Your Life as a Labor of Love

Back in 2001, I took acting classes at a well-regarded studio in Los Angeles.

The format of these classes was “scene study.” This meant we would work on scenes with acting partners (fellow students) on our own time outside of class, and then present them in class for critique and discussion.

The classes were held in the evening, twice a week, for four hours or longer at a stretch. The critiques could be exhaustive and intense. So many different aspects of the art and craft of acting would come to light via the dissection of our scenes and performances.

There was one standout lesson, though, that I took away from those classes above all else. It has stuck with me for over two decades, probably because of its applicability to so many aspects of life outside of the field of acting.

It was the idea of being an “artistic killer.”

An “artistic killer” is, essentially, someone who puts everything they have into their art.

For example, in the context of our class, students put varying degrees of effort and preparation into the scenes they would stage.

When someone went all out, it was obvious.

Maybe this meant they put together elaborate costumes and paid close attention to the physical details of the makeshift set they created on an otherwise bare stage.

Maybe it meant they had explored so many options of delivery and nuance that they were able to make effective choices about what worked best. Or they knew the scene so intimately that they were able to really be present to whatever their fellow actors gave them to work with, and could respond convincingly to that.

Maybe they fabricated from scratch a detailed history for their character. And even though most of those details would not surface in or even be relevant to the specific scene, this informed and fleshed out the character and made her that much more authentic.

Maybe they dug in deep to find the humanity in a character that was not all that likeable on the surface.

Maybe they did outside research to learn specifics about their character’s line of work.

Maybe they learned some basic proficiency at a new skill because it was something their character could do, such as handling a sword or playing a particular musical instrument.

The possibilities for what they did specifically to achieve “artistic killer” status are numerous and varied.

The key, though, was that they poured themselves into the endeavor.

When you do this, it shows.

When you put an incredible amount of care and love into something, it shows. And it tends to bring out a similar ethic in those you are collaborating with, as well. It raises the bar for everyone involved.

Think about some of your favorite human-created things, whatever they happen to be: a work of art, a mathematical equation, a restaurant, a set of principles. (A national park counts, because — even though it is composed of natural wonders — it was humans that had to designate it as such, protect the land, and avail it to the public for their use and enjoyment.)

I’m willing to wager that those things you love the most — that have had a profound, positive, inspirational impact on you — are things that were loved into existence by their creators. They are likely the result of concentrated human effort, determination, care, and attention to detail.


Now, think about some of the most rewarding things you have done in your life. The ones that have brought you the deepest sense of fulfillment. The ones that have made you the most proud.

Were these not the projects you really put your heart and soul into? The things you cared deeply about, took seriously, invested yourself in, and had to tap into the best in yourself in order to realize?

The undertakings that tend to be the richest and most meaningful to us are the ones we have poured ourselves into. The ones we have infused with love and dedication and concentrated effort.

So why not endeavor to treat your life as a whole as a labor of love? As a work of art? As a project to tackle with as much passion, care, grit, enthusiasm, determination, thoughtfulness, creativity, and heart as you can muster?

Why not choose worthy goals and give them everything you’ve got?

What might your life look and feel like if you consistently approached the living of it as an “artistic killer” would?

Originally published at on May 12, 2022.



Writer, musician, teacher, coach, philosopher, biped.

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