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What Every Writer Needs to Succeed: Using Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Updated: Oct 4, 2022

Do you have questions about writer’s block, how to advance your author career, boost your creativity, or be a better writer in general? Well, we have a new framework that will not only change how you approach your writing career but help you become the best author you can be. We’re going to walk you through Author Capital’s brand new tool, the “Hierarchy of an Author’s Needs.” This tool will help you diagnose what is blocking you, how to get the support you need, and how to become your best creative self.

Let’s get started!

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:

Have you heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? Psychologists use this model to help us understand what motivates individuals into action and ultimately helps them reach their full potential. We believe that authors can also use this tool to troubleshoot their writing careers. First, let’s take a look at Maslow’s pyramid…

Physiological needs: The base of Maslow’s pyramid includes elements like food, shelter, and other life-sustaining elements. These are the foundation of human existence and if any of these basic needs aren’t being met, they will become all you can think about. Basically, without these elements, you’ll die.

  1. Safety: Tier two is also considered a basic need. Creating safety means you’re focusing on the long-term ability to survive physically. This is provided through elements like financial security, health, and property.

  2. Love and Belonging: Once our basic needs are met, we can launch into focusing on our psychological needs. Building a community of friends, family, and colleagues adds emotional fulfillment to our lives. This is a huge motivator because it helps support us against loneliness, depression, and anxiety. Also, it supports our physiological and safety needs, as the community you build here might frequently step in to support you if one of your basic needs isn’t being met.

  3. Esteem: Once individuals reach the fourth tier, they are highly motivated by praise and recognition. Accomplishments, creativity, and freedom begin playing into views of self-worth. And here, things can go right or wrong. Feelings of confidence, a growth mindset, and accomplishment can drive individuals to continue pushing forward, helping them level up to the next tier. But feelings of negativity, a fixed mindset, and rejection can keep individuals stuck on this tier.

  4. Self-Actualization: This is the very peak of self-awareness. Here, individuals are motivated into action by the idea of becoming their very best selves. Maslow said that self-actualization is “the full use and exploitation of talents, capabilities, potentialities, etc. They are people who have developed or are developing to the full stature of which they are capable.”

This hierarchy is meant to help us understand what motivates us and what we need to advance in life. Maslow believed that we each have a driving desire to reach self-actualization, to be all that we can possibly become. So this pyramid acts like the roadmap to help us reach the summit of our best selves.

An Author's Hierarchy of Needs:

So, now that we understand the basics behind Maslow’s hierarchy, let’s take this pyramid, change it up a little, and tailor it specifically for authors. Here is Author Capital’s version of Maslow’s pyramid - the “Hierarchy of an Author’s Needs.”

Like Maslow’s pyramid, we start at the base with physiological needs. But instead of focusing on survival needs like food and water, we focus on the basic needs of an author by asking “What foundation does an author need in order to create?” First, an author needs to be able to read and write, right? Pretty basic - that’s why it’s at the base of the pyramid. You also need the right tools. This can be anything from a laptop to a pencil and a piece of paper. As long as you can write with it, you’re good to go. Lastly, you need the freedom to create. This includes the time, security, and resources to just sit down and write.

Next on the pyramid are safety needs. So, what does an author need to feel safe enough to create and then share their creative work with others? First of all, every author needs a voice; a unique way of viewing the world that only they can share. They also need life experience to draw on so that their stories will sound rich and authentic to readers. Last on the safety needs checklist are cheerleaders. This may sound like a strange thing to need, but hear us out. Writing, let alone pursuing an author career, is hard work. But that work becomes so much easier if you have someone at your side cheering you on. We’re not talking about writing groups or fellow authors here; we mean someone in your life who, regardless of whether they’ve read a single word you’ve written, will encourage, support, and lift you every step of the way.

The next tier is love and belonging. This is where a writing community comes in. Writing, by nature, is a solitary act. But people, by nature, are not solitary creatures. Every writer, no matter how introverted, needs at least one other person who understands what it’s like to be a writer and who will validate and value you and your experiences. Another reason why having a writing community is so necessary is because they can give you personalized feedback on your writing. With that feedback, you can pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses, seek out education and instruction (Author Capital has over a dozen courses available to authors), and then grow and learn how to become a better writer.

