In my last blog post I said my next post was going to be about scheduling. I lied. Okay, I didn’t willfully lie. I will write about scheduling and accountability, but first I felt compelled to write about a subject that is near and dear to me. Negativity and the importance boundaries play in creativity.
Merriam Webster defines boundaries as something that indicates or fixes a limit or extent.
Most of us are pretty aware of our physical boundaries. We know the feelings that arise when those boundaries are crossed, but boundary violations can occur on many fronts; verbal, psychological, emotional, and physical.
In the end, boundaries are about respect. When you set a boundary you’re asking people to respect your limits. Now, some people may stride right across your boundaries, but if you told them they were disrespecting you they’d be shocked. This often happens because people either don’t realize where your boundary is, or because they aren’t thinking about the importance of your boundary, and what that means for you.
This seems especially true of creative work. I think, partly, this is because creative work is not valued in our society. Most people know not to come into your place of employment and linger. But, hey, writing isn’t real work, right? It’s not like a job. It’s not serious.
So, if you’re going to seriously engage in writing or any other creative endeavor you must be able to reinforce these boundaries. It will be challenging. Chances are, some people aren’t going to understand, and some will challenge them on purpose.
Finding time to write can be extremely challenging, especially if you have a family, go to school, or work another job. Or, if you’re like me, you deal with other things that impact your ability to sit for an extended length of time and work. My writing time is very precious to me, and it should be to you, too. If you want to write, and you want to take it seriously, you have to set time aside just for that. Turn off the phone, unplug your modem, do whatever you need to keep focused.
Setting up those physical boundaries, your space, your time, your closed door can be hard, but there’s a psychological or emotional boundary that can be even harder to set up, and it’s just as essential.
Here’s a hard fact. The world isn’t always kind to creators, especially if you’re unknown. Society at large very much likes everyone to stay in their place. The world is built for the majority, for the status quo. If you start to step outside of that, to follow your dream, the world loves to push back. The world is not built on yes. It is built on no.
We get this no-talk from many different sources. They can come from well-meaning individuals who don’t want you to get your hopes up because being a writer is hard—they’re not wrong—to individuals who purposefully try to sabotage you. Hopefully that won’t happen, but it can, and if it does you have to hold on to what you know in your heart.
To the well-meaning individuals, tell them thank you for their concern, you are aware of the reality and are taking steps to take care of yourself. And to those whose no-talk comes from a meaner place, ignore them, and walk away.
This boundary that you’re setting, it’s not just for them. It’s for you, too. You have to know when someone is encroaching on your emotional and psychological well-being, and calmly and rationally, step away.
Sometimes these challenges to your time, and to your dream, will come from the very people you think should respect your boundaries more than anyone else. Hopefully, you’ll have a family that will lift you up in your endeavor, and will respect your private time. But don’t be surprised if that doesn’t happen. To your family you’re not a fancy-pants writer. You’re Brother Bob, or Son Bob, or Granddaughter Elise or Wife Elise, and if you have children, especially small children, you’re Mom, and that tops everything else. Or, you’re the brother or sister who is trying to be a fancy-pants writer. Either way, your pants are plain, and they may not hesitate to let you know it.
When I was fourteen I told an adult in my life that I wanted to write. I was promptly told I wouldn’t be able to do that because a writer had to be smart. I like to think this adult was well-meaning, that they didn’t know their flippant words would strike a blow I would remember many years later.
They were wrong, of course, but it took me a long time before I realized that.
If something like this happens to you, remember it might not be you the person is reacting to. It very well could be the idea of being a writer. Maybe they are worried about you. Or maybe they are bitter because they wish they had the talent or drive to do this.
Sometimes this no-talk comes from other writers. It’s sad, but true. I’ve been very lucky to meet some amazing, supportive people, and they far outnumber the bad experiences I’ve had. Avoid the negative ones if you can, and surround yourself with a group of colleagues, friends, and others who will lift you up. They’re out there. You just have to keep that boundary firm, hold onto that belief in yourself. What you’re doing is already hard enough without that kind of negativity. Respect that boundary, and respect yourself enough to walk away.
Hopefully, you’ll be able to establish these boundaries without too much trouble. Communication is key. Ask your family, friends, or roommates to respect your space and time. This is a gift you’re giving to yourself, a chance to create. You might not get three or four hours to create. Maybe you only get one. Make that one hour count and commit to that time on the page. Respect that need to create that exists within you. Keep digging. Keep pushing back, and someday that no will be a yes.