Inspire Envisioning

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Nine Roadblocks to Editing Your Writing (and What to Do About Them)

Anyone who writes knows the challenges of editing. You’ve gotten your ideas down in that “shitty first draft.” Now you must look at your work with fresh eyes, fixing messy sentences and filling in plot holes. It’s useful to get help from others, whether they’re peers or professionals, but ultimately we have to edit our own work too. Some of us love polishing our writing, but for others, it’s an uphill slog. Our personalities stall our progress and throw roadblocks in our path. Here are nine that you might encounter during the editing process, along with tricks for dealing with them when they arise.

1. Perfectionism: If you’re a meticulous type of person, editing might come naturally to you. You enjoy reworking problem areas and finding the right word for the job. You might find, however, that your perfectionism sometimes leads to paralysis. The temptation to fix what you’ve written, again and again, makes it hard to know when your piece is done. Set yourself a “no more editing” deadline, or seek out encouraging others who will help you get your work out there and call it a day.

2. Focusing on Others: As much care as you put into your writing, you also devote a lot of attention to the people in your life. If this sounds like you, you might find editing to be a challenge. It seems selfish and daunting to block out time to improve your work. All of a sudden you need to help Grandma wash her car, or put in extra hours at the office. You get wrapped up in doing stuff for others while your draft sits there. Try getting others involved in the editing process, using their feedback as fuel.     

3. Goal Orientation: You have big ideas about what you want your writing to do. You envision an impact bigger than the day-to-day grind of editing, which can make it hard to sit down at your desk with your red pen (or its digital equivalent). Maybe you’ve written with a market in mind, or dream of shortcuts to take your project where you want it to go. But quality takes time and authenticity. As you edit, look beyond results to the truths you want to convey. What do you have to say, and what’s the realest way to say it?   

4. Introspection: The more introspective among us use emotions to fuel their writing, but those same feelings can get in the way of the editing process. You look over your draft and see only flaws. You wonder if your writing is any good, and if it’s worth putting in the time to edit. These thoughts are discouraging. Seek out reality checks about your work’s pros and cons, and work steadily, a little at a time, to polish it.  

5. Intellectualizing: If your writing has an intellectual foundation, you may find yourself focusing on the ideas as you sit down to edit. The resulting work may be well thought out, or it may get bogged down in analysis. Look beyond intellectual concepts at other vital aspects of your writing. It might be helpful to have a list of criteria about clarity, structure, reader interest, and other elements important to your genre.

6. Committee Mentality: Some of us have a hard time seeking the necessary feedback to improve our work, but if you tend toward the opposite, asking all your friends and mentors for their opinion, you’ll find yourself listening to a lot of competing voices. Resources about writing and editing can also be expert opinions that confuse with their disagreement. Filter others’ ideas through your own goals: are they right for your work or not?

7. Distractibility: It was so much fun to write your first draft that you want to start something new again! Why spend time on a boring editing process? Or maybe you should change what you wrote so it’s completely different, make it much more interesting… Without focus, it’s hard to polish your work to its potential. Keep in mind how exciting it will be to have your project finished, and inject novelty into the editing process. Instead of working on new writing, edit in a new location, or intersperse editing time with other activities.

8. Impatience: This writing has been so much work that you just want to be done with it. Isn’t it good enough already? You’ve said what you had to say. Sometimes a light touch is wisest, but there are generally areas to improve that you’ll find with a further read-through. That in no way diminishes the impact or power of your work. If you’re fed up with it for the time being, set it aside, but give yourself a deadline to come back to it.   

9. Inertia: You find it hard to summon the energy for editing. It’s hard work, it’s not pleasant, and it’s not part of your daily routine. You might intend to edit, but find that hours have passed and you’ve spent them puttering around the garage, or checking Facebook. An Internet-blocking program might help if digital inertia is an issue for you, and a new environment might give you fresh energy. If it’s novelty, build editing into your routine, so your inertia will work for your editing process rather than against it.    

