Setting boundaries around your creative space: Part one


A conversation on one of our community calls for The Writer’s Circle (a wonderful group I’ve been involved with for a long time now, which supports me in my writing habit and process) got me thinking about how difficult it can be to truly own and set boundaries around our creative space.

What do I mean by creative space? I mean physical space, yes, but also mental, emotional and spiritual space. Psychological space. And that space means our own energy as well.

From the time I was a little girl, I liked to go off by myself with a big pad of paper and a pencil and write and draw. I also liked to sit by myself — sometimes on our front porch — and talk out loud, making up stories, creating characters and acting out all the roles. Although I often organized neighborhood kids into plays and skits and “pretend movies”, I had a deep need to spend much of my “creating time” in my own company, with no one else around.

This is still true for me. Being solely in my own company (and spending time with animals or in nature) is part and parcel to my writing process, just as my writing process is part and parcel to knowing and understanding myself, and knowing and understanding myself informs what I want to write and what I choose to do with my life.

Geesh, what a cycle! See how it’s all connected?

So, I can’t “just let go of” time alone — daydreamy, musing, reflective time spent in solitude — without letting go of a vital part of the organism that is my functioning life.

And along with that, I can’t “just let go of” my actual writing time, where I put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.

But, as we discussed on our Writer’s Circle call, how challenging it can be to set boundaries around this sacred creative space on a daily basis!

Recently I had family visiting, and I noticed acutely (again) how I cannot “just shift” from socializing to writing, or socializing to reflecting time. I need to transition from one to the other.

This need for transitions, though, is a blessing. It is the transitioning that allows us to reinforce our boundaries around our creative space and creative energy.

For example, when I sat down to write this blog post, I did not “just sit down and start writing.” I first told my boyfriend, “Okay, I’m going to go work on a blog post now,” and I went into the next room to be away from his energy and more in my own. Then, I took a few deep breaths at my desk. And then I read a couple of blog posts by writers whose voices I love.

This all took only a few minutes, but within this transition space, I respected and protected my creative blog-writing space and energy.

Similarly, when I had family visiting last month, after spending most of the morning with my brother and his girlfriend, I didn’t “just” sit down and work on the presentation I had coming up. I told them I was going to the library for a while, gathered up my things, walked the two blocks to the library (walking is a great way to transition from one energetic space to another) and sat in a corner cubicle in the cool, quiet library environment. I took a few deep breaths, and starting in on writing notes for my presentation.

Taking note of how we will transition from “social space” to “creative space” is a great way to put solid boundaries around our solitary creating time, space, and energy.

Karla McLaren, in her wonderful book “The Art of Empathy,” calls this “thresholding.” She gives the example of actors who move from the state of being backstage, with others bustling around them, to actually being onstage, in the performance space. Anyone who’s performed on a stage of any kind knows there is quite a transition from being backstage to being onstage, and very quickly you go from one type of energy to another. It’s awareness and respect for the threshold that allows this transition.

Try this: Think about how you might create protective, supportive rituals and routines that act as boundaries around your creative energy and space. My walk for my morning coffee always puts me into “reflective, creative mode”, which is like tapping my writer self on the shoulder and whispering, “Hey — we’re going to be putting words on paper in a little bit.”

In Part Two of this post, we’ll talk about how we can own our right to our creative energy and space, especially when it’s challenged by others around us.

What about you? How do you set boundaries around your creative space, time, and energy?

Image is “Fenceline” © Digitalphotonut | Dreamstime Stock Photos

14 thoughts on “Setting boundaries around your creative space: Part one

  1. These are some brilliant insights into cultivating an effective create process. With some endeavors, we are able to seemingly flip a switch and move from one activity to another. In reality, we are still transitioning in these cases, just much quicker I think. Writing, for me at least, requires a much longer transition period as you point out.

    The one thing that I have notices over time is that making writing a regular practice helps to reduce that transition time. As your psyche gets into a habit of the transitional period, it is able to handle it more adeptly (at least that seems to be the way it is for me).

    Either way, I think you should, as you say, establish a relationship with your muse just as you would with your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife. Mutual respect helps to cultivate a loving relationship in both directions, the muse speaking to you and you getting powerful thoughts on paper 😉

    Thanks for sharing and best wishes for an inspired day!


    • Dave, I love your thoughts on this. I totally agree with you that when we make writing — or any other act of creativity — a regular habit, that transitioning happens more adeptly. And yes, it’s so important to remember that we are in relationship to our creativity. I want that relationship to be an amazing one! Thanks so much for reading and sharing your views on this!


  2. Lovely post, Jill. And so true. For me at the moment, it’s definitely a physical transition as well as emotional and spiritual. It’s a 15 min walk (as you said, great for transitioning) and a cafe with background noise and energy. I’m doing a lot of transitioning from “work” to “creative” (they’re both a bit creative, actually) and the 15 min walk either side is key to this, as well as the physical partitioning of activities. To write creatively at home requires a lot more transitional effort.


    • Ellen, I love how a walk can “bookend” our writing space and time (no pun intended :)). That physical movement, as well as writing in a different place, can help so much with creating those boundaries. I agree that writing at home (which I often do) is a bit more tricky with the transitional effort (as is working from home — the boundaries are much less clear!). Thanks so much for reading!


  3. my creative space is over my garage, a seperate building. Even though it’s at home, there are no distractions and no body bothers me when they know I’m at work.


  4. I loved this, Jill. I loved that you also expanded on the Writer’s Circle conversation. This would be a great link to put into the forum. Very helpful for everyone. And, as usual, also very helpful for me!!!


    • Thanks for reading, Mary, and thanks for your contributions to our conversation the other day! I thought about them a lot while writing this. Such good stuff to think about. 🙂


  5. Space is an important issue for me too. I maintain strong boundaries between my space and that of other people, my personal space, and the community space shared with others.


  6. Your comment about “how difficult it can be to truly own and set boundaries around our creative space” is so true of me. I came back from a conference for artists last night and realized I have to set a specific time for writing every day even if it means getting up an hour or two earlier each day. I admire your ability to treat your work as a top priority, and I can learn from your example. Your post is just what I needed to hear this morning.


    • Susan, I’m so pleased that the post resonated for you! I find that I often need to “reaffirm” writing as a priority for myself. I also notice it works well when I get to my writing early — not only does it fuel my creative self for the rest of the day, but I get that sense of completion first thing! Thanks so much for reading — keep me updated on how it goes for you. 🙂


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