A new series highlighting the best writing advice is here! In this first episode, Kathi Lipp is talking with Marlena Graves, author of The Way Up is Down, about her best writing advice. Listen in to hear why knowing your enneagram number will help you in your writing and:
- How better understanding ourselves helps our writing
- When our writing is the strongest
- Discover the strengths we bring to writing
Links and Resources:
West Coast Christian Writers Conference. Use the code RedHouse for $120 OFF your ticket price! In addition to the discounted ticket price, when you register with the discount code, you’ll also receive a special bonus: Susy Flory’s Red House Training – Escape the Stuck: Free Your Story at These 5 Places.
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Meet Your Hosts
Author, Speaker, Communicator Academy Creator and CEO
Marlena is author of ‘The Way Up Is Down: Becoming Yourself by Forgetting Yourself’ and ‘Enneagram 9 Daily Readings’ both with IVP. She will be keynoting at the West Coast Christian Conference in February.
My Best Writing Advice – Know Your Enneagram Number (WCCW) Marlena Graves
Read along with the Podcast!
Writing at The Red House Podcast # 216
Know Your Enneagram Number
Welcome to the Writing at The Red House Podcast, where we gather at the table to break bread, and tell tales with some of our favorite writers and speakers, who share their wisdom to help us all share our story.
Kathi – Today, I am very excited. This is a new friend, but I already know, when we get into the same room, there will not be any air left in the room, for all the talking that will be going on. My guest today is Marlena Graves. She is going to be one of the keynoters at the West Coast Christian Writers’ Conference. She’s also the author of The Way Up is Down: Becoming Yourself by Forgetting Yourself. Marlena, welcome to the Writing at the Red House podcast.
Marlena – I’m really happy to be here, and to get to know you, Kathi. Thank you for inviting me on.
Kathi – Okay, so I have a question. We’re not talking about this book so much today, but I need to understand your title. I’m going to put this into the show notes, because I’m starting to read it. I’m already in love with it after the first half of the first chapter. So, The Way Up is Down: Becoming Yourself by Forgetting Yourself. What is behind that title?
Marlena – Yeah, thank you. So, Jesus talks to us in Philippians 2. Paul, speaking about Jesus. He talks about how He gave up His rights. “Though He had equality with God” He didn’t try to, basically, put on airs and use the rights that He had. He took the role of a servant and we see Jesus talking about that in The Upper Room discourse, where He washes His disciples feet, and He says, “You don’t know what I’m going now, but later on you will.” Jesus, Himself, says, “The greatest people in the Kingdom will be the servants of all.” Also, “The first shall be last, and the last shall be first.” So, our society, and even the church, is self-absorbed, and concerned with self-aggrandizement. Self. Self. Self. Jesus says, “You have to lay aside your rights and consider people above yourselves.” Now, when I talk about that, I don’t mean to allow yourself to be abused. I’m not talking about allowing human rights abuses. I’m talking about the way of Jesus. A lot of times, the church adopts the way of the world. How much money/power/influence you have. This comes into writing, too, with platforms, and things like that. My book is centered around how I think Jesus would have conducted himself today, based on the scriptures that I noted. He’s not going to run over people, or mistreat people, just to elevate Himself. In the Kingdom of God, it’s an upside-down kingdom. The way the world does things is not the way God does things. So, my hope is, the church, based on the book I wrote, and Christians, as individuals, would take the way of Jesus.
Kathi – Yeah, so it’s so interesting. I think our brains try to spend a lot of times fitting Jesus into a North American culture. They don’t fit. It really, truly is an upside-down way of viewing who God is, through our limited filter. First of all, I’m super-excited about that. People ask me how far in advance do I prep these interviews. Some of them, I’ll prep them months in advance. Let’s just talk about, Marlena, what do you have going on in your life right now? Why am I trying to use as little time of yours as possible? Not only do you have three girls – what are their ages?
Marlena – Thirteen, eight and nearly six.
Kathi – Oh my, goodness. I didn’t even realize they were that little. Then, you have a side gig, besides writing two books in the space of a year. You’re also going for you PhD at the same time.
Marlena – Yep. Just started school. At the time of this broadcast, it was two weeks ago.
Kathi – I’m so excited that you’re going to be able to fit in the West Coast Christian Writers’ Conference. I decided I was going to plan this interview on the fly. You’re so gracious to say, “Yeah, whatever you want to talk about.” But this is what is fascinating to me. You have another book coming out in February. Forty Days on Being a Nine: Enneagram Daily Reflections. I just love this so much. In this series here, “My Best Writing Advice” I wanted to find out from you. First of all, what got you interested in the Enneagram?
