Boundaries: A Key to Artful Living


Much is said about this word “boundaries” as it relates to our personal and emotional lives. But it also has great benefit for our creative lives as well. As creative beings we deal with practical as well as emotional issues. Our inner artist will be nurtured when boundaries are set for such things as WHO we allow to see our latest, new-direction artistic ventures; WHEN we “go public” with our art; HOW we receive others’ comments; and WHERE we will go for encouragement and inspiration.

There are also practical ways that boundaries can help us in our artful lives. I like to think of my creative field of play as a broad, wide field of wildflowers with a stream at one side and a line of trees at the other. All of this land is encompassed by a sturdy wooden fence, beautiful with its flowering vines, weathered look, and patched portions. This lovely space is where I draw and paint, knit and crochet, write and illustrate. There have been a few times when I’ve jumped the fence and played with clay and glazes. For a few years I participated in a figure drawing group over in the next holler. And there’s a farm over yonder with sheep where I longingly gaze and wonder if I could learn to spin and dye wool. But for now, I’m happy within the bounds of my little creative field.

Little? There are days when the possibilities that lie within the fences seem overwhelming. So many creative interests. So little time! And there are certain creative ventures both within and without the fences that require resources…money to invest in the possibility, the foray, the accomplishment. How do I deal with the overwhelm of possibility? Some days, not so well. Other days, a little friendly boundary setting gives me a sense of security and focus.

When my children were tiny, they enjoyed playing in their playpen (pack ‘n play:). I started off giving them a bazillion toys to play with in their playpen. I couldn’t understand why, five minutes later, they were unhappy, trying to climb out of the webbed walls. But if I gave them just a few toys in their environs, they were happy for much longer. I surmised that having fewer things to focus on actually allowed them to…well…focus! And thereby enjoy the toy at hand.

I am much like my toddlers were. When I don’t have a nice, soft, webbed boundary around just a few creative possibilities, I feel stretched, unable to focus, scattered and listless. I end up wailing over the fence, longing for whatever is “over there”! All I need is to imagine I am sweetly hemmed in with a few favorite artistic “toys” and I’m a much happier camper, or at least, a bit less of a tormented artist.

So I limit myself. Not for always. And certainly not in a severe way. (Although I do have this nagging thought that if I were really disciplined and severe with myself, I might actually accomplish something huge. But my next thought is that it wouldn’t be nearly so fun! Then I’m off to sketch the cornflowers in the field and to find a ball of yarn in that precise color blue. I choose joy over severity every time. Well, almost every time.)

Anyhoo. To establish these helpful boundaries I ask myself a few questions. There are others, but these tend to guide me pretty well.

1.  In embarking on this creative venture, do I have the time, energy and money to sustain what will be needed to begin and to follow through?

2. Will this creative venture carry a hefty “guilt factor” if I don’t continue with it?

3. What aspect of this creative path can I do on a small scale allowing me to “try it out” without any need to continue with it, unless I want to?

4. Am I willing to give up one or two other creative things to allow room for this new one?

Many times, it only takes #1 to give some focus to what I’m dreaming about or feeling pulled into.  Such was the case with Sketchbook Skool. It looked sooooo fun and inspiring! Shouldn’t I take this course? Don’t I owe it to myself to improve in my drawing skills? But I was/am enjoying the creative things I’m into right now. I knew that in taking the course, I would have to squeeze out a couple of these things to make room for the Skool. I decided to stay put in my little field and not go on a six-week hiking and sketching venture. Hopefully it will still be available in some form for a future time. In answering the above questions, I’m able to establish a soft, webbed area for myself to enjoy the particular materials and creative ideas at hand. If I do choose to give up a thing or two for a time, the boundary allows me to focus on what I’m committing to for whatever amount of time I choose.

Money is a wonderful boundary marker. Living within your provision is not only wise but is honoring to your creativity. Spending far too much on supplies or classes or frames will leave you feeling guilt-ridden at best and disgusted with your art at worst. (Believe me, I’ve been there!) If the money isn’t there…wait. Save up for it. Ask for money for Christmas or for your birthday. And no need to fall into the trap of “but it might not be there if I wait!”. There will always be art supplies, classes to take, frames to buy, and gorgeous colored yarns you feel you “just can’t live without”. Always.

So how do you establish healthy boundaries for your artful life? In what ways do they help you? I’d love to know your thoughts on the matter! I hope you have a happy, creative day playing in your fenced field of creativity!

***This is a different take on a similar topic I wrote about here. In fact, there’s a whole category titled “Artful Living” you can access in the right-hand margin. 🙂