Psychologist Abraham Maslow developed a theory about what each human needs. The hierarchy, shown below as a five-tier pyramid, attempts to explain the connection between our basic human needs and our motivation.
But we are writers. Our needs might differ a bit from the average human. We are mighty beings formed of stubbornness, creativity and caffeine.
The world will always be crazy. With 7.7 billion people on this planet, there is simply no way to avoid misunderstandings and differences of opinion. However, I believe we are all more alike than we are unalike, especially as writers.
We want to make enough of a living that we can carve out time to write. We want our families to be healthy and happy. We want our kids to have more happiness and opportunities than we had.
We want to write wonderful stories.
What is the Writing Hierarchy of Needs?
I’ll encourage you all to add to these in the comments, but here is my take.
Water is awesome and important, but did you see that part above about “the mighty beings formed of caffeine?” Most writers consume prodigious amounts of coffee or tea. At the very least we need something fizzy every once in a while.
The best food for writers should have two qualities:
- Able to be eaten at room temperature
We don’t want to have to get up in the middle of a scene just because we’re hungry. It could anything (fruit, chocolate and protein bars come to mind) but it must be food we can ignore for hours on end while our brains are busy creating…and then fall on ravenously when we’re done.
Many writers swear by naps. Having a handy couch or bed near our writing space is helpful.
The writing dress code usually contains one of the following: pajamas, shorts, yoga pants, possible addition of socks and/or hoodies for warmth.
Note: If you wear something different, I want to hear about it in the comments!
I don’t know how you see safety and security, but I see it as a safe writing space and a reliable backup system. You’ll know what makes the best writing space for you, but let’s talk about backup systems.
Oh sure, we knooooow we’re supposed to back up our stuff. We plan to back up our files. We think about backing up our files.
Most of the people I know don’t back up their files, unless it happens automatically with something like Carbonite or Dropbox or Office 365.
Or if they do, they don’t do it regularly. They only do it when there’s “a glitch.” Trust me, I’ve been there myself. And I had to pay the $800+ for data recovery. It hurts…bad.
Because we knoooooow we were supposed to back up…
Note: A few years ago, I did an entire post about backing up called Help Me Computer, For I Have Sinned.
A blankie or talisman is another way to add to the "safety" factor. My favorite writing talismans are a pack of matches, a vanilla candle and a digital kitchen timer. I set the timer before I sit down (digital so the ticking doesn’t distract me). When I smell the sulphur from the match and then the vanilla of the candle, something just unlocks for me and away I go into Word Land.
Belongingness and Love Needs
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I need writing friends.
Online friends are awesome, especially for those who are in less populated locations, but there is something about meeting writing friends in person. Holding their hands, seeing their faces, watching them laugh, acting out the logistics of a scene. There is something so creative about in-person time.
If you are lucky enough to have family and every day friends who will support your writing, that’s an amazing gift. But if you don’t, go get some writing friends.
Your writing pals can be found just about anywhere if you run an online search for writing chapters and organizations in your neck of the woods. And remember, if your neck of the woods is hard to get to – there are huge writing communities online.
Even if you aren’t published yet, there are ways to meet those Writing Esteem needs. Take classes. Enter contests. Join a critique group.
Anything that gets you feedback on your writing, or new skills to try out, will meet these needs.
Laura Drake and I talk about this all the time: most professional writers would love to go back to that time when they wrote only for the joy of it. No contracts, no deadlines, no reviews, no pressure. They wouldn’t trade their stories or their careers for anything but when writing is a job, it is easy to get burned out.
Enjoy those writing retreats and times of pure creativity.
Appreciate the beauty of this writing life you have chosen for yourself.
In what other job can we go days on end with no shoes or pants if we don’t want to put them on?
A note on competition:
It is really really hard to keep from being sucked down the Comparison Rabbit Hole. There will always be someone who went further, faster, more SOMETHING than you.
Falling down this Comparison Rabbit Hole is a surefire way to shred your self-esteem. Do what you must to resist. Keep a gratitude journal or a goal list that allows you to see your progress. When you are looking at someone else’s accomplishments all the time, it becomes impossible to see how far you have come yourself.
If you’re like me, you’d like to jump over all the rest of the Writing Hierarchy and live here. You just want to create already, right? But every journey starts with a single step.
If you haven’t slept, you can’t create.
If you are hungry or cold, you can’t create.
If you are worried about your loved ones, you can’t create.
But you can forgive yourself and resolve to create at your next opportunity. You can practice the self-care you need to climb back up that pyramid to the exalted Self-Actualization stage. You can scribble notes, to be ready when you get there. You can breathe.
We know you are better, stronger, wittier and prettier when you are writing. We are too. And we are here to encourage you to do what you must to achieve your fully self-actualized potential.
Here is an infographic of the Writing Hierarchy of Needs if you need to post it somewhere prominent as a reminder.
Now go write!!
What would you add to the Writing Hierarchy of Needs? Where are you right now in the Pyramid? Which stage do you find the most challenging?
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About Jenny Hansen
By day, Jenny provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. By night she writes humor, memoir, women’s fiction and short stories. After 20+ years as a corporate software trainer, she’s delighted to sit down while she works.