When Boundaries Make You Better

When I started this blog I wanted it to be something I could direct people to when they were curious about my writing. So even though I wanted it to be informal, I knew I couldn’t just post anything. I needed a quality check. So gave myself some guidelines. They are fairly general, and I know I’ve cheated once or twice on them, but I have found that having them makes me give each post extra consideration before I post it. My guidelines run like this:

  1. All posts have to be about writing, health, or living with an oil intolerance. I lump book reviews into writing. I lump recipes into health and living with an oil intolerance. (As you can see very loose.)

  2. I try not to post a simple quote, picture or link. This is only because I have found such posts disappointing as a reader of other blogs.

  3. No rants, because they seem unprofessional. Yes that includes book reviews. I decided that as a writer I would like it if people were to give me creative criticism couched nicely, in my in box, and not over a public medium. Thus I decided to offer the same courtesy to other writers.

Because of these self imposed boundaries I often think of blog ideas but realize that they don’t fit into the guidelines. Whats interesting is that I can usually come up with a way to use the idea anyway, by changing the way I frame my post. Many of my best posts are ones that I had to reconfigure my original ideas a few times to be certain that they fit my guidelines. The guidelines forced me to get creative.

Proponents of freedom, seem to think that freedom means no restraints or boundaries and are dismissive and contemptuous of any efforts made to add structure to life in any form. But boundaries don’t always have to constrain us, they can also give us a diving board or platform to spring from.

In the natural world many plants grow better when trained onto a trellis. Yes one could think of the plant as bound, but if given free range it would likely be restricted by the heights of the plants around it. It would get rot from contact with the soil, and be less healthy because of its inability to gather as much light. Sure it could do well if given freedom, but it is more likely to do well if given a structure to climb.

Just like that plant I find that structure helps me get creative with my ideas when I write. When anything is possible I feel paralyzed and end up crawling, groping my way along with no concept of perspective; but given a concept or idea to work around I can create tall works with confidence.

Thus when I’m outlining or when I run into difficulties with a story or article, I spend some time defining my boundaries. Often just the act of defining the parameters of my problem will inspire me to start writing again.

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