DO YOU OWN YOUR SPACE?
I love this question as it can apply to so many things and often results in very lively interior and exterior debates.
This question was posed to me last summer by Brad Keywell. Brad is one of the owners and founders of Groupon. In terms of owning your space, Brad certainly owns his.
He was asking me in relation to my book and the whole aging boomer world. Did I own that space? The answer was instantly and definitively no.
I don’t even come close.
He asked me a version of why not, and it really got me thinking.
There are many reasons I don’t own my space. One is, it is a space inhabited by many. I certainly did not get there first. And to “own” it would require that I devote myself to it and nothing else.
Could I own it? I have no idea. I have written one book on the topic. And the truth is, in order for me to own it I would have to drop everything else and devote myself 24/7 to the topic by blogging and writing articles only on that. I would have to exist on sites that were strictly about aging, I would have to go around the country and lecture about aging. I would have to climb into the foxhole of aging and pretty much stay there for a long time to own that space, most likely until I was too old to climb out. And that is something I don’t want to do. There is a woman out there called Barbara Gufferman who is much more interested in talking about this all the time than I am.
I am happy to write about it sometimes. I am happy to lecture about it when people ask. And I’m thrilled to be writing a film for Lifetime that is based on my book. But I don’t want to spend the next twenty years babbling about getting older and making that my identity.
I have a form of intellectual ADD, I tend to exhaust a topic after a few years and then I am on to the next.
But if you look at media and go online and look at various bloggers, writers and “branded” people, the more successful ones often own their space.
Off the top of my head I can say Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project totally owns her space, and she works like a demon for it. You never hear her writing or talking about anything else. Happy. Happy. Happy. Her next book is devoted to it as well. She is her product. She owns that space.
Seth Godin created a space and pretty much owns it. Often times creating a space or being the first one there guarantees ownership unless you really screw up.
My late friend Blake Snyder owned his space with his Save The Cat Books and continues to do so two years after his death. That is ownership.
Spaces come in all shapes and sizes and they are not by any means isolated to the Internet.
My husband owns his space. It’s one of the reasons he can be so blasé about being connected online. He created his niche and nobody can really come in and edge him out, despite the fact he won’t log onto his Facebook page.
Owning your space allows for a certain amount of freedom once you get there. But it does not mean you get to lighten up on your workload.
In a totally different direction here in New York, David Patrick Columbia who has The New York Social Diary owns his space. There is no one else doing what he does at the level he does it. And I imagine it will stay that way until he decides he does not want to do it anymore.
Owning your space is hard work–the nice thing about it is once you own it, if you are diligent, you can hold on to it and keep it going.
I think some spaces can be limiting. It’s nice to have a bestseller and lecture all over the world about one topic, a la Gretchen Rubin, but talking about happiness forever would ultimately make me very unhappy.
I think David has a more interesting life as his site incorporates many different things at once. He does the social, but he also includes fashion homes, culture, art, books, travel and history. His space has more elasticity than many.
Not owning a space does not preclude you from making a success of other things, but you do constantly have to prove yourself each and every time you get up to bat. It involves a certain amount of reinvention as you go along.
Carl Anthony is one of the few new bloggers I know and cheer on who has a space that is his for the owning. Carl is a renowned historian on the first ladies. He has a very particular part of history that he is considered one of the, if not the, authorities on. Once Carl hits his groove with his blog, which he is starting to do, he can totally own that space. But he has also devoted decades to studying it and has written many books on the topic. Spaces don’t appear like space ships and land on your front lawn.
The point of all this is to ask yourself – Do you own your space? If not, is there a space you would like to own? If you don’t own your space, is it because you don’t want to, or perhaps you’re not working hard enough or channeling your energies in the right direction? Are you somehow not reaching the people that want to hear what you have to say? Do you know enough about a topic to really make it your life? Do you want to do what it takes to really move in and make something all yours?
Like me, the answer may very well be there is no space you want to own and you are perfectly happy hopping from one rock to another. It’s a fine way to be, but know in doing so you will always be a renter and never entirely own your space.