Don't be too quick now to recite the standard answer: that it's copyrighted--therefore, yours--as soon as it's completed. Real ownership, the kind that counts, consists of more than that.
I got to thinking about this after reading The 50th Law...and I've kept thinking about it in my daily card games with my dear friend 50 Cent. According to 50, real ownership begins within: a fierce commitment to living on our own terms and producing our work our own way, in accordance with our own high standards. So far, so good. But if I do that and then stick my work in a drawer after 50 rejections--or, worse, without even submitting at all because I fear readers' reactions--then I can't claim to own my work. I'm owned, instead, by my thin skin. Likewise, if I've copped out in the writing and not met my high standards, if I've caved into demands for changes that betray my work, if I've written sloppily...then I don't own it either. I'm owned by the need for more money or the need to please somebody.
These thoughts are greatly on my mind as I make my way through Desert Storm, the works I produced in The Desert. I allowed them to sit in a drawer for too long. My talent, like anyone else's, is a loan of sorts from life. For the duration of that loan, I'll honor that loan by owning, as best I can, my work.