I’ve been thinking about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs lately, and how it applies to writing.
In the interest of context, here’s the deal. I am a full-time author. My husband just came out of a year of schooling to be an electrician. Due to some politics and technicalities, and some bad luck and bad timing, he’s been having trouble finding a job that is more than just temporary. He is currently working in manufacturing, which isn’t a bad job, but not at the rate to support a family on a single income.
I’ve tapped out our resources pretty thoroughly to get us through this, but we are doing a lot of extras: plasma donations, free/reduced food options, and I’m looking for a job that will work with my kids’ schedule. It would be either prohibitively expensive or functionally impossible to find the type of childcare we would need for most jobs I could get quickly, so it’s going slowly.
That said, we are doing okay, but there’s a lot of time and mental energy going into keeping us going until we break through this very short rough patch. Which brings me back to Maslow’s Hierarchy.
Essentially, this theory states that humans can only really focus on one level if the lower levels are being met. It’s not completely exclusive, but it makes sense. The first level is immediate safety. You probably aren’t going to ponder your spiritual development while being chased by a lion. (Why is it always a lion in these scenarios? Why not a rhino or a wolf?)
The second level is food and shelter. If you are safe for the moment, you can plan on these things. Then you can focus on larger safety issues, such as environment and neighborhood. After that is interpersonal relationships, such as family and friendships.
Next is self-esteem, or the ability to believe you are worthy. Self-actualization follows, covering your place in society. Ie, career, status, etc. And finally, self-transcendence, which is the personal spiritual experience.
Since only a threshold has to be met at each level, you can have some deficiencies in a lower level while still focusing on a higher level. But if those lower levels are threatened in some way, the focus gets drawn to them again and again.
Anyways, this is probably why I’m having so much trouble prioritizing NaNoWriMo this year. It’s not that writing isn’t as important to me, it’s that I kinda have to make sure we can pay rent before I can focus on my career.
This leads me to thinking about authors, pirates and self-care.
Pirating books is pretty bad. Authors don’t make much as it is, and anything that is taken from them makes it less likely for them to be able to meet their own basic needs. If they can’t do that, they can’t focus on the making the words stuff. Knowledge is free, and most authors are willing to do giveaways, etc. But it’s something that the author CHOOSES to do, based on their own risk-benefit assessment, financial ability, etc. Stealing from them is just that: stealing.
Authors also need to spend a certain amount of time and mental energy on self-care. People like to think that writing is easy, and in many ways they are right. But writing novels that are well-crafted, interesting and meaningful? Well, that takes skill, mental energy, and technique that has to be developed over time. By the time an author puts out their first decent book, they’ve already put in years of practice, reading and studying writing skills.
I think authors should put more emphasis on knowing their own worth, and the worth of their works. But, at the same time, readers need to put more worth on the books that they love so much.