Hi SEers, John with you again. Today I would like to discuss how your needs could affect your writing. To do this effectively, I’m going to pop back to my training in organizational behavior. Wait, don’t run from the room just yet. This is not meant to be a lecture but some food for thought the next time you get stuck. To understand the subject, we should call upon one of the experts in the area of human needs. Yes, I mean Abraham Maslow, the developer of the hierarchy of needs theory of psychological health.
Let’s take a quick look that the hierarchy of needs theory and then relate it to our writing life.
There are some important aspects of this pyramid that pertain to writers. A general overview of the theory is we humans can enter a state of self-actualization provided the other needs at the lower levels of the pyramid are satisfied. Once we reach the level of self-actualization, we only stay there as long as the lower levels remain satisfied.
For writers, the self-actualization part of the pyramid where the creative process is centered should be our goal. If you believe Maslow to get there takes a little more than sitting down at a table and beginning the great American novel. There are other considerations. Let’s look at them.
This is where the rubber hits the road. We are talking about those things that sustain life. Gotta have air, food, water, sex, sleep, homeostasis (Internal body regulators), elimination of waste. Absent any one of these things, a person is stuck on the lowest level of the pyramid. Instead of thinking about a storyline, a writer may be trying to find food.
This need revolves around security. The degree needed does differ by individual but generally includes security of the body, the job, resources, morality, family, health, and property. Imagine how difficult it would be to write if the feeling of security was missing in any one of these. Many times when one gets sick, the idea of writing is the last concern.
This is the need for warm and fuzzy relationships. The need is satisfied by friendships, family, and intimacy. Writers work a very lonely trade. It is no wonder then that most writers seek out others in which to share that loneliness. There have been writers who have lived a Spartan and lonely existence and still managed to produce exceptional work. Not everyone can be so engineered.
Here are the various needs that all boil down to how one sees themselves, others, and how others see them. Self-esteem, confidence, sense of achievement, respect of others, and respect by others are all parts of the equation. Without a feeling of achievement and self-esteem, a writer is destined for failure.
Ah, the arrival at the big Kahuna. Here there is a sense of morality, creativity, spontaneity, ability to problem solve, lack of prejudice, and acceptance of facts. This exalted position should be the sweet spot to which every writer aspires. There is nothing that can’t be accomplished while in this exalted state. The sad part is this state is not permanent. As life presents its challenges, the grasp on self-actualization can be tenuous. Just think about what happens when a writer has skipped breakfast, and it is now past lunch. The body homeostasis wants additional nutrition to stay in balance. All of a sudden, the writer can think of nothing but food. Self-actualization goes out the window only to be traded for a Big Mac.
If all writers would take a moment to consider that moving up to and down from self-actualization is a process that can occur several times a day, hours lost in trying to figure out why the writing is so tough may be saved. The whole process, once understood, can be managed.
Next time on June 9th, I will offer suggestions on managing moving up to self-actualization and what to do if it is obvious that the goal doesn’t appear achievable.
How about your quest for self-actualization? Do you get there quite often or hardly ever? Do you really need to be self-actualized? Let’s talk about it in the comments.