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3 Ways Boundaries Help Creatives

Ah, the holiday season is upon us!  Such a wonderfully joyful time, but also a tricky season to navigate.  We constantly have a million things on our minds and there can be tremendous anxiety to show our friends and family our best selves.

And I know this holiday season in particular may be even tougher than others considering the year we’ve just had. Thanks, 2020. Despite the craziness, it’s important to remember that we need to make checking in with ourselves a priority. 

Alongside our regular list of things to do, December invites us to open up our calendars to the delights and demands of holiday merriment.  With the inevitable hustle and bustle that accompany the final days of the year, I found myself strategizing the best way to balance my productivity and creativity.  After a lot of thought, it seemed to come down to one thing: boundaries.  But what boundaries do I need? What does that look like?  While thinking through how to approach my own December calendar, I felt drawn to a few simple, actionable themes.  I decided to write them down, should I find myself in need of a mid-month pep talk and I thought I would share, in the event you might need one too.

1. Set Aside Time to Dedicate to Yourself and Your Creativity

Lull is a Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coaching philosophy that is very applicable during this time of year.  It teaches us to know when to create an intentional lull or space for ourselves to rest. The lull may be from your holiday activities or it may be from your creative work – if you’re not doing your best work or being your best self, sometimes the answer is to assert boundaries and create conscious space.  Take a moment to be grateful for what you have and divert your attention towards your present self. 

Scale back to essentials when it comes to your to-do list and lean into what brings you joy.  Bake cookies with your mom, deck the halls with your dad, build a snowman with your partner, relax in front of the fire by yourself.   Let yourself lull.  Just be.  You may find yourself more inspired when you make the space for seasonal joy and remove the internal pressure of finding inspiration. 

“If you’re not doing your best work or being your best self, sometimes the answer is to assert boundaries and create conscious space.”

2. Designate Space for Yourself and Your Creative Work

Isn’t it wonderful to have time with family over the holidays? Being with the ones we love can bring us so much joy.  That said, it can also bring expectations, distractions and sometimes even conflict.  Being ready and able to set boundaries with loved ones during the holidays is critical for your self-care. During the holidays we can feel extra pressure to please those around us, but it’s also a time to enjoy the season ourselves.  Plan and maintain boundaries so you can enjoy the holidays with family in an environment of mutual love and respect.

One way to do that is with time blocking, a concept that is exactly as described: dividing your day into blocks of time where you are focused on one task or a group of tasks, and only those.  When it comes to the holidays, you may need to include a physical space component as well.  Do you remember a few posts back where I talked about my clients Madison and Ian (if not you can check it out HERE).  When I was thinking about time blocking, I thought of them.  I imagine it’s likely that Type-A Madison may already be someone who subscribes to this organizational philosophy, and if you’re more of a Madison, I suggest sticking to it as best you can.  (Add in time blocks for relaxation as mentioned above. You will not regret it.) 

If you’re someone like Ian, who is more of a free spirit, you may struggle to rein yourself in this way.  But the beauty of time blocking is that deadlines aside, it can be as flexible as you need it to be.  Plan to do X in the morning and Y in the afternoon, but wake up feeling a pull towards Y?  Simply switch the tasks.  But do devote yourself to what you’ve blocked time and space for so that when you get invited to grab drinks with friends or need to make a last-minute run to the store for a gift you forgot, you aren’t taking that time away from your work.

“Being ready and able to set boundaries with loved ones during the holidays is critical for your self-care.”

3. Choose to Talk About Your Art in a Way That Serves YOU

One of the things that can be the most fun about the holidays is spending time with people we don’t see regularly. Catching up is a part of this season that can give you an opportunity to talk about your art in a way that best serves you. 

To be clear, best serving yourself might mean different things depending on the situation. People in “traditional” professions don’t always understand why creatives do what we do.  To someone with an outside perspective, it may seem like we aren’t doing anything or even completely wasting our time.  This is because they don’t understand our process.  Prepare yourself for any pointed questions you might receive about your work or creativity and pre-determine how you’re most comfortable answering those questions. Remember: it’s OK to not want to share with everyone. You do not need to give a reason for why you do things a certain way.

On the other hand, maybe you could use a thought partner.  When you’re assessing family gatherings and which relatives might be the best recipients of some assertive, prepared responses, you might also find yourself considering which others have shared skills or interests. Focus on making an effort to plug into those over dinner or while you sit by the fire.  Does your cousin Isla have any thoughts about ___? Maybe Uncle George used to ___.  Grab some hot chocolate and ask to pick their brains.  Not only could this lead to breakthroughs for your creative process, but it could pave the way for developments in your relationships too.

Each year, this season arrives quickly and seems to speed by. I want to encourage you to prioritize your personal needs this holiday season. As Brene Brown so aptly put it: “boundaries are a function of self-respect and self-love.” By setting some clear ones for yourself and those you’ll be celebrating with, I hope that you find yourself more passionate and present. They call it the season of giving, so give this small gift to yourself because you most definitely deserve it.

“Boundaries are a function of self-respect and self-love.”

– Brene Brown
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