Why Writers Need Boundaries

In days of old, ancient cities were built with high walls around them. They were there for protection from enemies. Watchmen at the gates let in safe people and kept out the varmints.

Strong walls and trustworthy sentinels allowed residents inside the town to carry on the business of living in a safe and productive manner. Without secure walls and well-guarded gates, the people would have lived in constant chaos and anxiety.

However, over time, walls got broken down, sometimes through attack and sometimes through neglect. Our personal boundaries crumble for the same reasons.

Writers and Boundaries

Why do writers need boundaries? Insufficient boundary protection will derail your writing dreams faster and more permanently than anything else I have ever experienced.

Personal boundaries allow us to live productive lives free from unwanted intrusion. It sets limits on our availability to others, how much of our lives are “up for grabs.” The personal boundaries writers need are both external and internal.

Two Types of Necessary Boundaries

You need both internal and external boundaries.

External boundaries are things you can see. It might be a closed door while you write. It might be letting your phone call go to voice mail or the answering machine. It might be saying “no” to another volunteer job—or “no” to your demanding preschooler or spoiled spouse.

Those are all examples of external physical boundaries. It’s the type we’re most familiar with. However, that type is just the tip of the ice berg.

We also need internal boundaries. Internal boundaries include mental, emotional, and spiritual boundaries. These inner walls are built for protecting our minds, emotions and spirits, but they don’t show.

Whose Life Are You Living?

Without healthy boundaries (all four kinds) your chances of fulfilling your writing dreams are next to nil. Without healthy boundaries, someone else will always be running your life, choosing what you do in your free time, telling you what to think, or passively-aggressively undercutting any attempts you make to carve out ANY writing time to pursue your dreams.

If you have lived without boundaries in some or all areas of your life, then you will know it by the feelings of defeat and despair that settle in.

Be Warned

When you begin to set boundaries of any kind—and start defining who you are and what you stand for—there will be opposition from certain people. Not from everyone, but some.

Opposition happens for a variety of reasons. I think most of it is unconscious, but that doesn’t make it any less effective.

Some will oppose your boundary setting because it threatens their security. Some are just selfish and like having you and your free time at their beck and call. (And just because people are not openly hostile does NOT mean the opposition does not exist.)

Let’s Talk About Boundaries

Over the next couple weeks, I want to talk about what healthy boundaries look like, what false and damaged boundaries look like, and build a case for setting healthy boundaries. (Too many of us equate having boundaries with being selfish–and it’s not. The Bible is full of scripture and stories about boundary building.)

Boundaries in general have been in the news now for fifteen years. I have long believed that writers (and other creative types) need their own boundary (re)building program. So I hope you’ll stay with me for the next few posts on this subject!

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4 Responses to Why Writers Need Boundaries

  1. Deanna says:

    For me, this is one of the most difficult areas of the writing process. I’m looking forward to every post regarding this subject. Thank you, Kristi.

    • kwpadmin says:

      Hands down, this has been the biggest challenge for me throughout the writing decades! It is harder than dealing with doubt and rejection and getting started and selling and everything! Stay tuned!

  2. Kristi, I think what a lot of people don’t realize (or it takes us a long time!) is that boundaries have to be in place in every area of your life in order for them to work in your writing life.
    If you can’t stop your kids from disrupting family time at meals, if you can’t stop your spouse from interrupting your de-stressing bath, if you have a relative who insists on talking on the phone with you for an hour every couple of days – you have no hope of setting and keeping boundaries around your writing time.
    Look forward to your future posts!

    • kwpadmin says:

      Sherryl, all those things are certainly true! I need to take a refresher course in boundaries every year or so! I think what has surprised me, too, is that boundaries are needed internally as well. Even after setting external boundaries around your writing time, assassins can assault your mind and emotions to the point that your writing time is essentially a waste. And those internal boundaries, because they are invisible, are often ignored.

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