3 Ways to Set Boundaries Around Your Creativity
Saying yes to your best work means saying no to others, including your pesky inner critic
If you’re someone who does creative work, unless it’s bringing in a reasonable paycheck, you probably treat it like a hobby. Is it really a big deal if you didn’t write today? Your family needed clean laundry. So what if you didn’t paint this afternoon? Your sister called to vent about another crisis at her corporate job. Sure, you wish you could have gone outside and shot some photographs while the light was fantastic, but your kids were fighting and you needed to intervene.
We hear a lot about setting boundaries — in families, in friendships, and in the workplace. So what makes us think we can neglect them when it comes to our creative time? We often devalue any work that doesn’t earn an income, and what’s more, we assume talent is all that creative work demands. “The one thing creative souls around the world have in common is that they all have to practice to maintain their skills,” writes choreographer Twyla Tharp in her book The Creative Habit. “Art is a vast democracy of habit.”
If you set and hold healthy boundaries around your creativity, you’ll be growing the conditions for your best art to bloom. Here are three ways to establish perimeters that work for you.
Schedule your creativity and make it nonnegotiable
You wouldn’t cancel an important doctor’s appointment because you just weren’t feeling it and your best friend invited you to coffee, right? Make your creative time nonnegotiable, meaning not up for discussion. You schedule the time, you turn down invites, you reserve the room (read: the kids don’t get the den to play in for the time you need to be in there to work), you hire the sitter. And then you hold the line. You do not cancel this date with the muse for any reason unless you are on your deathbed, the house is on fire, or your city has been attacked by extraterrestrial terrorists.
You may be surprised to find that the person who breaches your boundaries the most is… you. When you make your creative time nonnegotiable, you stop bargaining with the part of your brain that would much rather binge watch Peaky Blinders or…