I picked up the term "the work" from Seth Godin's incredible book Linchpin.
He uses the term 'the work' rather than 'work' to define creative or artistic endeavors - which anything that drives, that provides for a passion and purpose in our life can be.
More than simply 'work', THE work is the endeavor of your passion and provides the tangible results of your life's purpose.
In essence it is the goal of your life's activity, with other rewards being as a result of doing 'the work'.
Unlike 'work' that needs to be done in order to achieve something, and is merely a means to an end...and often has little or no inherent value or reward; THE work is all an artist can do! I remember the quote from a Gabriel Garcia Marquez book, that if a writer can not write...then he's not a writer!
If not for the work, the artist ceases to be...
For the artist the work never ceases, for it is the impetus that drives a life worth living. There is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, nor a time when the work is done. For the artist, the craftsman, the artisan loves his work...and why would one seek to be without that which he loves?
The work is how the artist changes the world and brings joy to his fellow man. It is his contribution to the story of our lives.
We are all artists, we can all create, even if that creation is simply a little more joy and happiness. Your art may not be with paint on canvas, or words on paper; but.if you have found the work that pulls you forward and compels your passion, that flows with joy and love, then your art, your work can be that which brings joy to your life, and is the change that changes the world.