Treatment Plan #5: Allowing Positive Patterns
Happy Day After Thanksgiving weekend, insanely interesting Writerly Women. Do I even need to say that I am insanely grateful for you and this community? It is indeed one of the most valuable treasures I have discovered this year, and I hold you all close to me. I hope Thursday found you feasting in some way, despite the restrictions we're all having to observe. Maybe it lends to more quiet gratitude, yes? (But for heaven's sake, I hope you had some mashed potatoes and gravy. Not to is unAmerican. I hope Skeli, Natasha, Emii and Colleen, who are in non-U.S. countries, also dished up some and gave thanks!)
As we reflect on the celebration, we don't necessarily want to dwell on those limited patterns we talked about in our last post, important as they are. Go ahead and give yourself a break before you get back to getting deep into yourself and discovering the root of what keeps you stuck in patterns that prevent you from writing. A few of you have already done that --
AMALIE says the biggest pattern she's uncovered so far is not giving herself space, not disciplining herself. to stay in one place. She learned to multitask for survival in her childhood, but that is not healthy for an Enneagram 5. (If you're not familiar with the Ennagream, you might want to put The Road Back to You by Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile on your Christmas list. It's a wonderful introduction to the concepts Amalie has studied in depth.) It moves her into a scattered place, a place of conflict between doing something she wants to do and doing what she "should" do, and launches her into some ADHD! We'll get back to Amalie in a moment.
EMII shares that one of her patterns is that having a dream is a lot more attractive to her than a reality. So, why would she plunge into a second draft when she likes the idea of being a published author better than that possibly actually HAPPENING? Another thing that makes it difficult is simply not knowing what to do. This past year she had a writing goal each day and she wrote her words every single morning. (now THAT is impressive ...) But now that the first draft is done, she doesn't know how to show up at her desk each day because trying to fix a draft is a lot harder than smashing out a thousand words. It feels like a waste of time, to be honest. She can't see any progress, so why would she do it? EMII will want to go a little deeper and see where that pattern comes from. Is it fear of success for some reason? That isn't uncommon. Praying for you, Em, as you take a deep breath and go on in.
It takes a while to (a) discover your patterns and (b) find out where they come from. I'm not suggesting that you should have accomplished that after reading one post! When I say " a while" I'm not talking just days or even weeks, though some of you may slide into this more quickly because you've done a lot of self-examination before. And even once you use some of the techniques we talked about in our last post to get to the root of the issue, just naming it doesn't resolve it.
When you DO have an epiphany about this -- God being an inherent part of the process -- what do you do about it? You can't change the root. If you had a critical parent, for instance, or a series of hard-nosed teachers or you experienced any kind of trauma that forced you to find a way to protect yourself, you can't make that go away. It happened and it is part of you.
But it doesn't have to drive the bus.
How, then, do we get a limiting pattern out of the driver's seat? Again, we don't want to jump ahead and start fixing when we don't have a complete picture of the problem. But the day before a major holiday, a time of focusing on giving thanks, I think it's appropriate to consider something positive. And that is this ...
Changing a negative, self-limiting pattern involves replacing it with a positive one.
This is not the same as distracting yourself. You can't get yourself to write so you go out for a caramel machiato and a cinnamon bun -- that's not a new, positive pattern. That's part of the old one. Delicious as it may be and as lovely as it feels at the moment, it doesn't get you closer to working on your project. It actually takes you farther away.
Nor is it the same as spiritual bypassing. Shrugging your shoulders and saying, Now that I have confessed my pattern, God will transform me and I'll know when I'm ready to get back to the keyboard. This is a partnership between us and God. Jesus never said, "You just sit there, eyes closed, and I'll do a total healing." He said "Follow me." "Take up your cross and follow me." "Pick up your mat and start walking."
A positive pattern to replace a negative one looks like this for Amalie:
* She GIVES herself intentional permission to carve out time to write
* She ELIMINATES distractions
* She HIDES her to do list in a file cabinet in her brain
Those are ACTIVE steps. Creating new patterns requires us to DO something.
