What does it mean to achieve mastery? What are its qualities, and what responsibilities does it bring? When do you get to call yourself an artist? Does the affirmation—and indeed declaration—of this come from without or within?
These are some of the questions I pondered with a friend over a late breakfast one rainy day. It was a deep conversation, rich in digressions and connections, but one point she raised lit the spark for this article.
Do you own your writing?
Interestingly, my friend and I had different interpretations of this question. While notions of ownership often relate to intellectual property and copyright, our discussion did not venture in those directions, and neither does this article.
Rather, my friend recalled that she first heard the query in a writing course, where she understood it to refer to the language and stance that are present in a text. “Owning”, in this sense, means constructing clear, definitive sentences with no vacillation or equivocation, no might or may or could or should.
This is certainly a valid reading of the idea, and it may, if adopted, result in a more robust approach to writing. But as the preceding sentence shows, sometimes allowing a hint of doubt can be effective and even necessary.
Unusually, perhaps, for an editor, my perspective on the idea of owning one’s writing is less about the words themselves and more about an attitude of assurance and authority.
To own your writing, in this view, means taking care in its formation and feeling pride in its creation—regardless of how it is received. It implies a readiness to express your truth, a respect for your contribution, and a recognition of your unique vision.
Threading back to the exchange my friend and I shared, another aspect of owning your writing may be a desire to seek mastery, when you know your work is good but believe it can be better. Conversely, mastery may also be at play if you discern your words could be improved yet feel content with how they are.
Either way, owning your writing and having integrity as a writer may well be the marks of an artist.
This all sounds grand, but how can you purposely own your writing?
As with many things, it comes with practice. You start by writing badly, and then you write better. You learn to use your voice and discover what you want and need to say. You figure out when to seek feedback and how to receive it, listening judiciously to others and knowing that ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘maybe’ and ‘thanks’ are all appropriate responses. It is by reflecting on your writing and defending your choices as an author that you take greater ownership of your work.
Most importantly, you need to know yourself as a writer and become (if only a little) more comfortable using that title. Some of you might already be at ease with this while others are still exploring their way towards it.
Regardless of your position, I invite you to consider what owning your writing means to you and how it applies in your life. It can be a powerful concept to adopt, affording you more certainty and confidence.
And it’s definitely worthwhile discussing it with an insightful friend over breakfast.
Do you own your writing? What is your interpretation of this question? How do you enact this idea?