A Little More About the Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

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Hi, SEers John with you again. My last post opened a discussion of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs related to our writing job. If you missed the post, HERE it is again.

This time I hope to have a little discussion of each of the pieces of the Pyramid so that an idea may be generated on how movement between the levels can be a more controlled process.

Physiological Needs

We all agree the writing job is a tough one. Can you imagine trying to get in a fully creative posture if you don’t know where your next meal is coming from or experiencing homelessness? It is pretty tough to even think about writing when these conditions are present. Granted, not many of us have these basic dire situations, but there are subtle situations that can serve to keep you busied out when thinking about it.

For example. A writer has decided to do intermittent fasting. Now the body does not have the ability to understand a subtle strategy of weight control. No, the body assumes the worst.  That would be a total absence of food. So the reaction becomes clear. The body decides to pester that brain to hunt out food. It creates such a miserable feeling making sure that food is the only thing the brain can think about. Character ARC? Sure, if it is edible. The point is, as a writer, you may feel you are blocked when in fact, you are being sandbagged by a very clever body. The writer wants to write? Go eat something.  Now you can move up the pyramid.

Safety Needs

A writer feeling the need for safety doesn’t necessarily mean an immediate life or death situation. On the one hand, many had concerns during the COVID pandemic that prevented the creative process. Now that the pandemic is becoming less concerning about immediate safety, other concerns can take a different twist. How about unknown factors relating to work at home or the changing nature of the job? If they are part of the writer’s life, resolutions to any outstanding questions need to occur. A writer must take proactive measures to find answers to concerns and then begin writing.

Love/Belonging Needs

The year-long isolation that we all went through did not help the writer to feel close to friends. Also, at times there was an almost too close feeling between family members. In any case, the friend/family dynamic was disrupted. In some ways, we are fortunate that the situation turned out to be temporary, so now a more normal feeling about friends and family can develop. I think we all feel better about the situation, and better writing could be the result. Of course, If the writer has no friends and is engaged in family disputes, the writing may continue to suffer. The advice would be to address any family issues before trying to be creative.

Esteem Needs

This is the one that buggers every writer.  Writers have to work alone, and there are no atta-person awards handed out for doing the day-to-day job. It would be nice to go up on the podium and collect a thank you for an outstanding paragraph, but that is just not going to happen. The everyday challenge of remaining confident is daunting. If a writer does not meet that challenge every day, it becomes more and more difficult to face the keyboard with quality work in mind. The real secret is to take pleasure and a sense of accomplishment in words produced today. Sure they may not be perfect, but they are probably unique. Once a writer can praise themselves, then continued and controlled movement to self-actualization is possible.

Self Actualization

Writers find the sweet spot of creativity when in the zone of self -actualization. It is while in this position that the full joy and fulfillment of writing become apparent. The words flow like water, and the creative process motors on unencumbered. It is an exalted state which should be achieved routinely. However, if the writer is conscious of the restraining factors of the other positions of the pyramid, then tricks can be played to make sure the time spent at the peak is maximized.

So in summary:

  • Recognize when physical needs are being challenged and take action to stop.
  • Understand that safety needs may arise due to uncontrollable factors and learn to take proactive action to control that which is possible.
  • Know when family and friend issues are having an effect on creativity and address them.
  • Realize the writer must take pleasure in personal accomplishment and be self-satisfied.
  • Observe when the zone of self-actualization describes the current position and remember how it was achieved.

Thank you for reading, and I hope I stimulated some thoughts

Do you have any tricks to fool yourself if you find that you are stuck in one of the pyramid levels? Let me know in the comments.

80 thoughts on “A Little More About the Hierarchy of Needs

  1. You have explained this theory in detail. However, it is important to go beyond self-actualization needs in order to achieve a complete bliss.
    From what I have under, the difference between self – actualization and self-realization is that self-actualization is limited to a person’s identity, self-realization on the other hand, is more to do with the person’s soul. You can read more about it here – https://ashsutras.wordpress.com/2020/09/17/self-realization-part-1/

    Liked by 1 person

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  4. Excellent food for thought, John. I’m so far behind, I almost wasn’t going to take a moment to comment, but then I realized NOT commenting wouldn’t fix my problem, and would, in fact, add to it, by making me feel much worse. So, here I am, and I want to thank you for this. I’ve never seen this pyramid before, and I like how you’ve broken it down. Hope this will be an ongoing feature! Sharing, for sure! 🙂


