I recently attended a Lit Walk in North Hollywood and absolutely loved it. I was so exhilarated hearing writers tell their stories so openly, candidly and without filters. There was something really relatable about how raw it was. They were sharing their most intimate feelings and personal details without apologies that I was genuinely impressed, moved… and a tad bit jealous.
They wrote and spoke without apology. Their stories ranged from abuse to rape to racism to politics to love to heartbreak. They were extremely personal, full of truth and extremely passionate. I loved that they had the courage to tell stories that were not all about sunshine and rainbows. I loved that they spoke sometimes less than diplomatically yet still respectfully. I loved that they did not apologize for their words. Their words are their feelings, their frustrations, their passions. They are theirs to say and for us to listen or to not listen to. (Ok, I digress before I get all freedom-of-speech on you).
Since this eye-opening night, I have been thinking a lot about the breadth of writers’ boundaries. Some writers are more bold than others. Some are more crass than others. Some are more delicate than others. Perhaps the more unfiltered someone is, the more risk there is for backlash. The thing is though, whether they intentionally or unintentionally ruffle some feathers, I am realizing that is what is so unique to having a creative outlet. People can pick their voice and others can choose to pay it any mind or not.
When I think about life (outside of writing), there are some similarities around boundaries yet some very stark differences. Boundaries. We all have them. They are different from one person to the next. They may baffle us. We may not agree with them. We may be intrigued by them. We may try to change them. I ask though, regardless of what we think about someone else’s boundaries, is it for us to do anything else beyond accepting them?
I truly believe boundaries are what keep us thriving. They are almost like rules of engagement which are quite different from creative expression. I have nothing but respect for people who establish and make their boundaries known, whether I agree with them or not. I realize that acceptance means that I may have to tailor what I say or suppress certain sides of me in certain situations. I also recognize that anyone can argue “But you should be who you are at all times.” I think I am who I am at all times, but I pick and choose sides of me at the appropriate times. If I were to be the same person at all times, I would inevitably cross someone else’s boundaries, and personally, I do not want to go through life feeling like I am stepping on people along the way.
There plainly is an element of censorship when it comes to boundaries. It is not to say it is a bad thing, it is to say it’s a juggling act. Being aware of people’s boundaries is a game of sorts that we all play. We learn to understand them and abide by them, not because we are complacent passive people, but because we are taught to treat others with respect and acceptance.
We have emotional, spatial, physical and mental boundaries. Sometimes we may find it uncomfortable to be around someone who has more lax boundaries, or the opposite, much more rigid boundaries. Sometimes we like being around people with such drastically different boundaries as it may even push us out of our comfort zones. When it comes to someone else’s boundaries, ultimately it is for us to accept or walk away.
When it comes to my writing mantra, I try to be as cognizant as I can of the tone. I strive to be creditable without being self- righteous. I strive to be open without being offensive. Being at the Lit Walk did challenge my mantra and thinking, both when it comes to my approach in life and my style of writing. There was something freeing not just in hearing what others were reading, but in the choice I had to go from venue to venue as I pleased. It reminds me of the constant ebbs and flows of friendships and relationships. Often they fade and flourish depending on boundaries. Sometimes I have to analyze my boundaries or those of others. Do they mesh? Do they clash? Do they even matter? Do I need to reevaluate my own from time to time? Absolutely.
I still stand by that boundaries are extremely important to set, but I also recognize that what may work one day may not work the next. Perhaps there is something to be said for being more open, vulnerable and even less filtered. I tend to write “safely”. I have set my own writing boundaries and I do balance that with those boundaries of other people.
I leave you with this… yes, boundaries are important. Actually they are necessary. When though do boundaries get in the way of what could be?