There are many roadblocks you might run into while editing, some of which are related to your specific project, rather than the personality-based ones I described above. If you’re looking for coaching through the editing process, or help from an outside editor, I offer both services and often provide them together. Feel free to reach out to set up a Skype call, or offer your own ideas in the comments. Happy editing!   


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Your Instincts and the Creative Process

When you embark on a large-scale creative venture, you bring every aspect of your human nature with you. One influence you may not think about is your instincts. The Enneagram describes three basic instincts that influence people’s behavior: Self-Preservation, or the drive for conservation; Sexual, which involves the drive for stimulation; and Social, the drive for shared engagement. Some of these instincts are more active in your daily life than others, with one usually being unconsciously overdone, one moderately engaged, and one under-attended to. If you look at your creative process, you’ll find these patterns recurring. Each instinct brings vital elements to creativity.

I was introduced to the idea of using the Enneagram’s instincts in service of the creative process in Lindsay Robertson and TJ Dawe’s Develop Your Creativity workshop, and have gained additional insight through teaching The Enneagram Institute’s The Three Instincts (Subtypes) Workshop, which I’ll be holding in Edinburgh this 14-15 October. The instincts are powerful material because they shape your behavior so deeply yet so unconsciously, and bringing them into your awareness opens opportunities for change that we wouldn’t otherwise access. Below, you’ll find strategies that you can use to work constructively with each of the three instincts. Notice which come easily to you, and which could use a gentle nudge. How can you incorporate the strategies you underuse into your creative practice?    

Foundation: In order to create, you need to have some form of structure and discipline in place. You could have the greatest ideas in the world, but without sitting down in that chair and making something, they will remain intangible possibilities rather than vibrant creative projects. Building a productive foundation is one way the Self-Preservation Instinct plays a key role in creativity. You can make this instinct work for you by scheduling time to devote to your project. Many find it helpful to create routines for themselves, such as writing every morning, setting timers, or using a program that blocks the Internet for a set amount of time. Tending to your basic needs and creature comforts is another way to use this instinct in service of your creativity. Is your workspace comfortable? Does the setting enhance or detract from your productivity? Some people find it most conducive to their creativity to work in a cafe with a comfortable hum of chatter, while others might need their workspace to be clean before they get started. Are you sufficiently fed and rested? Many creators have day jobs in addition to their creative work, which help with their foundation by ensuring that their financial and material needs are tended to.

Immersion: All creativity starts with a spark. You have a great idea that gets you excited. You’re drawn to make something new. Connecting with the Sexual Instinct in your creative work is similar to the rush of falling in love. If you can stay passionate about your project, that spark can mature into commitment. Let yourself love what you’re doing, and have a way of recording new ideas when they come to you (notebook, phone app, etc.). Give yourself to your inspirations when they strike: if you’re sizzling with enthusiasm about your novel one night, this might be a good time to get out the laptop. Let your impulses be woven in and see where they go. This won’t always look like foundations and patterns, but fits, starts, and lightning are part of productivity, too. When you aren’t feeling lit up, continue to energize your work by bringing in new ideas. Julia Cameron suggests making weekly artist’s dates, a practice that fuses the routine of the foundation stage with the excitement of immersion. Make it a practice to take yourself new places and experience new things.

Context: No one creates in a vacuum. Even if you complete a creative project on your own, you draw inspiration, consciously or unconsciously, from a broader context. This may include the works of other creators (which are often part of long lineages of influence), and ideas or feedback from other people. Everyone uses the Social Instinct to connect with influences, strengthen, and disseminate their work. If you look in the Acknowledgements section of any book, you’ll see that it wouldn’t exist without a long chain of people involved. You can draw on this instinct’s power by seeking community and context. Find writers’ groups, critique groups, or collaborators who you can bounce ideas off of, and receive valuable perspective. Feedback will shape your work into something more powerful and ensure it resonates with your intended audience. Forge accountability partnerships where you keep each other motivated. Look for work in your field that interests you, and study it to learn new forms of technique and craft that you can try out. You may want to seek professional help, or public response, to take your work to the next level. These strategies will strengthen your work and ensure your voice has an audience and influence.  

