The Enneagram changed my life and made me a better writer. I’m serious. But before I dive in, a little about me: I like personality tests. I like learning as much as I can about myself so I can grow. Maybe you’re a bit skeptical. I totally get it. Just keep reading. There is something here for you as a writer, I just know it.

Here’s how I did I learned about the Enneagram, one step at a time. 

It all starts with you. 

The first step is to figure out your type by taking a test. There are so many online for free. Just pick one and then take another just to verify. 

I’m a 4. Many writers are. We’re emotional and live in vivid internal worlds (often in our head). 4’s find comfort and maybe even happiness in feeling sad or even depressed. I know it’s a little weird. 4’s are special folks. Edgar Allan Poe is a total 4. So is Holden Caulfield from The Catcher In The Rye. Anne Frank was a 4. So is Bob Dylan. I’m pretty convinced Jimi Hendrix was a 4 too.

Next, dig deeper. 

The cool thing about the Enneagram is it shows you what the healthier version of yourself looks like too. Here’s a look at the Enneagram. It’s got 9 different types (or parts). When a 4 is growing (or healthy) this type looks a lot more like a 1 (which is more organized and has things in order). 

But when a 4 is not healthy, he or she is stressed and becomes clingy and needy and looks a lot like an unhealthy 2 (which is better, angry and resentful. Even self-sacrificing.)

The cool thing is this same logic applies to all different types of the Enneagram. If you are a type 8 (the leader) there is also a growth and stress level. A healthy 2 helps and serves others. An unhealthy 5 withdraws and becomes isolated. 

Third, branch out and use the Enneagram in your story. 

My main character in my novel is an 8. An 8 is quite different than me — remember, I’m a 4. Basically we’re talking about an introverted writer (4) thinking like an extroverted leader (8). 

I use the Enneagram to make sure that my main character is acting like an 8. (4’s are very emotional, where an 8 is very logical and goes from the facts.) 

So when my character is stressed, he simply withdraws. When I am stressed, I would be more likely for an emotional outburst and to be resentful and bitter. While I might withdraw, I’m going to pout a bit more and also take it personally. 

An 8 might even be recharging or thinking about things. A 4 could easily slip into hermit-mode and stay depressed. 

Use the Enneagram to improve empathy. 

Empathy is one of the most important tools a writer can have. And it often starts with listening. But as you listen, over time, you will start to notice patterns. My wife is a 9 (often called the peacemaker) and she absolutely hates conflict. 

While conflict is unavoidable at times, whenever you can minimize conflict — especially by doing something ahead of time, it really helps out a 9. Not only can you do this in your relationships in real life, you can use empathy to understand your characters better. 

Take a look at this: 

Remember how I said 9’s hate conflict? Their basic fear is being separated — which is the extreme of conflict. 

8’s don’t want to submit to another or be controlled by someone else. (Works pretty well for my main character that is a cop who is tired to submitting to lousy bosses, and the lax criminal justice system.) My basic fear as a 4 is being defective or flawed (which is really the extreme version of envy or comparison). 

Wherever you (or one of your characters or even your readers) fall on the Enneagram, you can learn something new. There is a lot of information out there with the Enneagram and it is more in-depth than any other personality test. 

The Takeaway

You can use the Enneagram to learn a lot more about yourself and your characters and even those around you. I know some folks just consider the Enneagram to be another personality test, but in my experience, it goes a lot deeper and is more helpful than the other available options. 

So if you haven’t taken the Enneagram yet, give it a shot. Pick up a book about it at the library or reach out to a friend who has a lot of experience with the enneagram. There are even communities online (Facebook, Reddit, etc.) for each Enneagram type. Dive in and learn more and grow so you can become an even better writer. 

Jim Woods, an author, freelance writer and writing coach who loves helping others share and tell better stories.
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Jim Woods, an author, freelance writer and writing coach who loves helping others share and tell better stories.

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