Sunday, May 25, 2008


This post is inspired by my good friends and fellow bloggers posts, Kathy's post at Well Placed Words about Letting go is hard to do and the Muse's post at Inspired day by day on Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

It also follows the previous posting about knowing when to stop editing. The comments by Jim Murdoch and Swubird got me to thinking about "ownership." What is ownership? In writing, it's "owning" every word--in other words, it's being too engaged, too close, too much owning your writing. Every word is your hard won baby. It's tough, ownership--and not useful overall.

How to get rid of the dreaded "owning"? One way: write lots more. Hard to care about a word or sentence or paragraph when you've got thousands and thousands of them. Another: put a piece aside for at least 3 weeks (or more). Or perhaps the best way is exemplified by my mom's words (who was the wife of an artist and the mother of a writer): "Once you create it, it isn't yours anymore. It belongs to the reader, viewer, etc."

Do you catch yourself "owning" some of your work? If so, why?


Swubird said...


Nice piece about falling too deeply in love with your own writing. Just like real life - there are some things we need to get rid of. Word-fat is one of those things.

HAve a nice day.

Jim Murdoch said...

The thing I like about writing as opposed to art is that I get to keep my writing, I physically own the words, they are mine, but I can give them away over and over again. As regards ownership, some people read a book, say, "That was a good read," (or not), stick it on a shelf and forget about it. Other people are so affected by what they read that they take ownership of it. The example I always cite is a poem of mine that I let my boss read. She immediately took ownership of the piece, it became (and I still think of it as) "the Barry poem" because the poem expressed perfectly how she felt about this guy. And that's what it's all about. I have similar feelings about Larkin's 'Mr Bleaney' – it's MY poem and I'm actually jealous when I hear that other people feel the same way about the piece; I should be pleased but the bunny boiler in me isn't.

The question is, is there a difference between ownership and possessiveness? If I was possessive when it came to that poem I would have insisted, "No, THIS is what the poem really means," but I'm not. I have to say I get a bit frustrated when a reader presents me with an interpretation that is miles off the mark but you learn to live with that; the piece was clearly not for them.

The Muse said...

Hey Conda! I don't own any thing yet, I'm still paying on everything.

I do find myself grueling over editing. I've been taking that step back aproach and I find it really does help. I can't decide if it's a good or bad help yet. Sometimes I step away and come back only to trash the whole thing.

One thing I learned is to really put the "deleted" files away in file 13 on the desktop. File 13 has become a whole disk.

Those words may look better a year from now, you never know. Do I own them? No, the disk does because I'm not claiming them.

Kathy McIntosh said...

You're a hoot!
Re ownership, I sway wildly back and forth from hating my words (listening to that dreaded internal editor) and thinking they're "good enough."
Good ideas for distancing, Conda.

Conda Douglas said...

Swu--WORD FAT? I love it--and so true!

Conda Douglas said...

Okay Jim, first of all, what's a bunny boiler? And an excellent point about readers also "owning" a piece. When I was a teenager, I believed I owned Thoreau's WALDEN. My, how I loved that book. All my teen friends had posters of rock stars, I managed to find one of Thoreau!

Jim Murdoch said...

What did we ever do before Wikipedia? Bunny boiler

Conda Douglas said...

Muse, you don't own anything yet?! You're so often good for a great laugh. And great idea about a File 13--as long as you remember there may be some good stuff in that file.

Conda Douglas said...

Thanks, Jim, for the link. "Bunny boiler has been added to my "favorites" lexicon!

Conda Douglas said...

Thanks Kathy--isn't it fun how neurotic writers are? Laugh or scream, or maybe both.