Which instinct-based strategies would you like to use more of? How can you build them into your creative practice?

 


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Nine Ways to Connect with Inspiration

We’ve all felt the urge to make something new. For many of us, it’s a powerful impulse in our lives. When we tap into creativity, it gives us the ability to transform our work, engage in play, connect with ourselves, bring new things into the world, and change our outlook on daily life. However, creativity can be elusive. When we’re tired, busy, or overwhelmed, it becomes hard for ideas to flow. At other times, inspiration sends all kinds of messages in our direction, but if we don’t cultivate or can’t afford the dedication and discipline to fully engage with them, they fly away like leaves in the wind.

Fortunately, there are tricks we can use to get ideas flowing when the going is slow. This month, let’s look to the Enneagram’s personality types for nine different ideas to connect with inspiration. The prompts below aren’t definitive of the Enneagram types; rather, they reflect just a few possibilities inspired by different personalities’ energy and focus. Take them as a jumping off point. Try them out, see what works for you, and feel free to invent your own!

One: Connect with an important value.
What motivates you to create your work in the first place? Consider the larger purpose of the work you want to do. Brainstorm ways of creating in alignment with this value, and try one of them out.

Two: Make something with someone else in mind.
Think of an important person in your life and ask yourself what you can create that they’d enjoy or find interesting. This is especially fun when you create something very different from what you’d normally do.

Three: Create something really bad.
Sure, it’s great when your creation turns out well, but today, try making bad art. What’s the worst thing you could make or idea you could engage with? You can also try an art form you’re no good at, just for fun.

Four: Investigate a personal memory.
Reflect on an event in your past that shaped who you are today. What emotions are associated with it? What did the scenery look like? Why does this memory stand out for you? Use it as a creative springboard.

Five: Use a question as a prompt.
What is something you’ve always wondered about? Follow your curiosity as far as it goes. Dig into research. Ask, “What if?” Use your questioning and discovery as a starting point to make something new.

Six: Commit to a “date” with your creative work.
Mark out a time on your calendar to engage creatively. Disconnect from the Internet and social media, unless these are part of your creative process. Show up and create for the allotted time, and see what happens.

Seven: What if anything were possible?
If you could do anything you wanted to do, what would you choose? How would your life be different? Give yourself permission to imagine any and all possibilities. Incorporate at least two of them in your work.

Eight: Get moving.
Walk, dance, exercise…get up and move around. Get your energy flowing and see what ideas show up as you move. Sense your body and stay in touch with this awareness while you create something.

Nine: Go somewhere peaceful.
Find a place where you don’t normally work that inspires a feeling of peace. This might be a quiet place at home, a busy cafe where you feel at home, or somewhere outdoors. Create something in this new setting.

If you’re seeking further inspiration or interested in the connections between the Enneagram and creativity, check out my new e-book, Nine Paths to Creativity. If you’ve already received my previous e-book, you can get a copy of the new one by e-mailing me or using the contact form.  

What prompts or practices inspire you when you’re in a creative slump? Do you have a favorite? Share your ideas in the comments.

 


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How Your Conflict Resolution Style Can Help You Cope with Change

Enneagram teacher Russ Hudson speaks of a trap that we can fall into: when we set up our lives just the way we like them and everything is flowing along smoothly, we can think we have it made. But whenever we depend on external circumstances for our happiness and stability, we are building on shaky ground, because changes are inevitable. In the long run, the cultivation of inner resources and resilience creates a far more solid foundation.  

We can look at our Enneagram type as a strategy for dealing with life’s ups and downs. Our ego seeks a particular form of familiarity in life, but it also provides hidden strengths that we can bring forward when the going gets rough. It can teach us how to deal with change, and point us to times when change is beneficial or even necessary. One aspect of the Enneagram is particularly useful for understanding and coping with various aspects of change: our conflict resolution strategy, or Harmonic group. Understanding which approach we use can help us draw on our strengths in facing change, and apply new approaches we may not typically use.