  5. I know an author who wrote his first book while living under a bridge, homeless and newly sober. That book went on to do very well. Since then, he got an agent, a wife and family, several book deals, and two film adaptations (one’s still pending). He’s an inspiration.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Informative and insightful post, John. Thank you. The first line of esteem needs had me chuckling. We write in a vacuum, so our self-nurturing abilities are called upon. As with everything I find it’s a juggling act with differing levels of writing creativity produced. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Another awesome post, John. I love how you get right down to the basics and how a lack of any of them affects our creativity. I for one cannot write when my tummy is growling. Thankfully, I don’t have to deal with not having a roof over my head, but that would certainly stymie creativity. Self-esteem…well, it fluctuates. Every once in a while I get to experience the self-actualization phase and it’s exhilarating! Thank you for sharing! Very interesting!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Another great post. I feel like the caretaker of the pyramid these days. I run from one repair to another with my toolkit. I think our dogs have it best. They get plenty of affirmations and don’t seem to have any worries.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I was one of those people who lost the creative urge during the pandemic. I just couldn’t focus on writing. NaNoWriMo last November was the thing that lit a fire under me and got me writing again. Now, I find myself waffling on different stages of the pyramid, trying to overcome the real life issues and needs that interfere with writing time. A lot of times I just force myself to plow through, then others I wait for the pyramid to readjust. Or, I guess, I’m doing the readjusting!

    A thought-provoking post, John!

    Liked by 4 people

  10. It WOULD be nice to go up on the podium and collect a thank you for an outstanding paragraph. Of course, that would mean having people in my house. And a podium. I’m starting to see a flaw in this plan…

    Loved this post, John.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. I love how you’re exploring these in-depth. So many things influence our writing and can disturb the creative process. The line about the character arc had me chuckling.

    Jan Karon, author of the Mitford series that was popular in the late 90s wrote a lot about food in her books. She once said in an interview she did that because much of the time when writing she was hungry. On a budget and not being able to enjoy her favorite foods, she decided to write about better times. Guess it worked – not only were the books popular, but an entire cookbook was also developed from it.

    Liked by 2 people

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  14. Wonderful post, John. What’s amazing to me is that we can travel up and down the pyramid in one day. Our circumstances can change and with that, our perspective on our work can shift. Somehow we need to feed the inner muse while entertaining and comforting the scribe. Nature can do that for me, but then so can a hug. 😊

    Liked by 3 people

  15. These days, I seem to get stuck in the safety needs…aging parents can do that. Writing under contract has forced me to move past that level, but it still lingers. Conditions will never be perfect, so we just have to press on. Great post, John!

    Liked by 2 people

    • The key is to continue to try no matter what. All the forces of living seem to conspire to keep the writer occupied in other than writing activities. I admire how you are able to meet those deadlines with all you have going on. Thanks, Jill. 😊

      Liked by 2 people

  16. Interesting. Never really thought about the needs with writing life. Not sure I have any tips though. Think I bounce around the pyramid getting stuck lately. Get one section under control and then another goes haywire. Maybe just taking a day to rest helps.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. ‘Character ARC? Sure, if it is edible.’ … Oh, John, that line had me laughing away, and you definitely get the ‘atta-person’ award for that one!😂
    Excellent post with some wonderful, easy to relate to examples. My pulls, mostly, these days are lack of sleep and pain. I do what I can, but the effect on my creativity and pizzazz is noticeable. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  18. When I first started writing, I had no idea that life will do its utmost to get in the way of any creative thinking. Clearing the decks is not always possible, not unless you want to turn to violence! There are days when writing must wait, but luckily, there are also days when we can shut the world out, close the door to our writing space (and the one in our head) and manage to come up with the goods. These are the golden days!

    Liked by 3 people

  19. It is a wonderfully creative moment when hitting self actualization when writing. Like the pyramid shows life does get in the way of that. You made some very valid points of how the last year disrupted writing, and I found myself there too. I found having deadlines, like having to produce something for a challenge or a critique group is what pushed me forward. Once I start writing I can find that top of the pyramid, but its the getting started that’s held me back. Great post, John:)

    Liked by 2 people

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