SKELI, who is represented by that awesome picture at the top of this post, named two of her writing challenges (i.e. patterns) as I suck at endings and I write epic monsters, like 900-pagers. She has begun to create a new pattern by truly looking deeply at what she KNOWS to be true so she can get to the end of the story. These are a few of the truths on her list:
* There is grace available even for monsters; even for the worst, creepiest, vilest human. It is a spark inside us wired right into our DNA, a flaming wire along every nerve. We can't throw it out no matter how hard we try.
- *But to understand this, we have to let go the idea of punishment, of the savour of vengeance for wrongs done by others, or to us, or done ourselves.
- *The truth is people wither under shame, and rise under love.
- We need to see and promote the good in each other, and stop giving voice to the ugly. To quote Star Wars: "That's how we're gonna win. Not fighting what we hate, saving what we love."
- The good is attractive all by itself. All we have to do is clear the garbage and show it.
- So much energy is wasted assigning blame, scoping the borders of an offence. That solves nothing.
- Simply sweep up the debris, repair the damage and move on to building the next good thing, uncovering the next treasure.
- There are some things we can only learn in the storm, in pain. It sucks, but there it is.
- There are some questions that don't get answered here. Why is often one of them, and the answer doesn't matter anyway. We only need to know why when we have no one to trust, no one who loves us, no one who cares. If God is who He says He is, this is never the case.
- Sometimes pain is so great there is nothing to be done, except be with the one suffering. No words are required, just a willingness to be there in it, helpless, and knowing there is no fixing it. But there nonetheless.
I think she can write that ending now.
Are you up for another challenge, even if you aren't quite there with the last one? If so, here you go:
What is the opposite of your root-driven pattern?
What one thing can you do to take that opposite action?
An example might help:
NEGATIVE PATTERN: I get stuck in "I haven't written anything for the general market since the 1980's. I might be "too old. I'm basically starting over when most of my friends are collecting Social Security and playing with their grandchildren and taking up watercolor. Maybe I'll create an awesome writing lesson for Maeryn or make yet another writing schedule. At least I know I can do that.
ROOT OF THE PATTERN: For a number of reasons, I grew up believing that being loved was conditional on doing something spectacularly well. In fact, doing a lot of things spectacularly well. It doesn't take Sigmund Freud to see the link between that belief and the negative pattern.
OPPOSITE OF THE PATTERN: Not doing it spectacularly well. Just doing it for fun.
POSITIVE REPLACEMENT PATTERN: I have ABANDONED the idea of being published again. I CREATE ways for my work on my novel to be fun. I WRITE in a journal before and after a session (because I love journaling.) I RECAPTURE the week of purely living the writing life when I was in Concord in as many ways as possible -- wonder walks, coffee/tea/Matcha as rituals, time to savor every word, every image, every piece of dialogue because I don't have any deadlines, only alive lines.
Is it hard to stick with that? Actually no, because those are all things I WANT to do. Things I LOVE to do. And, ironically, they are things I do WELL. I do NOT love combing the market for trends, researching agents, reading blogs about how to write a killer query letter, or talking about the dismal chances of actually getting a book in print. Will I need to do those things later? Probably -- but as long as they interfere with the joy of writing right now, I'm not going there.
After all, I am driving the bus.
And so are you.
Now that the turkey and stuffing and pumpkin pie have been digested, do a little dreaming and share a possible positive pattern with us. I'll be so grateful.
The 24-hour rule is a good one, Skeli. I think that definitely applies after we've gotten to the root of the issue. I know I can think for 24 hours about how amazing I'll be if I take this on! Thank you for bringing that to the table as a piece of the puzzle.
Posted by: Nancy Rue | 12/02/2020 at 11:21 AM
Pam, this is absolutely perfect. You got to the root. That "Why am I volunteering for this?" is essential. And not, I'll warn you, an easy one to accept the answer to! Freedom from guilt IS the result, and I can see that happening for you.