The Emotional Realness Triad (Enneagram types 4, 6, and 8) brings emotions to the forefront in times of change. These types naturally use the strategy of digging up truths about where they and others stand and what problems they’re dealing with. Seeking to get to the bottom of things, they may be the first to recognize when a change is needed, and to deal with the messy emotional realities that it involves. Emotional realness types can draw on the strategies of the other two triads to strategize and contextualize changes.  

The Competency Triad (Enneagram types 1, 3, and 5) brings the gift of problem solving. When something changes, these types easily brainstorm ways of coping, bringing in logic and reason. They have the ability to remain impartial and strategic. What’s the best way to handle the changes that arise? Drawing on the strengths of the other triads can help them cut through the brainstorming to identify strategies that are also emotionally resonant and move them toward their best outcome.

The Positive Outlook Triad (Enneagram types 2, 7, and 9) brings in the big picture. Less daunted by change than the other styles, these types have the ability to take a bird’s-eye view of its implications and imagine the positive consequences that can result. What can this change bring me? Why does it matter? Their contextualizing ability often enables them to maintain positivity even when the immediate situation is less than ideal. Bringing in the other two styles can ground their optimism in wise action.   

Recognizing our default way of tackling change is useful for expanding it. When we access the strengths of all three styles, we deal more effectively with the changes life springs on us, and are able to initiate positive changes and solutions for ourselves. One thing’s for sure: change happens. No life can stay static. We can learn to draw on our inner as well as outer resources to handle change constructively.


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Five Enneagram Audio and Video Resources We Love

Last month, we shared some wonderful Enneagram books from the Resources section in The Modern Enneagram. This month, we’d like to spotlight audio and video resources that bring something unique to the Enneagram conversation. Recent forms of online learning have been huge assets for bringing new perspectives on the Enneagram to the comfort of your own home, and the wealth of resources that you can listen to or watch add an immersive dimension that you can’t get from book learning.

We had a lot of fun creating our own Problem Solving Through Personality audio recordings, as a quick and accessible way of teaching about the Enneagram at work, and speaking about communication styles and the autism spectrum on AASCEND TV. We aren’t the only ones who’ve made use of the strengths of audiovisual learning. These modalities lend themselves beautifully to interviews, personal examples, and auditory or kinesthetic methods of transformation. From an at-home conference experience to a “video panel” of the masters to audio downloads that will put you to sleep (in a good way: take note, insomniacs!), here are five audiovisual resources that we’ve found both enjoyable and groundbreaking.

  1. The Enneagram Global Summit

First up, we highly recommend the biggest audio event in the Enneagram world. If you’ve ever been to an Enneagram conference, you know how exciting it is to be surrounded by leaders in the field, immersed in the exchange of new ideas. The Enneagram Global Summit brings this dynamic experience to anyone who wants to listen in. Starting in 2015, the Summits have featured such experienced and cutting-edge voices as Dr. Claudio Naranjo, Russ Hudson, Helen Palmer, Dr. Dan Siegel, Cheryl Richardson, the Enneagram Prison Project, and many more! The 2017 Enneagram Global Summit, from June 5-9, will feature over 40 speakers with incredible insights to share. You can sign up here to listen, or to order the recording after the event has taken place.

  1. Tom Condon’s Changeworks Resources    

Many Enneagram practitioners teach primarily through speaking or panels. Tom Condon’s approach is unique in integrating NLP and Ericksonian hypnosis. Trained in the use of auditory modalities to interrupt our usual patterns and facilitate change, Tom brings powerful auditory tools to anyone who wants to work on themselves. You can learn from his Dynamic Enneagram videos and recordings on the nine types, or download recordings to boost your confidence, reduce your stress, help you sleep, deepen creativity, and more. Access The Changeworks’ wealth of resources here.

  1. Enneagram HQ Video Resource Library

There are a lot of Enneagram videos out there where people talk about what it’s like to be different personality types, each with their own insights to offer. Enneagram HQ’s Video Resource Library stands out among the offerings for its videos of prominent Enneagram teachers, each of a different type, sharing self-knowledge gained from years of studying the system. They offer in-depth insights into each type’s internal dynamics, challenges, instincts, and growth. It’s wonderful resource to learn from and share. You can access the videos here.    