Marlena – About 2010, maybe, I was at a conference, and some fellow writers who used to write for Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics, which became CT Women’s blog. They were talking about the Enneagram, and I didn’t know a lot about it. I’d heard about it, but I didn’t know anything. The question that gets thrown out is, “What is your number?” Of course, I was like, “I don’t know what my number is.” So, that’s how I heard of it, and how I got interested in it.
Kathi – So, it has to be more than a passing interest, if you’re writing an entire book with somebody, about the Enneagram. What did you find in the Enneagrams that was changing for you?
Marlena – It’s like what Enneagram experts say, the number, when you hear their weaknesses, you bristle, because you’re like, “Oh! That’s me! I don’t like that!” I find it’s helpful. The way the Enneagram speaks, and I know there are different teachers that highlight different aspects and come at it from different points of view, but I think it helps me better understand myself. I’m quick to say that I am not an Enneagram number alone. Yes, I’m an Enneagram 9, but there’s more to my life than a Nine, and each Nine’s a little bit different, given life circumstances, and health, or lack of health. So, there’s a lot of differences in a Nine, but there are some common traits in living that we share.
Kathi – So, tell me a little bit about the Nine? Anyone who has listened to this podcast for ten minutes, knows that I’m the biggest fan in the world of my husband, Roger, who is a Nine. My son, who is a writer, is a Nine. So, some of my favorite people in the world are a Nines. So, tell us a little bit about who you guys are.
Marlena – We’re peace makers. It’s really easy for me to see, not always, but I feel like, I can understand, as a Nine, the perspective that people are coming through. So they say we’re peacemakers. When people are at heads, we can say, “Well, you know, this is a legitimate concern.” Or “I see why you’re saying that.” So, I always feel, and I’m always bringing groups together, fighting for the underdog. As far as writing goes, I guess I can always see myself over in contradiction to certain writers. Only in my head, ‘cause I haven’t asked people, but maybe even the way I write is Nine-ish. People say Nine’s are more mystical and contemplative. I love being out in nature. Nines can be very stubborn and dig our heels in, if pushed, but as a Nine, I don’t love conflict, but if someone is being put down, or an underdog, I have no qualms about standing up for them. Maybe that’s part of the One wing, and I have an Eight wing, which is the challenger. I think Nines, when you think of us, we’re thought of as easy to get along with, peace makers, but part of the reason people think we’re easy to get along with is because we don’t always love conflict and we might not always say, “Hey!” People have often told me, “Marlena, you’re so patient.” Or “You have the patience of Job.” And I’m like, “Maybe. There’s a long fuse, but once it goes, it could be an eruption.”
Kathi – Exactly. What I love about the Nines in my life is that, not in a forceful way, but in a really smart way, get me to see every side of an argument. Especially in this heated political time, right now, I sometimes don’t want to hear from my husband, about the other side. He wants to look at all sides, and I’m like, “I’d rather just be right. Can we just agree that I’m right?” So, I think that’s such a great gift. It’s much more of a bridge-building skill than I, as a Seven would have, or some of my favorite Threes. Here’s my question. How does knowing your Enneagram number help you be a better writer? I know, for me, once I understood who I was as a Seven, it gave me permission I don’t think I had before, or I hadn’t given myself, to write with a particular viewpoint of a Seven. So, I’m wondering how it has helped you, as a writer?
Marlena – I think you said it so well, Kathi. It’s like, “These are the strengths I’m bringing to writing.” It’s even writer’s voice. You, as a Seven, me as a Nine, we might be writing on the same topic, thinking about the same things, but you and I are going to highlight different areas, maybe even the same area, but talk about it differently. I’m able to be myself. One thing about Nines is, one thing we’re hesitant to do, and I’ll speak for myself, is to often stake our claim in an area. You say, “Well, I think this!” Because if I say, “I think this!” I know I’m alienating other people, and I don’t want to alienate people. But I’ve grown to the point where I can say, “No, I really do think this about this. Not everyone will like me. They’re not going to all be happy with the conclusions I come to, even though, I can be kind and generous towards them.” I think of Nines as global writers. My books, even this Nine Enneagram book, is daily readings on spiritual formation on the mystical aspect, the formative aspect. That’s how I am going to write. That’s the person that I am. Yes, I can write. I’m in a PhD program. I can write scholarly work, and even Nine affects my scholarship, too, but I’m not going to be apologetic anymore about who God has made me to be, and I bring that into my writing voice. I think a lot of writers, especially if you’re starting out, “Should I put down what I really think?” You know? “If I put down what I really think, am I going to alienate, or make people mad. People aren’t going to like it.” I think, in writing especially, there are so many areas where we lose our voice because we’re worried about what other people. We’re scared, or we’re not comfortable with ourselves. I think, when we write from who we are, our writing is strongest.
