desire to be heard? Don’t hesitate to start a conversation with me below. I would love to hear your take on this way of life and how you think about the future of your creations.
Oren Cohen is a Software Development Engineer, Gamer, Geek, and Writer. He is writing in all sorts of topics on Medium, though his passion lies with Fantasy and Video Games.