Wednesday, 23 January 2013

An Introduction to Abraham Maslow - Lynne Garner

Recently I treated myself to 'Your Creative Writing Masterclass' by Jurgen Wolff. A section of the book discusses what drives a person and makes them act as they do, important when trying to create believable characters. 

As part of this discussion the author discusses Abraham Maslow (1st April 1908 - 8th June 1970) and his hierarchy of needs. This is often shown as a pyramid made up of five sections. Each of these sections link to the stages of growth in a human and what they seek/need at each level. Maslow believed that the lower levels must be fulfilled for a person to be able to concern themselves with the higher levels. These five levels are:

Level one:
This consists of the basic needs to survive including: food, water, shelter, sex and sleep.

Level two:
This is the security of the individual, the family and the home. In today's modern world this could include: a safe home and environment, the need for a secure job and the knowledge that close family will be 'looked after' should something happen to us (life insurance).

Level three:
Covers the need and desire for love and belonging. This includes the love of a spouse/partner and family plus good relationships with friends and perhaps even belonging to a group.

Level four:
Once a person feels the needs of the previous three levels have been fulfilled they can start to concern themselves with self-esteem: how others view them, they receive respect from others, they respect themselves and have a sense of worth.

Level five:
In this top layer a person can begin to express themselves creatively, consider their spiritual needs, focus on their morals beliefs and express them in what they say and how they act.

Being introduced to this theory has already helped me with a story I'm in the process of planning. I've placed my lead character in level one for the first chapter, so he has a longer climb to reach level five (where I need him to be by the middle of the story). 

Now I'd like to ask: what have you learnt recently that has helped you with your writing?

Lynne Garner


Susan Price said...

Very interesting, Lynne - and good luck with the book!
The hierarchy immediately makes me think: cave paintings.
Stone Age paintings and carvings are universally recognised as art, but those people lived with constant insecurity. I suppose they lived with a tightly bound group of people, and so had a sense of belonging.
They had the skills and knowledge to find food - if food was there - and to build shelters provided the weather didn't turn too nasty. But they must have known that any 'good life' they achieved was bound to be short-lived.
Yet they produced beautiful art.

Carole Anne Carr said...

This sounds an excellent read, must have a copy, and keep writing.

Penny Dolan said...

Interesting to see this here, Lynne. I came across the theory in B.Ed Sociology lectures (before "roles that must be met within an effective groups" or similar.)

I am not sure about some aspects of "Levels", though, for writing. Surely if your character isn't Level Three "loved & belonging", he/she would be searching out ways of establishing their self esteem - ie their actions could drive a plot? Which this classifies as Level Four?

Nevertheless, it's always useful to consider characters in new ways so thanks for the Maslow idea.

Lynne Garner said...

Sue part of my degree was in art history I just love, love, love cave paintings. Many have more depth, meaning and mastering of techniques than many modern art.

Thanks for the comments.

I must admit Penny I think with this (and many other ideas about human behaviour) you do have to take care what you take from it. But I'm a great believer in cherry picking ideas to suit your needs.