Kathi – I could not agree more. When you really understand who you are and what your personality is, it gives you a boldness you didn’t have before. That brings me to my next question. At least, in some of the circles I run in, there has been a lot of controversy around the Enneagram. They don’t believe it. “It’s not biblically based!” “You don’t find the Enneagrams in the Bible.” “How can you actually use this?” Everything should just be about who God created you to be, so have you run into any of that? People in Christian circles who are, like, “This is something you shouldn’t be using.” I’m wondering, obviously, you don’t agree with that, so, tell me a little bit behind that.
Marlena – There are so many things that aren’t in the Bible. Calculus isn’t in the Bible. They don’t say anything about Penicillin in the Bible, or wearing glasses. There are a lot of things that aren’t in the Bible that we use that are helpful methods. I don’t know if there is any official handbook on counseling in the Bible. The Bible tells us God’s timeless truth, but it’s not detailed to the core of every generation. I don’t think that the Enneagram is gospel truth. I mean that in two ways. It is literally not the gospel and I see it as a helpful tool to understand personalities and ourselves. I just don’t find the argument that ‘it’s not in the
Bible’ very compelling.
Kathi – I don’t either, but people use that argument with so much passion.
Marlena – I know they do, but I think if we just think clearly, and just push back, and say, “Well, there are a lot of things not in the Bible. Why are you using refrigeration? Why don’t use just use ice or something?” So, to answer the question, I see it as a tool. Do I think it’s the gospel and that I’m going to lay my life down and worship it? No. I think it is a helpful tool. People don’t have to use it, but to say it’s not helpful because it doesn’t come straight from the Bible? I’m like, “There are a lot of things we do that don’t come straight from the Bible.” So, I haven’t heard people say that directly to me, but I’ve seen it on the internet.
Kathi – One of the interesting things is, you keep saying, “It’s a tool!” and I love what my husband says. He says, “As long as it’s a tool, and not a box, that’s something I can get behind.” As soon as I start feeling boxed in by a personality assessment, or anything like that, that’s when I need to reevaluate. If I can use this as a tool to share Christ more deeply, understand my relationship with God more deeply, then that is a beautiful thing. I am so excited to hear more about what you’re going to be speaking about at West Coast Christian Writers’ Conference. One of the things I’m super excited about. You’re bilingual, so in the heart of Silicon Valley, where it’s sometimes surprising to hear English, I’m so excited that you’re going to be doing the keynote, not just in English, but in Spanish, for our brothers and sisters who are entering into the writing world, or are a part of the writing world, who are bilingual. I’m super excited about that. Guys, I know you’re going to want to hear Marlena, whether it’s in English or in Spanish, at the upcoming West Coast Christian Writers’ Conference. February 25th – 27th. The theme is going to be Cast Your Nets: The Deep Awaits You. They’re calling this a mega-conference, which I love because there are going to be over 60 online workshops, from agents to editors, and award-winning authors, and two big general sessions, where Marlena is going to be one of our keynotes. Here’s the beautiful thing. There are going to be opportunities for live feedback and appointments with those people who are going to make your writing stronger. Okay, to find out all about the workshops, opportunities, and special offers, click on the link in the show notes and use the special code REDHOUSE (all one word). Normally the price would be $249, but for our listeners, not only do you get the flash sale price of $129, you’re also going to get this special bonus. As long as you use the code REDHOUSE, for the month of November, you also get best selling author, Susy Flory’s amazing Red House Training. It’s called Escape the Stuck: Free Your Story at these Five Stuck Places. So, you’re going to discover the five stages of your writing project, determine which stage is your biggest challenge, in other words, where do you sometimes, or always get stuck. Finally, get unstuck and transition from stage to stage, moving forward with fresh energy and insight. Guys, I took this class. It is genius. The fact that you get it for free and also get to go to this amazing conference? It’s just the best of all worlds. We’ll get to hear Marlena there! I’m so excited. Marlena, thank you so much for being on the Writing at the Red House podcast.
Marlena – It’s so fun, Kathi. Thank you for your work. It’s a benefit to many.
Kathi – Friends, thank you for listening. You’ve been listening to Writing at The Red House podcast. This is Kathi Lipp. Now, go write the story you were created to tell.
*see show notes in podcast post above for any mentioned items