Posted by: Nancy Rue | 12/02/2020 at 11:19 AM
Emii, this is stunningly insightful, and you are brave to share it. I will be brave too and say that while the results of this same pattern in me are different, the root is the same: there is something important, significant, special about having suffered. I've had to confront that dead-on, and although it isn't a pleasant admission to make, once it's out there, that's half the solution right there. And let me say this -- as far as we are concerned here in this community, Emii, you are VERY significant. As young as you are, owning this early on, the future looks bright indeed.
Posted by: Nancy Rue | 12/02/2020 at 11:17 AM
Thanks for sharing your digging, Pam! It sounds like you’ve struck gold there — ‘that would be freeing... not feeling guilty.’ Guilt gets way too much room in our lives! I wish you peace and rest and joy this holiday season & hope that you might discover a freedom to make choices. Thanks again for sharing.
Posted by: Emii | 12/02/2020 at 01:56 AM
Pam H. You sound like you are about to step onto the holiday treadmill! Please don't! If you have trouble with over volunteering, make it a habit whenever you are offered an opportunity to say: "Hm. Sounds fun. Let me think about it. I'll get back to you in 24hours!" Then you have a chance for no pressure analysis and can maybe see whether this new item fits with your schedule/available time and goals. :) -Skeli
Posted by: Skeli | 12/01/2020 at 01:10 PM
I like how you identified and handled your pattern, Emii! I'll give it a try, too.
So my PATTERN is volunteering too quickly.
The ROOT of that pattern? Hmmmmm ... maybe because I like helping, but I think more, way down deep, it's a desire to be liked and admired.
So, the OPPOSITE of my pattern is to not volunteer for anything. Which isn't good.
That leaves me with a POSITIVE replacement pattern of PAUSING and asking myself WHY I'm volunteering. Really look at it. Ask the Lord if it's something HE wants me doing. And if it's not, don't feel guilty about it.
Wow - that would be freeing, huh? Not having guilt?
Posted by: Pam Halter | 12/01/2020 at 09:45 AM
I considered what you said, and I've got this to contribute:
I need to be SIGNIFICANT, and I believe that SIGNIFICANCE comes through SUFFERING. Therefore, I must SUFFER to be SIGNIFICANT. To be successful throws the whole thing off.
In a year of learning to let go, of letting go of many things, I can add this to the mix: Letting go of the need to be significant. I realise there's a lot going on in the above sentence with all the words in caps; for instance, my belief that significance comes through suffering. But the point is that at the root, I long to be significant, which is why I attach to suffering. If I can let go of the need to be significant -- maybe I can let go of the need to suffer, too.
So, the PATTERN is self-sabotaging my own success by abandoning my project before completion.
The ROOT of the pattern is a need to be significant, and a belief that significance is gleaned through suffering (so success isn't an option).
The OPPOSITE of the pattern is to... pursue my goal.
POSITIVE replacement pattern... Break down my big goal into smaller goals and daily tasks and show up every day again.
Posted by: Emii | 12/01/2020 at 03:07 AM
My negative pattern is I volunteer too quickly. Right now I'm working on a short story for a Christmas anthology with some Realm Makers friends. It seemed like the thing to do at the time. What the heck? I don't even like writing short stories! SIGH. But my deadline is this Friday, so I'm making myself work. It doesn't help that I still don't feel good from being sick last week. No energy.
The thing is, I was gonna back out, but before I could, several people backed out of the project and then I had GUILT. But now that I'm writing, I'm okay. I'm just so, so, so tired.
That didn't stop me from accepting a guest blog post in a couple of weeks. AND I'll be writing a script of sorts for our church's Christmas Eve service. I have ideas, just haven't been able to get them written down.
And I haven't even started my Christmas sewing. Whew!
Posted by: Pam Halter | 11/30/2020 at 01:39 PM