Protecting Your Space
Joy of Living Creatively
Dr. Eric Maisel

Episode 12 - Protecting Your Space

In the third episode of the “honoring your creative space” series, we look at what it takes to protect your creative space from visitors, emails, and other distractions. If you allow foot traffic to flow through your space, if you accept interruptions, if you distract yourself while in your space, you will find it extremely hard to settle into a good creating rhythm. What can you do to better protect your creative space? Tune in and find out.

Good listening!



Today’s show is the third episode in a series called “Honoring Your Creative Space.” In this series I’ll be chatting about what you need to do in order to find, protect, and honor sufficient space in which to create. For convenience I’ll address you a writer, but the same ideas apply whether you are creating novels, paintings, songs, or theorems. Today’s show, from an essay in my forthcoming book A Writer’s Space, is called “Protecting Your Space.” Let’s begin!   

Protecting Your Space
Your husband comes home. You chat with him, have a drink together, have dinner. Then you go to your writing space, close the door, boot up your computer, empty your mind, and ready yourself to continue your novel.

Right about the time the desktop icons appear on your computer screen, your husband storms into your study to complain about the auto insurance premiums. Don’t you agree that it’s time to switch to another company? Out of politeness, you listen to him vent about the price of insurance, the price of gas, and the price of his favorite cereal. You’ve heard this rant so often that you can repeat it word for word; you grit your teeth and wait for the rant to end.

When he’s finally done you turn to your computer screen and discover that you are entirely in the wrong frame of mind to write. You are angry with your husband; angry with yourself; frustrated about how long it’s taking you to write this novel; and suddenly exhausted. You turn off the computer and go to bed.

You didn’t protect your writing space very well, did you?

It’s six-thirty in the morning. You’re at your computer, half-ready to write, but you decide to check your email one more time (you checked it already first thing, five minutes previously). A mildly interesting, mildly important email has arrived about an event benefiting a cause you support. You could wait to deal with it—but you decide to deal with it right away.

You craft your reply, which takes twenty minutes. You decide to whom you want to forward the message, then realize that you had better send a little explanation along with the forwarded email. That takes another hour. Now you’re hungry; and more emails have come in; and you planned only to write from six-thirty till eight, as you have many other things to do. So you make a date with yourself to write at four p.m. You answer a few new emails, get up from the computer at nine, and compliment yourself on three productive hours at your desk.

You didn’t protect your writing space very well, did you?

The power company is digging up the street in front of your house, which is where your study is located. You sit there in front of your computer and can’t write a word as heavy machinery rumbles up and down the street and men with jackhammers crack through the pavement. You feel proud that you aren’t running out of the room screaming, but you can’t get a lick of work done.

Of course, you could move to the back of the house, where it is relatively quiet, which would take you about a minute to do, as your computer is a laptop and completely portable. It even has a charged battery. But you don’t write in the back of the house; you only write in your study. So you sit there, fuming, your head throbbing, and after another few agonizing minutes you throw in the towel and shut down your computer.

You didn’t protect your writing space very well, did you?

Your in-laws are visiting. You could go to your study or you could sit with them over breakfast. You’ve already had nine consecutive meals with them and there isn’t a thing left to chat about, except perhaps the things you disagree about, but you choose to sit with them.

You make them their dry toast and put out the orange marmalade and mutter, “I thought I might get a little writing done this morning.” Your mother-in-law exclaims, “By all means!”, which you take to mean that she’s as sick of you as you are of her. But you hear yourself say, “Oh, no, that’s okay. I’ll join you for breakfast.” You bring your slice of toast to the table and the small talk begins.

You didn’t protect your writing space very well, did you?

Your days are full and you only have two hours in the evening in which to write. Your teenage daughter, whom you love, is learning Italian and wants to practice with you. You don’t mind this because you have your heart set on a trip to Italy and want to know how to do more than order espresso and find the bathroom. So you practice Italian with her.

This is pleasant and even a blessing. But no writing gets done. You’d like to stop the practicing but you don’t know how to get out of it without disappointing your daughter. So you keep practicing. One day you discover that you can order a complete meal in Italian, but your novel is no closer to being finished.

You didn’t protect your writing space very well, did you?

What should you have done?

Scenario 1: Locked the door. Or said to your husband, “Dear, I’m working now. But I’ll be happy to discuss the insurance in about an hour.”

Scenario 2: Skipped dealing with that “important” email, which you could have dealt with in the evening.

Scenario 3: Moved to the back of the house, even though you “don’t write there.”

Scenario 4: Let them eat breakfast while you got a little writing done.

Scenario 5: Said to your daughter, “This has been ever so pleasant! Now I need to get back to my novel.”

You are the only one who can protect you writing space. To protect it you may have to enlist the aid of your family. You may have to let your husband know when the insurance chats will occur, inform your children that you are completely available to them except for those two hours each evening when you are utterly unavailable, and explain to your in-laws that their visit is an amazing blessing but that you also intend to get some writing done. You may have to protect it by moving it to another part of the house. You may have to protect it with soundproofing, with “do not enter” signs, and with a lock that locks you in it. You are the only one who can protect it: you are the warden, prison guard, and convict.  

Your writing space is a literal space and it’s also a metaphoric space. Both need protection, the first with explicit rules, the second with strong intentions.

Here are four things to remember:
1. Write out your security pledge: how you will protect your writing space.

2. Have a chat with anyone who currently invades your writing space and spell out your new ground rules.

3. Protect your writing space with a talisman, amulet, icon, or shotgun.

4. Write a little right now, safe and snug in your protected space.

That concludes today’s show. I hope you’ll come back next week for another episode in the series. To subscribe to “the joy of living creatively,” please visit, where you’ll also find my blog. You can drop me an email at [email protected]; and I hope that you’ll visit my website to learn more about my books and services. That’s—(spelled out).

Thank you for listening!