Saturday, August 9, 2008

Saturday Soiree – Setting boundaries

Let me say right up front that I am no expert on this topic.

Some days my determination to get certain writing tasks done is so strong that just the look on my face tells the story to everyone around, “Don’t mess with me today. I am a writer on a mission. Don’t call me; I’ll call you, when I am finished for the day.”

Other days, well, it’s a different story and I am my worst enemy. Because I know in my head what to do, how to do it and why, doesn’t mean I have mastered it. But when can any of us say that we have reached the writers’ Promised Land?

So this post is a classic “Do as I say and not as I do.”

Unless you are a robot with no emotions, vices or OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), live alone, have no friends, no relatives, no neighbors and no pets, you will struggle to set boundaries that will allow you to write undisturbed and productively.

Here are two things you need to know in order to set boundaries:

Know your best times to write. You can’t be all over the map with this. Sitting down to write at a scheduled time when you can’t think straight because of other commitments due for attention, defeats the purpose of the schedule.

Can't say right now? No problem. You may have to watch how you function on a daily basis for a few days before you can determine the best time to allot to your writing. Once you do, try it, tweak it until it feels right and natural or at least comfortable It would be foolish to demand that other family members respect your writing time when you fail to keep your own schedule. If you use your writing time to take care of household chores, answer the phone, surf the Internet, chat with friends via email or other messenger of PC calling services like Skype, you are setting the precedence for other people to disregard it as well. Then how can you complain?

Know what is realistic for you. Nothing is wrong in trying to emulate writers you admire. However, bear in mind that the schedule they follow now most likely was developed over years of trial and error, trying to find their own rhythms so that they could give their best selves and energy to their work.

An unrealistic schedule that is too rigid will frustrate you. Likewise, one that is too slack leaves you interruptions from within like procrastination for example. A too slack schedule also attracts requests from family members, neighbours and friends for your time.

For a mother with young children at home, an employee working long hours, homeowner doing renovations, or a university student, even a full hour for writing can be an unrealistic goal. Whatever time you allot to write, ensure it works with your lifestyle. If you don’t you’ll grow frustrated very quickly and your passion, of course will suffer. Set the kind of boundaries that allow you take care of the necessities of daily life and make allowances for the unexpected occurrences that crop up every now and then. The boundaries you set to honor your writing should allow you to write as well as live.

If writing is your passion you need boundaries to make it work. You can always find time and space to write because it is entirely up to you but setting boundaries for other s to observe is not always so easy. However, when you know these two facts, it is much easier to set realistic boundaries for yourself.


Magnolia said...

Hello Cheryl,

Boy, do I hear you on the boundaries. I have a tough time. My husband is in Afghanistan and I am taking care of three kids, 2 cats, 2 dogs, 1 horse and 1 very large house and yard by myself.

I'm so exhausted most of the time that my main struggles revolve around consistent bed times.

My teens are night owls (as are most I suspect) and this presents challenges for night time writing.

I'm so zonked that I need at least 8 to 9 hours of sleep, so getting up at 4:00 a.m. (like some writers do) is totally out of the question.

I believe I'm much better at early morning writing since that is when I am most rested and my mind is not cluttered.

I've still not established a consistent writing time though and I suppose it will remain my challenge until I have an empty nest.

Cheryl Wright said...

Nice to see you here again Magnolia.

Girl, sometimes I think this "consistent writing time" thing is a myth concocted by demon writers just to frustrate the living daylights out of us and keep us out of the writing loop.

But you what? One of the keys to writing well, often and happily is writing with the rhythm of our own lives. We might be setting ourselves up for failure, frustration and depression if we try to follow someone else's rhythm.

Eureka! You've found your ideal time. As surely as night follows day, it will change, just as your routines will as time goes by.

Always work with what you have at a particular stage in your life. That is how you will do your best writing, in your own style,your own voice, straight from your heart.

You hang in there Magnolia.


Magnolia said...


I have a question. I downloaded an ebook yesterday that I thought was written by you.
It was entitled "Writing for Profit"

But, when I looked at the picture in the book it didn't look like you.

It also said you are from Australia?

Did I get the wrong Cheryl Wright?

I'm so confused :)

Cheryl Wright said...

Good morning Mags (May I?)

You got the Australian Cheryl Wright. Wonderful person, accomplished author and my hero. See my post under "writing hero" in the label section to the right.

visit her website and read her articles. Cheryl is a storehouse of information and inspiration.
We don't correspond too often, too busy, but we keep in touch.

I can imagine the look on your face though.


Magnolia said...

Umm, yeah, I was just a tad bit confused. :)

So glad you cleared that up for me. And yes, please call me Mags.

Share |