  1. Tapping for Your Type

Here’s another tool for change, customized to your personality. Psychotherapist and coach Rachel Alexandria’s video series uses EFT, or tapping, to free you from your usual blocks and create the change you want in your life. She guides you in using your fingers to tap on physical pressure points, while repeating statements that anchor constructive self-talk in your body. If you’re an Eight, say, and want to work on issues with food and eating, Rachel has a process video especially for that. If you’re a Two seeking to improve your work life, there’s a video for you, too. The comprehension and customized focus of each Enneagram type’s set of videos allows you to work on the most relevant areas of your life at your own pace, coming back to them as desired. Check out Tapping for Your Type here.     

  1. Wild Crazy Meaningful Enneagram Podcast

Pace and Kyeli offer a fun, interactive take on the Enneagram in this weekly podcast. Each episode features a different speaker or topic, which Pace introduces through one of her signature haikus. The podcast follows a conversational style, with the hosts teaching about various Enneagram-related topics or holding insightful exchanges with others. In addition to discussions of type psychology, books, and more, it boasts an impressive array of interviewees. Past episodes have featured authors, scientists, coaches, and panels of type exemplars or experts. A new episode goes live every Wednesday. Melanie had a wonderful time talking about modernizing the Enneagram with Pace and Kyeli this February. You can check out their fun, accessible way of learning about the Enneagram here.


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Our Favorite Enneagram Resources

In our years of Enneagram teaching and learning, we’ve had the benefit of many wonderful resources. With the Enneagram growing in popularity, there are books, videos, courses, apps, and a plethora of other options for learning about its many applications. Writing our book The Modern Enneagram gave us an opportunity to contribute to this conversation. We wanted to create an entry point for newcomers to this complex system. For readers who want to continue their learning, we included a list of resources for going deeper, focusing on different applications of the Enneagram such as careers or relationships. This month, we’d like to spotlight a few of our favorite resources that we recommend in The Modern Enneagram.

For Beginners: The Enneagram Made Easy: Discover the 9 Types of People by Elizabeth Wagele and Renee Baron

If you’re new to the Enneagram and looking for an engaging starting point, or if you’re seeking a fun way to introduce the system to friends, family, or clients, this book is a perfect pick. It introduces the nine types in simple, accessible language. Liz’s cartoons, sprinkled liberally throughout the text, give funny and relatable examples of how the types behave and see things. They flesh out the Enneagram theory in ways beyond what words can convey alone, and make for great conversation points. The book’s breezy nature makes it easy to pick up and put down for busy readers.   

Business and Career: Awareness to Action: The Enneagram, Emotional Intelligence, and Change by Robert Tallon and Mario Sikora

This is an excellent practical guide for using the Enneagram in the workplace. It presents the nine types as strategies that can be used skillfully or unskillfully, and introduces a simple framework for building on your strengths and growing your performance. Many mainstream Enneagram resources have a spiritual slant or use language that doesn’t work in corporate environments. This book speaks to the workplace in ways that are both thorough and usable, without skimping on the depth and growth that working with the Enneagram can provide.  

Personal Growth: Personality Types by Don Riso and Russ Hudson

An Enneagram classic, Riso and Hudson’s book delves deeply into the types’ dynamics and journeys of growth. It remains the most comprehensive resource for understanding the Levels of Development: the progression of personality through mental health, from our darkest struggles to our highest potential. Check out this book if you’re looking for in-depth insight and a thorough psychological take on the Enneagram types, as well as an inspiring view of what your best self can look like.

Relationships: Sex, Love, and Your Personality: The 9 Faces of Intimacy by Mona Coates and Judith Searle

This relationship book by a seasoned sex therapist goes beyond type and explores the three instincts, or subtypes, within each Enneagram number. Coates’ 35 years of working in the field allow her to offer rich and varied case studies for each type-instinct combo, illuminating real-life relationship challenges and ways of working with your type toward relationship success. This book also includes a scale for assessing relationship compatibility. Personal and thorough, it’s both an intriguing read and an excellent tool for understanding yourself and your partner.

