Writing and Basic Human Needs

By: Kathleen Pickering

A shudder ran up my spine when Clare Langley-Hawthorne asked in her last blog, “When is it time to stop writing if you haven’t sold a book?” I could not imagine never writing again.

That, of course, got me thinking, well why not? Not writing wouldn’t kill me. I’d feel less pressure to perform, my days would free up and I could enjoy all those characters in my head as imaginary playmates. But, then I realized why I reacted so uncomfortably to Clare’s question. Simply put, we all have basic human needs. For me, writing fulfills all six of the basic human needs Anthony Robbins says every person craves for personal happiness. No wonder we authors are addicted to the craft!

Here are the needs as Tony Robbins lists them. I’ve shown how they fulfill my need to write:

1. Certainty – We all want to feel safe in our world. As a writer, I know the world I create is my own, no one can hurt it, change it, take it. I feel safe in my writing cocoon.

2. Uncertainty – We all crave variety, surprise and spontaneity or we’d get bored. Well, heck, do we or do we not get uncertainty and surprise from our characters? They always take us somewhere we don’t expect. Also, the uncertainty of the publishing industry and reader/editor opinion offers no small adrenaline rush in working towards success.

3. Significance – We all need to feel important in our world and often carry a fear of “not being enough.” Writing offers me a sense of significance, in that I feel unique in my craft and how I tell my stories. Being an author gives me a sense of worth.

4. Growth – If we don’t grow, we die. The richness of every book experience, from creating the work to selling, to networking, to celebrating and sharing, all contribute to my personal growth as an author. I feel an internal shift upwards with every book I write.

5. Connection/Love – We all need to bond and feel grounded with others. We all understand this. A perfect example for me was at this year’s Sleuthfest conference. I asked Dennis Lehane what inspired him to write Shutter Island and how he conducted his research. I was rewarded with a smile, an in-depth and heartfelt explanation that ended with, “this book describes me the best.” We all need connection and welcome the recognition in others.

6. Contribution – We act to make the world a better place. I’m not alone when I say I am an author with more than just a story to tell. (My brand.) Every book I write has a purpose, a theme, and mine is redemption. My world view is that we were born perfect onto a perfect planet, and somewhere along the line we lost that understanding. I write hoping my stories will get folks thinking towards shifting our perceptions back to a place of dancing and joy and connection with ourselves, each other and our precious world. I tell you, writing rocks!

My urban fantasy, Mythological Sam – The Call, embodies all six basic human needs of which Robbins speaks. That’s why I love writing and could never stop. Who else gets the opportunity to get their message across with a hilarious, demon-busting call to adventure while meeting their own human needs?

So, I ask you, as an author and a reader . . . how does writing/reading meet your human needs? And which two are most important?

17 thoughts on “Writing and Basic Human Needs

  1. Hmm..in my mind I change “certainty” to “control”. Being able to create a storyworld that goes according to how you lay it out, as you said. To me at least, this is especially critical because I have a much less than satisfying day job which sucks up most of the waking hours of my day, so being able to write a story where your characters actually listen to what you say (well, most of the time) is absolute necessity.

    The other big one for me is trying to make a difference in the world, make it a better place. We can’t be the judge of that ourselves, but at least we try for an understanding of life and maybe an improvement in it through our writing.

    BK Jackson

  2. BK- Great insights. And, I agree. As writers putting ourselves out there, we have a responsibility to leave a “good” mark, eh?

    Thanks for contributing!

  3. Wonderful blog, Kathleen! And like you I got an unpleasant chill at the idea of not writing anymore. I’ve come away from it a few times, usually without meaning to, but it always calls me back and I think that’s common to most writers as well.

  4. Kathleen,
    Firstly, Absolutely wonderful that You now know and understand the 6 Human Needs. The first 4 are where we all live in one way or another. Usually we come out of at least 2 of them.The last 2, Growth, You must grow, and Contribution, You must Contribute beyond yourself! I have found after much thought and provocation,that I used to live and lead with Certainty and Significance. I became shockingly aware after following Tony Robbins and Cloe Madanes, that I was making a big mistake! Now, I lead with Love/Connection and Contribution and feel great every day knowing I can make a conscious decision to do so.
    Now as to writing, What a difference it has made! Although not published yet.. I will be. As well as becoming a Strategic Interventionist.
    Jeff Miller, In Training as a Strategic Interventionist/ Serving in the Needs of Human Physcology

  5. Good post Kathleen. Do I find writing a basic human need? Well, telling stories is that’s for sure. I have often reached the point of wanting to quit, but as something that happened last night has shown me, I have lots more to do…whether I ever hit the big time or not.

    I started to talk about it here, but what should be a paragraph or two comment turned into a whole page which I turned into my own blog post. So for here at TKZ suffice it to say, I don’t think I could stop if I wanted to.

    If you want to read what happened last night go to my website, http://www.basilsands.com.

    huh…my word verification is ‘drenced’ as if someone with a speech impediment were telling me I’m all wet…fitting

  6. Nice post, Kathleen, as always. I think for me, contribution is very important. I’ve never viewed writing as merely a telling of a story for entertainment. My novels all have a message of good overcoming evil–literally. Things get bad, then really bad, then worse, but in the end the good guys win. It’s how they do that’s the entertainment.

  7. Jeff, well spoken! Me, too. Love/Connection and Contribution rule with me, although, my need for significance nudges me more often than I care to admit! LOL!

    Thanks for posting!

  8. Joe– we’re like modern mythologists, showing the world how to overcome the worst through a tale. I know! Someone has to do it. Thanks for the great insight!

    PS: Thanks again, for introducing me to TKZ. I’m happy to be here! 🙂

  9. Wonderful blog Piks…for me contribution and connections are most important to me. Although i’m not a published writer, i’ve written lots of poetry, some for me and some for others, some here on earth and some that have passed on…each of those has helped in the steps of grief… It helps get your emotions rolling. And the ones for others..just the joy of hearing them once they’ve read thier poem fills my heart.

  10. It’s what keeps me sane and drives me insane:)

    Clare, you need an award for summing up the writing life in the fewest words.

    I’m with Joe in that there’s a search for justice in a dark world, and my books all seem to have that through-line.

  11. Yeah, Clare and James! The yin-yang of authorship!

    John, so sorry for the censor. No hard feelings, it’s just, well, I thought that description didn’t quite accurately describe the spectrum of the man’s talents. Forgive me. I owe you a beer. . .

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