Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Setting Boundaries

I was talking to an author recently who was complaining that she could never get anything done at home (in regards to her writing). She was telling me how if she goes to the library she can get a ton done in a very short time, but if she tries to write at home she's constantly pestered and bothered by someone needing something. Unfortunately, she can't necessarily commit to going to the library daily.

So being the kind and sympathetic person I am I told her that was her own fault.

Somewhere along the way she never set boundaries with those around her and with herself. She never made them see her writing as a job and a priority. In truth, she never treated it as a job and priority herself.

If you really want to get serious about your writing, to make it your job, then you need to treat every aspect of it that way. If you are lucky enough to find a place in your home that can serve as an office then make it that way. It means when you are in your office, the door is closed and you are at work. Unless there's blood and a 911 call involved no one can bother you. Not should bother you, they are not allowed to bother you.

When you first establish this rule it's going to be tough. It's likely your kids will bother you because they can't get the top off the milk or your husband will need help remembering his Facebook password or the dog will need to go out. Again. If you help them, they'll keep coming. If you adamantly state that you're working and they will have to wait until you're done they will eventually get the picture. Better yet, don't respond. You are in your office, you can't hear them. You've stated the guidelines so ignoring is probably the best response. It will take some adjusting for everyone, but once those boundaries are set you will be able to get writing done.

One of the things I also mentioned to this author is for this to really work she also needs to respect the boundaries of her family and others around her. In other words, if she has established "office hours" than she needs to respect the time that are "unoffice hours". In other words, that means if you're ignoring everyone while you're in the office, then you need to pay attention to them when you're not. It means you can't decide that today you're going to work at the dining room table, with everyone running around, and get annoyed when they are asking for a glass of water or the wireless login information. You need to need to take that time to be present. It will make it a heck of a lot easier when you ask them to leave you alone.



Connie Keller said...

Absolutely true. When my kids were little, my husband took care of them during my writing time. And I ignored the little fingers that wiggled under the door. But when I wasn't writing, I was very present with them.

When the kids get older, it's a bit more flexible. Your writing time can become their movie time. (If they fight, off goes the movie.) Pretty soon you'll hear, "Uh, mom, don't you need to write?" :)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I have always had an office but I am most comfortable writing at my kitchen table.
Early on, twenty-five years ago, I taught myself to write in the middle of mayhem. Blocking out barking dogs and battling children, a husband who can’t find his shoes, all of it, became a kind of theme-song to what I write. (Most of my writing has been about us.)
I’m a columnist with a deadline so I’ve trained myself to write in spurts, sometime minutes at a time, when things go really haywire.
But right now, the kids are gone and I am able to devote a lot of time to word count, (am querying a memoir), and I like that, but sometimes I do miss the maelstrom.
Ah, well, not really.
My office, it’s nice, has a lot of my newspaper columns framed and hanging on the walls, (the kids did that for me two Christmases ago), maybe I’ll go dust off my desk and check out the view from the windows.
And then again maybe I'll just sit here at my kitchen table and write.

Elissa M said...

Because I'm also an artist, I had to set boundaries a long time ago. People would still begin sentences with, "Since you don't work..."

One of the biggest frustrations with working in the arts, whether as a writer, artist, musician, etc., is if it's not your primary source of income (and sometimes even if it is), your artistic endeavors "don't count" to most people. Therefor you must have plenty of time on your hands to do all the things they don't want to do (volunteer-wise) or the things they do want to do (go to lunch, play golf, etc.).

Anyone who works from home must learn to say one word: "No."

lily malone said...

Great points.
I'm trying to do this, but it's an ongoing struggle.
What has helped me is about 8 months ago we moved into a new house and I have "a writing room" - not an office, and it even gets called "mum's writing room." Unfortunately, darn thing doesn't have a door, but it's a start.
I'm definitely doing more writing this year than last in my own space.

Priya Sridhar said...

Easier said than done! I'm a dependent in a household with a special needs child and an irrational guardian, and often on my "days off" I get stressed out when said child acts out and I'm expected to help, like today. I'm only writing today because I am just so angry that this has been happening more often, the block and these episodes. How do you set boundaries when you're not the one in power, and when the one who is in power will burst into tears and make you feel guilty for setting boundaries and everyone else tells you to be there and be present?

AJ Blythe said...

Ugh. Boundaries are so hard when you have guilt about setting them! My job takes an awfully large block of my time, so throw in time for the family and there isn't much time left. I know it isn't necessarily the right thing to think, but I do quietly long for the day that I earn a small dollar from writing so I can call it 'work'.