Spiritual Growth: The Spiritual Dimension of the Enneagram: Nine Faces of the Soul by Sandra Maitri

This book is geared toward the advanced Enneagram student and spiritual seeker. Maitri expands on basic familiarity with the system by presenting some of the Enneagram’s spiritual context. She views the types as stemming from loss of contact with our essential nature, resulting in the development of a particular ego structure. The book goes into detail in explaining how these structures operate and how we can get more deeply in touch again with our essential selves. It also presents a unique take on each type’s repressed inner child.

One wonderful thing about the Enneagram today is the wealth of resources available. Our recommendations above are just the tip of the iceberg. See our book, The Modern Enneagram, for a more thorough list of recommended resources, or feel free to recommend your own in the comments!


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Modernizing the Enneagram

The Enneagram is a practical tool created from combining ancient wisdom teachings and contemporary psychology. Part of its appeal is the way it has stood the test of time. From its roots in the philosophies of the Desert Fathers and the Kabbalah, as well as its integration of newer psychological insights, modern students of the Enneagram have an eminently applicable system for understanding themselves and others, communicating, resolving conflicts, and working on themselves. Human nature has remained consistent over time, so it’s no surprise that a system rooted in long-standing wisdom traditions has a lot to offer us today.

The Enneagram of personality, as it is currently taught, is also old enough to have acquired its own history and tradition. Most teachers and students still consult classic Enneagram resources from a few decades ago, and there’s good reason for that. There’s nothing like the early works of Riso and Hudson, Palmer, Naranjo, and other Enneagram pioneers to give a sense of the system’s depth and intricacies. There are situations, however, where a modern update is called for in teaching and learning the Enneagram. The economy and job market have changed since the first Enneagram books were written. In our globalized world, we use forms of communication on a daily basis that would amaze even yesterday’s science fiction writers. It’s useful to have ways of teaching the Enneagram that reflect these new realities.

In our book The Modern Enneagram, we gave a lot of thought to bridging the gap between the Enneagram’s timeless insights and the interconnected world of today. Here are some principles we came up with for modernizing Enneagram work for contemporary audiences, while maintaining the essence of its teachings.

Adapt to a changing attention span.
People today are busy, with the constant buzz of smartphone alerts adding on to schedules full of work and family commitments. The ease of rapid communication means that we are expected to pay attention to more input, more quickly, for shorter amounts of time. A 2015 research study shows that the human attention span has fallen to about eight seconds. When introducing the Enneagram in a modern context, it’s helpful to offer a concise introduction that gets the point across and piques your audience’s interest. From there, you can ease students into more in-depth learning, but first it’s helpful to communicate why the Enneagram is worth their time.   

Use contemporary examples and case studies.
A lot of our favorite Enneagram books reference celebrities and pop culture from decades ago. If you’re introducing the Enneagram to newcomers, they may not be familiar with these examples, or they might find them hilariously dated. It’s helpful to find type examples from modern pop culture, which audiences can immediately relate to and younger students will recognize. Workplace and social realities have also changed since many Enneagram references came out. If you’re working with a group, address these changes and make a point of incorporating recent case studies to support the ideas you’re conveying. In our book, we included references to social media, dating apps, and modern workplace dynamics to keep the content relevant to readers’ lives.        

Take advantage of new ways of learning.
There are more ways of teaching and learning the Enneagram now than ever before. Some of the most popular Enneagram courses are now offered online, and you don’t have to travel to a workshop, or live in an area where one is convenient, to learn about the nine types in depth. There are Enneagram blogs, apps, and podcasts. While new ways of learning the Enneagram are proliferating, there’s still a lot of room for expansion. Consider ways you could reach a broader audience through the wide array of platforms available, and seek out people who want to learn what you have to teach. Don’t be afraid to incorporate new ways of learning into your in-person Enneagram work, too.        

The Enneagram has been around for a while now, and it continues to grow in popularity each year. With an eye to modern realities, it will continue to be a relevant and useful way of learning about ourselves and the people we interact with every day.