Inspire Envisioning

Expression. Craft. Completion.


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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.