Setting Creative Boundaries (For Yourself)

‘I often feel exhausted, but it is not my work that tires (work is rest); it is the effort of pushing away the lives and needs of others before I can come to the work with any freshness and zest.’

May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude.

This quote encompasses the experience of so many writers. The idea that other people are a constant threat and impingement to our creativity. 

It’s true that we do have to create boundaries as a way to protect our creative routines. This could look like asking your family to leave you alone for an hour after dinner or for a few hours every Sunday afternoon. A boundary can look like closing the door (complete with a Do Not Disturb sign). It can mean buying noise cancelling headphones and setting the house rule that headphones = leave me alone. 

Coming up with boundaries is the easy part; it’s upholding them that is tricky! 

We think of boundaries as rules that we create in relation to other people as a way to keep ourselves safe and happy, but do you ever pause to consider the boundaries that you create for yourself? 

What behaviours do you engage in that hinder your work?

It’s easy to say that your writing session was ruined because a family member knocked on your office door or a friend dropped by for an unannounced visit, but what do you do to sabotage your creative efforts?

Setting boundaries for herself might look like…

  • Putting your phone on aeroplane mode
  • Closing your inbox
  • Leaving the house
  • Writing what you want to write
  • Not writing about topics, or in genres, that make you cringe
  • Speaking kindly to yourself
  • Being patient with the work
  • Allowing yourself enough time
  • Choosing to schedule time for your writing (or creative projects)
  • Engaging with your work even when you don’t have enough time
  • Making changes if something isn’t working (in the project itself or how you approach it)
  • Daydreaming
  • Keeping your pen moving
  • Setting a timer
  • Reading during the day…

Some of these boundaries are restrictive, such as closing your inbox because this behaviour can easily lead you away from writing and art-making. Other boundaries are expensive in that they give you permission to engage in activities that enhance and enrich your creative life, such as being patient with yourself, daydreaming, and reading during the day. 

It’s easy to focus on how the actions of others hinder our writing, but we also need to acknowledge the ways our own behaviour limits or restricts our creativity.  

Setting any kind of boundary, whether it be verbal or physical, is the easy part; it’s reinforcing them that requires guts and gentle discipline. 

Now, I’d love to hear from you. Do you set boundaries around your writing (either for yourself or others)? Do you find keeping these promises to yourself easy or difficult?

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