Writing is a solitary art that requires deep focus and quiet and, more importantly, protection from the many forces that threaten to steal your writing energy, from well-meaning acquaintances to pleasurable distractions. As a working writer, you can’t can’t rely on others to know how precious your writing time and energies are. A successful writing practice depends upon not negotiating your writing time out of obligations, guilt, fear or other reasons. Here are some healthy and necessary ways to build boundaries around your writing time.
Energy Drainers: Learn to set boundaries around well-meaning, but often oblivious, acquaintances and friends who interrupt your writing time. It’s up to you to remind these people that your work time is precious time, and to put a stop to the conversation. I often say things like, “It’s great to see you, now I hate to be rude but I’ve only got 45 minutes left to get this work done. It’s not rude to say, “I’d love to catch up at another time.” Or “I can’t get together right now, but another day.” If you don’t set these boundaries, it will lead to resentments…and that’s when you’ll start to get rude.
Do-Not Disturb Zone: Whether you write at work in the cafeteria on your lunch break, or in your living room at home, you need to make clear signs and lines to tell co-workers, family and friends that this is your work time. A writer I knew used to put up a “Writer Working” sign at her office door at home, so there was no question to husband and children as to when she was in the “do not disturb zone.” If you don’t cordon off your writing time, trust me, no one will do it for you.
Say No: You’re a good friend, an “I’ve got your back” type of colleague and champion of other writers. But when saying yes interferes with your ability to get your work done, then you just have to say no.
Plug Leaks: There are a ton of other ways you leak and fritter your writing energy away. They include, but are not limited to: cleaning, researching, organizing, fact-checking, calling friends, falling into the vortex of social media, pinterest-drooling, online shopping and so on. Your writing, despite what all the fancy new technology promises you, will not write itself. You only cheat yourself when you waste your writing time.
Beware of Binge Writing: You may fall into a category of writers who engage in binge writing: you stay up all hours of the night, lose sleep, run on caffeine and sugar for several days and then crash. While it may seem like you’re being productive, guess what? You’re out of balance. There’s no need to buy into the stereotype of the wild/mad writer.
No Martyring: Yes, I’m using martyr as a verb, and believe me, I’m not alone. If you believe you are raising yourself to a noble position of suffering by putting off your writing for someone else, particularly an energy drainer, I promise you it won’t be worth it. Your suffering won’t be noble, the writing will go undone, and the person you did it for will not appreciate it.
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