Once you feel love and belonging, you will naturally move up the pyramid to the next level: esteem. For an author, esteem doesn’t mean having a big ego or a diva complex, it simply means valuing yourself and breaking free from that pesky enemy every author knows all too well called “imposter syndrome.” Because once you have confidence in yourself and your writing ability, fear of failure won’t be able to hold you back anymore. Instead, you can 1) embrace the try, fail, and feel process without letting it affect your sense of self-worth; 2) focus on achieving your authorly goals, and 3) confidently share your creative work with the world.

And the moment you realize that you have value as a writer independent of sales numbers and 5-star reviews, you can finally reach the summit of the pyramid to achieve self-actualization. We like to call this the “giving back” phase because, now that you understand that you are an amazing author with a unique perspective and voice, you can turn around and confidently share that knowledge with the rest of the writing community. There’s no one right way to do this, either. Everyone has different skills and comfort zones, so this phase is all about finding what works for you. Maybe you love the idea of teaching at a conference; maybe one-on-one mentorship is more your speed; or maybe you thrive at being an advocate for other authors, online or in-person. Once you’ve achieved self-actualization by giving back to the writing community, you will have completed the “Hierarchy of an Author’s Needs” and be well on your way to becoming the best author you can be!

Now that you understand the basics of Author Capital’s “Hierarchy of an Author’s Needs”, let’s think about where you fit in on the pyramid and how you can apply these principles to your life.

Applying the Hierarchy to Your Career

So, why is it so important to figure out your position on the writer’s pyramid? What can this new framework do for you to help solve your problems? Remember, in the beginning when we asked about writer’s block, advancing your career, and boosting your creativity? Well, here are three applications that we think will make all the difference!

1. It will help you diagnose your writing career blocks!

Are you struggling with finding enough time to write? That means you are working on the foundation of your pyramid. If you can’t seem to find a solution, try referring back to Maslow’s pyramid to find out what physical or mental needs are preventing you from achieving your authorly goals.

Or, do you feel like your writing group isn’t giving you all the support you need? Maybe you need to go back to the safety tier and find some additional cheerleaders who won’t critique your work, but give you the psychological support you’re needing. Or maybe you want to teach at a conference, but your proposals never get selected. Perhaps you need more experience to draw from. Often‌, our blocks come from trying to jump forward to a tier we aren’t ready for.

2. It will help you level up.

Each tier of this hierarchy works to support and promote advancement. But growth and problems take concentration and burns brain calories! So, if we can develop consistent systems and routines that support our lower-tier needs, we’re going to develop some healthy habits. And the beautiful thing about habits is that they become part of our subconscious, which means you don’t have to focus as hard on them. (If you want a great exploration of this concept, go read Atomic Habits by James Clear.) That clears up mental space to start developing the next skill or need you have and give it your all. The work that you did on that first level will open up new opportunities for you and you’ll find more success because of it.

3. It will protect you from short-lived success.

Building your house on a solid foundation means you’re not going to have foundation issues in the future. Sometimes we might find overnight success, hit a lucky break, or be propelled upwards on the hierarchy before we’ve spent the time developing and fulfilling our basic needs. This isn’t the norm, but it does happen. The risk in this scenario is that, if you are pushed to a higher tier you weren’t necessarily ready for, you’re more likely to get overwhelmed or feel burned out because you don’t have that foundation beneath you to support you long term. And once those cracks appear, all you can do is turn around, descend the pyramid, and go to work building up your true foundation. By making sure you have a solid base first, you’ll not only avoid short-term success and career burnout, but you’ll be ready and prepared for every opportunity that inevitably comes your way.

What do you think? Is this tool going to help you figure out how to level up your writing career or craft? Over the next few weeks, we’ll take a closer look at topics that fall inside our Hierarchy of an Author’s Needs, talk to other authors about their own experiences, and teach you some skills to help you move up the pyramid.

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