Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Writer's Hierarchy of Needs by Cindy Keen Reynders

I'm so happy to welcome my writing friend, Cindy Keen Reynders to Motivation for Creation.  One of the local published authors, she has been a source of support and assistance to me since almost the beginning of my writing.  She writes paranormal romance with a quirky humor that made even my husband laugh out loud.      

When Cindy offered to share this post about the Writer's Hierarchy of Needs, I jumped at the chance! Please enjoy the article, and give Cindy's blog, Saucy Lucy Wisdom, a visit afterward.  Take it away, Cindy!

In 1943, while Adolf Hitler was waging his reign of terror, Abraham Maslow was developing his theories on mental health and human potential. If Maslow had done research on someone with a disturbed psychology, perhaps he might have chosen Hitler. Instead, Maslow chose to study healthy, well-adapted individuals.

Because of his research, we now have a diagram called “Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs.” I’ve posted Maslow’s five levels of self-actualization. The bottom of the pyramid represents basic needs of survival, while the top levels represent what we need to personally flourish.

Maslow’s theory suggests that once people have met the basic needs of shelter, food, etc., they typically branch out to connect with others, then begin to achieve and accomplish in different areas. Now maybe this is a stretch, and I don’t have any fancy-schmancy college degrees that lend any credence to my meanderings, but I decided maybe I could translate those five levels of growth progression into what we need to grow as writers.

Please bear with my crazy ramblings, but here it is:


Maslow said that in order for people to survive, they need to have basic needs met such as food, water, sleep and air. 

For writers to survive, we first need something to write with; paper and pencil, typewriter, computer--that sort of thing. We need the basic tools to record our stories. Without these, we are dead in the water because our characters and plots will stay stuck in our heads forever, driving us crazy rather than (hopefully) entertaining the masses.  

Next Maslow said people need safety, security and shelter to survive. 

Let's see...for a writer, at least at the beginning of our careers, before we start earning the big bucks, that would mean we need a day job to enable us to buy food and clothes, to maintain our homes and cars and to afford health insurance. Or that would mean maybe we are retired and have a steady pension that takes care of necessities. Or we may possibly have a significant other who provides financial stability so we can concentrate on building a writing career. Here's another possibility, and this is the funnest to think about, maybe we inherited wealth or won the lottery, making us independently wealthy and enabling us to pursue writing without financial concerns. You get the idea. I think I also want to add that a writer needs a dedicated area to write in, such as a desk in the corner of the family room, a place at the kitchen table or maybe even our own office where we can focus on creating.

Maslow said social needs aren't as necessary as the psysiological and security needs. However, once the first two needs are fulfilled, people begin to reach out for friendship, companionship and acceptance. 

For writers, I would say that at this stage we begin to connect through social networking sites dedicated to writing or we begin to join writers groups and attend meetings, attend writers conferences and possibly join critique groups so we can receive feedback, recognition and acceptance as recorders of the written word. We crave being with other writers, to feel the special energy that wordsmiths create and to hold discussions using the unique language known only by other authors.

Once the first three needs are satisfied, Maslow found that people needed to validate themselves by building their self esteem. 

For writers, at this point, we may feel confident enough in our writing that we begin to submit our work to writers contests where we will hopefully receive enough positive feedback to improve our scores, enabling us to eventually place in a contest or possibly even win. At this point, writers are probably confident enough to submit their work, weathering the rejections (albeit difficult), until eventually pieces begin to sell. Then, hallalleujah, we begin to receive recognition for our contributions to the literary world.

At the top tier of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, this level happens when people are self-aware, concerned with personal growth, less concerned with the opinions of others and interested in fulfilling their potential. 

For writers, this is where the rubber really hits the road and we begin to spread our wings. We write to please our own muses, not someone else's muse. We challenge the boundaries of our imaginations, we take on more difficult plots and our characters become deeper. We have found our voices, and we are comfortable with our writing skills and what we know about the craft. This is where our writing seems to take on a life of its own. By the time we've reached the fifth level, we are only limited by our own imaginations. In essense, we strap on wings and let our writing soar. As long as we keep our eyes on the finish line, we have nowhere to go but up.

What do you think of A Writer's Heirarchy of Needs? Is there anything that you think should be added? Do you see yourself in any of the levels?

Author of the Saucy Lucy Mystery series and the paranormal romance, The Seven Year Witch, Cindy also works as a marketing specialist at the local school district.  She lives with her husband and little dog, Ewok (who does indeed look like an Ewok).  She is currently working on the second installment of The Wysteria Hedge Haven Clan series, due for release in late 2012.  You can find Cindy at her blog, Saucy Lucy Wisdom.


  1. Thanks so much, Cindy, for sharing such a great post. I think I inhabit a couple of levels, depending on how I'm feeling that day!

    Something I thought of as I read through the security part is the need to feel safe to delve into those inner demons and write it down. Also, to feel safe to share our work with the outside world. That could be a blog post on it's own, huh?

  2. Ah, yes...the Maslow pyramid. It's onle of those things I often forget to keep in mind when writing, but I tend to forget. I think I'm currently in the safety tier, hence my recent return to school :)

  3. Thanks for having me on your great blog, Lara! And thanks for visiting, Mike. Yes, Maslow has some interesting theories, I think.

  4. Wow. This is an awesome article. I still remember the first award I got and how receiving said award pumped me up. I was endorsed by a writers' group and won a prize over thousands of others. I was on my way! Social networking has given me the social aspect - I can't find many other professional writers or editors here in Minot, ND - and having the support of friends and associates online gives me the extra boost I need when I'm feeling down or experience a failure. I realized, just recently, that I must write more for myself than for the masses - use my true voice. I am sharing this blog on FB.

  5. Thank you Cindy and Lara - this is really very interesting! "Less concerned with the opinions of others..." definitely key!

  6. Karen, thanks for stopping by and I'm so glad you enjoyed this post. And thanks so much for sharing! And E.D., thanks for stopping by and I'm so glad you found this piece interesting. It's strange how things like this pop into our heads from time to time, but I'm not complaining!

  7. Yes! Love this and absolutely see how Maslow's hierarchy applies here.

    1. I thought it was great, and wished I'd thought of it :) At least I got to share it!

  8. Oh, this is clever. Thank you so much for sharing!

    1. Thanks for stopping by! I'm glad you enjoyed Cindy's post as much as I did!


I'd love to hear your thoughts! Please leave your comments below.


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