Writers, as a group, struggle with boundaries. We’re trained to eavesdrop and pick private elements of our own lives for drama in fiction. Our inner lives blur with our outer lives until they’re a single, messy existence. When family and friends have expectations surrounding the holidays, our inner writer demands we fulfill last year’s writing resolutions, and seasonal depression is stealing spoons out of the drawer, it’s important to use the pen for drawing boundaries instead of scribbling prose.
Set Boundaries with Yourself
Before you make grand plans and set lofty goals, take time to set boundaries with yourself. That may mean managing your expectations. More likely, it means choosing priorities. Unless you never sleep, you won’t finish your delayed NaNoWriMo project, send cards to everyone you know, visit all the holiday light displays, and bake cookies for the neighbors.
Figure out how quickly you’ve fallen to exhaustion in the past, especially during major holidays. Try to do a little less than you did then. That doesn’t mean you skip the lights at the zoo and plan to write an extra two chapters instead.
If you know you have the energy to write and celebrate the way you want to, that’s great! But set your limits early. When you aren’t making time for cocoa and Christmas movies like you planned, and you’re struggling to hit your regular word count, know which one will take precedence.
Set Boundaries with Your Loved Ones
It may be the season of sharing, but I dread nothing more than standing in a room full of relatives politely asking about my writing. I want to join my dog in the backyard, stick my WIPs in the deepest hole, and bury them. Why are they asking? Do I have to answer? No one told me to have a literally family-friendly synopsis of my sprawling fantasy worlds ready to go.
Then I stutter and stammer and feel awful under the condescending looks of my elders. Even if you are more loquacious than I under pressure, talking about your passions to people who don’t really care is cruel and unusual punishment.
Prepare a simple, non-descript answer for the dreaded question in advance. Try, “Oh, I’ve added so-and-so many words,” or “It’s surprising me, so that’s great,” or even “It’s coming along.” You owe no one anyone else. Change the topic. Your ability to summarize your story and work habits on the spot are not a signal of your writing talents, either.
Set Boundaries with Your Work
It doesn’t matter if you beta read, keep a blog, or simply dedicate lots of time to your fiction. You need boundaries, particularly when there are extra demands on your time. Before the busiest part of the season hits, map out what you need to do, what you want to do, and what you really shouldn’t mess with until January. There should be less on your must-do list than you anticipated. Will you lose all your followers if you skip a week of blogging? No. You can drop from two posts a week to just one, though, or schedule your regular stream on a different day.
What boundaries help you as a writer? How do they help you stay sane during the holidays? Share your ideas and experiences with other writers below!