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Q+A: Setting Boundaries to Protect your Creative Practice
Your questions on creating space, answered
A quick note: Going forward, I’ll be sharing newsletter issues on my creative practice, the craft of writing, etc. in Roots and Branches (a newsletter section that’s part of this newsletter, and also the name of my writing coaching business.
Root’s paid subscribers still get freebies related to writing/creating as well as to food.
As always, all newsletter subscribers get 20% off Mycelia, my virtual co-working and skill building space. Just use the code THANKYOU (and thank you, also as always, for reading!)
I’ll be refocusing this newsletter on food, history, nature, and my general curiosity about the intersections between food and the rest of our lives.
I hope you’ll join me for both—thank you as always for your support!
Boundary setting is a critical part of supporting our creative work, whether we’re writing recipes or songs, painting or dancing. But how do we know what boundaries to set (and how do we do it?)
For those of you who attended Protecting your Practice: Boundary Setting for Creatives last month, we dove deep into identifying and setting boundaries (paid subscribers, the recording link is in your resource folder, and it’s available here for everyone else).
But I also wanted to offer an opportunity for you to ask any other questions you might have, so here we are with a special Q+A and with a few tips I hope will carry you and your creative practice through a nourishing, productive week next week.
A little bit about boundaries
Boundaries protect our energy, time, and resources in various ways, but at their core, we set boundaries because something we value exists inside of them.
For me, thinking about building up the space inside your boundaries is one of the keys to a successful creative practice: When we appreciate the creative practice we’re protecting, and the work we want to share, boundaries offer us the opportunity to say ‘yes’ to what we do want, rather than ‘no’ to what we don’t.
Setting boundaries is an act of love for you, your creative practice, and those around you. Many people want to support you and your work, and setting boundaries with them shows them how to love you and how to show up for you as a creative.
Setting boundaries from that place of saying ‘yes’ to our work helps others get excited about it, too: If I tell a friend that “I know you want to help my writing practice, so something you can do to help is to call before you drop by to see if it’s ok or if I’m working”, they’ll probably be more receptive than if I say “Don’t come by without calling during my writing time.”
Let yourself feel your excitement and share it! (And rewatch the class recording, too, for some ideas for how to navigate boundaries with less-than-supportive folks in your life).
While we set boundaries in relation to others, boundaries are ultimately about us. In the class, I used a silly example from my own life to illustrate this.
About 20 years ago, I walked out to the road to find a large, rotting fish sitting on my windshield, a prank from a friend (I still don’t know who and, if you’re reading this, thank you for providing me with a memorable story to use later).
Let’s say I wanted to set a boundary around future fish ending up on my windshield:
I can say "I don't like that you left a fish on my windshield" (yes, this happened), but ultimately I have no control over that person's actions, fishy or otherwise.
But instead, I would say "If you leave a fish on my windshield again, I will stop coming over" or maybe even better "You left a fish on my windshield, I'm not coming to your house again.”
By no longer giving that person access to my car, they no longer have the ability to put fish on my windshield.
In other words, I set a boundary that protected what I care about (my poor car), and communicated that expectation (and what happens when that expectation isn't met).
This gives the person the opportunity to participate in my life in the ways I want, but also protects and cares for me.
Another important part of boundary setting is setting boundaries with ourselves. What distracts you during your creative practice? Does your mind race or do you drift to email or social media? What can you do to minimize distractions while remaining gentle on yourself (or as one student in the workshop perfectly put it, “how do I stop putting a fish on my own windshield?”)
All of this is a process, it requires learning and unlearning and reweaving narratives around our work and worth. It asks us to rethink what is and imagine what might be, and to center our creative practices in ways that maybe we aren’t accustomed to, particularly if your creative practice feels fundamentally separate from your job or other parts of your life.
The most important thing to remember is that whether you create something once a year or once a day, the world needs your creative work, and building consistent space for it is an act of love and care: You’re supporting yourself and your community by bringing your own unique and needed voice to the world.
There’s so much I talk about in the workshop that would turn this post into a novel, like defining our boundaries, reducing feelings of guilt around boundary setting, using boundaries to create space in your daily routine for creativity, etc.
And, rethinking our boundary metaphors in ecological terms, which, maybe is something you’d like me to cover in a separate newsletter issue some time?
I really hope you revisit the recording of Protecting your Practice, or join me for our next session (details TBD!)