Today you will write 1000 words. You will claim these words for yourself. You will select the words, arrange them in a specific order. You will give them a tone, a spin, a depth, a meaning. You will put your stamp on them. And then they will be yours, these 1000 words.
For a long time, I worked day jobs that were different than the one I have now. For twenty years, I hustled. I waited tables, I temped, I filed, I answered phones. I pointed people in the right direction. I worked in an assisted living facility where every day a sweet older gentleman came into my office and introduced himself to me as if we were just meeting for the first time. I learned a lot about people, and how to be in the world. I worked for a start-up, where my job was, essentially, to type really fast all day long; I talked to no one for months, I just typed. The next job, I signed people into conference rooms and assisted with their meetings and listened to them talk about their important jobs while they ignored my existence. I smiled when I didn’t feel like it. I tried another job and another job and another job, always searching for a place I could call home.
Somehow, I snuck my way into working on the internet, then the new frontier. I wrote, I produced, plenty of it garbage. I worked for advertising agencies, lots of them — it felt like every agency in town. I watched things I wrote finally exist in the world, with the recognition that no one would ever know it came from me. I was detached from the thing I was making. I had no ownership of it. I worked for a cable network on websites for critically acclaimed television shows, all of which were created by men. I watched how everyone ran around making these shows happen – what a massive amount of work went into the production of them; such brilliant people worked on them! – but all of the credit was given to the show’s creators, their creativity, their genius. They had come up with the ideas. They had ownership. The rest of us were there to make their vision come to life. We served their ideas.
Eventually I thought: What about my ideas? When do I own them?
And once I realized that, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I could not stay where I was any longer.
The solution was to write my way out of the problem. That meant writing early in the morning, late at night, and on weekends. It meant carving out time, claiming it for myself. I thought: I will write this first book, and then another after that. This is the thing I want to do.
This desire informed life decisions I made, paths I took, and paths I rejected. Everything got easier, in a way, once I realized this was what I wanted, even as things got much, much harder. I was operating in service of my ideas.
There are plenty of reasons why I write. This is just one of them. The sense that I want to own something, own my work, own my creativity, own my name. It is perhaps not the purest reason, not truest of heart, for there is some ego attached to it. But it is real.
Those words on the page – they belong to no one else but you. Claim ownership of them. Claim your time and your space – even if it’s just a moment here and there. Claim control of your focus and your attention. Claim your beliefs and ideas. Claim your work. It’s yours, ready for the taking.
Tonight at Loyalty Books I will be chatting with brilliant memoirist and novelist Esme Wang, author most recently of New York Times bestselling, The Collected Schizophrenias. Esme asks that you consider donating to this crucial organization.