Thursday, May 9, 2013

Boundaries for Writers

For several years I've been coveting a Kindle and now I have my own paper-white version, which I love. It's easy on the eyes and more importantly, many books are only available in an electronic format. Plus, I've downloaded many of the classics for free or a small price. My bookshelves are going to thank me, though as I look around the house, we still have plenty of piles and I doubt I'll ever give up the book. But it's nice for this little device to share some of the load. But I digress ...

I've been reading another wonderful book (on the Kindle but you can just as easily read it on the computer) by Kristi Holl, ICL instructor of many years, author of many MG books, and her helpful Writer's First Aid blog. Over the years, I've applied many of her suggestions to my own writing life and I am very thankful she has given so freely of her expertise. Her newest book, Boundaries for Writers, is a quick read ... but I have a feeling that even if you feel you do not need this, you'll need to return to the advice and encouragement she offers when healthy boundaries collapse, as they are bound to from time to time. We're writers. We're also nice people. And there are always going to be demands on our time and space.

I really could've used this book when I first began writing. Whenever there is a change, there is resistance. It's natural. Even though I tried not to sacrifice time with my family, invariably, some sacrifices had to be made. In retrospect, they were good changes -- my husband spent more time with the children even though they were very attached to me. And my children learned to wait if I was finishing up a thought at the kitchen counter. As my children and writing career grew, we learned to make adjustments so that I would have both the time and space to write.

My husband has been very supportive, but in those early years, it was tough. I wasn't making any money, but was spending plenty on books and classes. The children weren't always cooperative or content, especially when they were cranky and I wasn't available. I asked to have one evening after supper to myself, either to attend class, critique group, or make a trip to the library. I resented the little comments my husband made about being abandoned. And so we argued.

"I don't say that you 'abandon' us when you go to work," I said.
"It's just a joke," he said.
"Do you see me laughing?"

You can imagine the black looks we gave each other. My husband can often make insensitive comments. He's an engineer ... (it's a joke sweetie) but one of our strengths is communication. I think it's been even more important than being-in-love. We are good about listening and quick to make amends when we hurt each other. And we're aware of how easily these lines of communication can break when we're tired or overextended and not had the time to hold hands.

You can see how easily a writer can be made to feel guilty. It's a boundary issue. And even though I have a supportive family, my boundaries are still breached from time to time, usually by non-family members now. But it is easier to recognize them, whether they come from outside or inside.

Kristi tackles the tough areas of life -- living with someone who does not value your writing work, belittles you, or is abusive. I hope none of you are facing such difficulties, but if you are, Kristi lists several resources. She does a great job of giving the necessary tools to rebuild collapsed boundaries, or ones that just need minor repair to guard your writer's heart and dreams. I especially appreciated the section on scriptures that emphasize doing the work you are called to do.

Finally, I am going to add a very good link to discernment. Many of us are caregivers and we are called to serve. But it takes some care and prayer to discern God's will vs. other people's will and our own.

Kristi, thank you for writing such a helpful book.


KatieC said...

This sounds like a wonderful book! I will be checking this one out :).

Jane Heitman Healy said...

Thanks for outlining your own boundary struggles, the book recommendation, and the link to discernment. I'm bookmarking your post. Best wishes!

Mirka Breen said...

When I had my first child (and none of my then-friends had kids) I joined a mothers Support group. We met one evening a month and were each other's life-line for dealing with many emotional as well as practical adjustments. DH then made the comment about "abandoning" our family to go to that monthly meeting, which, frankly, was part of my job.

So I can relate, and certainly relate to the lack of support for what most who endeavor to do good work in any way that does not yield obvious $$$ or glory.

Thank you for pointing this book out. Still Kindle-less over here...

Vijaya said...

Katie, I think you'll find this little gem very useful.

Jane, it's good to see you here :)

Mirka, I find that it is most difficult when you begin this journey to maintain boundaries, but they can break down at any time. And goodness, I thought I was one of the last writers to get a kindle. LOL.

Leandra Wallace said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one w/the hubby who makes 'comments'...But one day he will have to eat them all when I get published(crosses fingers)! ;)

Marcia said...

Time and time again, I see writers floundering because boundaries of one kind or another aren't in place. Such useful information.

Nancy Butts said...

Vijaya, you write the most amazing reviews: the best I've ever read. I'm just dipping into Kristi's book now. Though I've never actually heard the word "abandon" from my family, sometimes I think it's been implied. But then I have to be careful not to project my own feelings onto them; I think perhaps I was the one who felt as if I was abandoning them by writing, which is something I had to get over.

And to those of you who don't have Kindles yet, you don't need one to read Kristi's book. She published it in PDF format, which means you can read it on your computer.

Vijaya said...

Leandra, even after you're published you'll hear some 'comments'. My husband likes my MG and YA, but doesn't get my little kid stuff. "They pay you for this?" was his response to a story acceptance from Ladybug. "Cool" was his next.

Marcia, I didn't realize the different kinds of boundaries until I read Kristi's book.

Nancy, thank you. I struggle to write a decent book review without just raving about it! I think Kristi does a great job of showing where the guilt comes from.

Unknown said...

Vijaya, I aappreciate your comments on communication. The health of our marriages demands tht we continually hone that skill! Cheryl had a similar experience starting her business (she began it all with a local newsprint magazine that she wrote, sold ads for, and published by herelf). We had to do some serious communicating for her to make the time to do that. Even today, with dozens of employees and subcontractors, she still has extended family who don't seem to understand it is a real job, just like 9 to 5. Difficult.

We had to learn to separate our marital communication from our "logistical" (how to be in four places at once) communication. Both have to happen every day!

God bless your marriage. These things you have learned help to keep it strong!

Vijaya said...

How to be at four place at once! Hah. Made me laugh, Gary. I can imagine how difficult it is juggling family and work responsibilities. I think it's especially hard for women who work from home because people don't realize it is real work. I know a few men who also work from home, but somehow they manage to establish boundaries much more easily.

Unknown said...

I know you know what it is like! Perhaps women's natural predisposition to nurturing makes it harder to set boundaries than for men. That's not necessrily a bad thing, overall. But be careful! If we start talking about men and women being different, the thought police will be on us in no time!
God bless.

Vijaya said...

LOL Gary, are you trying to say that men and women are different?!!! Indeed they are. A perfect complement to one another.