I’ve talked a lot about creating space for your creative force, about opening yourself up to inspiration, moving forward despite fear… all of those things are really critical for living a creative life.

Even more recently I’ve started talking about boundaries, specifically my lack of them.   I want to stress that while I try to remain constantly open in a lot of ways, the reason I feel able to do that safely is because I am falling in love with No.

I tend to be very free and expressive with my emotions and my time.  I  like to get excited, I like to hear about other people’s projects and want to give, give, give to make sure it happens.  At the end of the day, after encouraging and pushing and cheering my creative pals on, I find that I have very little left for my own pursuits.

Not too long ago, I felt really, really burned out in a number of ways and had hardly written anything longer than 140 characters in months.  I had no energy, no drive, no time.

Well, I said to myself, this sucks.

(I am really eloquent when I talk to myself.)

In looking for solutions, I thought about how so much of creativity is about YES.

  • Saying yes to ideas, no matter how silly they seem.
  • Saying yes to leaps of faith, knowing pursuing a dream is more important than the risk of failure.
  • Saying yes to things that delight and excite you.
  • Saying yes to things that resonate with you.

I’m good at Yes.   Yes comes easily to me.  It’s fun, it starts conversations, it takes me in unexpected directions.    No is harder.   No disappoints people.   No creates boundaries.  No is often seen as selfish.

Living a creative life, however, requires saying no, too.   If I am to have the time and space I need to write, sculpt, sing, and whatever else I need to do, I absolutely must extend myself the same courtesy that I would anyone else working on an important project.

Lately, I’ve socialized a lot less.  Normally, I’m a social butterfly and I love to see my friends and party with them, but I was giving my friends a lot more of my time than I was giving my creativity.   I needed to balance out my schedule and get back to discipline, stat.

I started with setting up a system for saying no to certain types of performances (as I mentioned last week).  I’ve also started saying no to some collaborative projects that I normally would have jumped to be a part of.

It’s important to me to go out into the world and experience things, to give back to others, to push my friends to pursue their goals, but I need to balance that with making time for my own stuff.

By saying “no” to things that don’t directly serve my creative work, I am giving myself permission to make my creative pursuits a priority again.   Rather than a negative thing, those instances where I say “no” are actually a positive affirmation that I am choosing to focus on my life’s work.

What could you start saying No to in order to say Yes to your creativity?