Inspire Envisioning

Expression. Craft. Completion.


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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.