Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Creative Person’s Hierarchy of Needs by Cynthia Morris

I believe in synchronicities. Whatever you need to hear or think about will come just when it needs to happen. I have been stressing over how unbalanced my life is this semester. For those who don't know, I am a full-time undergraduate student at San Diego State University, studying art. Granted, it is stressful every semester, but this semester is already killing me and it is only two weeks in! It is hard being a mom, a student and working to make a living. But add being an artist to that mix and you have no time at all!

I have been feeling out of sorts and I know it is because my exercise and creative habits are being neglected. Intellectually, I know this. Yet I cannot seem to make myself do all that needs to be done. I admit that I have been choosing playing video games and watching movies over making art. I have only been working on art for my college classes, instead of doing my own work in encaustics. However, I am confident that all those ideas I have in my sketchbooks and projects that I have started will come into realization. I just need to reassess how what I am doing meets my creative needs.

Along comes this blog post by Creativity Coach and Travel Blogger Cynthia Morris. If you are not in the know about her blog Journey Juju and her free e-zine Original Impulses, it is time to be informed! I wrote about her wonderful e-book "Creative Toolkit for the Traveler" in this post about my preparation for my Japan and China tour.

So here is the blog post from Cynthia Morris called "The Creative Person's Hierarchy of Needs" Enjoy!

Perhaps you’ve heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In a nutshell, as humans, our basic needs are: Physiological, Safety, Love/Belonging, Esteem and Self-Actualization. To read more, go here. To hear about the creative person’s needs, read on.

Creative people, those who are making things – books, businesses, design, art – have additional needs. Recognizing these needs and making sure they are met are essential to applied creativity.

When we don’t acknowledge our needs, we’re allowing life to dictate our experience. Knowing your needs and being willing to take action to make sure they are met will make the already challenging work of creating much easier.

In more than ten years of coaching and almost twice that time creating things myself, I’ve identified at least ten needs creative people have. But unlike Maslow, I don’t prioritize them. Each person will have their own hierarchy for these needs and will also have their own needs to add. Here they are:

1. Need for creative space, as Virginia Woolf called a ‘room of one’s own’. Depending on what you’re creating, you may not need as big a space as you think you do. Write or draw out your ideal space and then assess how you have elements of that in place now.

2. Need for creative peers. When you’re on the leading edge of creativity, you need other creative people who understand the risks you’re taking and who encourage them. We need creative peers to talk, share, get insights and ideas and to encourage us. Commit to connecting with people who ‘get’ you more often. This is one of the most common reasons people hire me, because I ‘get’ them and what they are trying to do.

3. Need for creative fuel. In her book The Artist’s Way Julia Cameron calls this need ‘filling the well’. I get so inspired when I am out in the world seeing what other people are doing. A favorite source of inspiration for me is museum shops. The Tate Modern shop blew me away and gave me an idea for my work that I love. You can get inspiration from books, magazines, blogs art galleries, and other well filling activities. Wherever you get it, get it often. (This is where you’d list coffee!)

4. Need for imaginative space. This is different than physical space. It’s the time we need for noodling, doodling, wandering, and gathering thoughts. While it appears to be the antithesis of productivity, it’s actually vital to a productive creative cycle. Don’t pack every moment full of activity.

5. Need for the body to be expressed. We’re out in the ethers most of the time, us artists. We need to remember to take good care of our bodies by walking, dancing, practicing yoga, playing tennis, or whatever moves you regularly. I get so many of my ideas when I am exercising. Get moving on your terms, but get moving.

6. Need for your creative edge. Solving problems, pushing boundaries, developing something new is at the heart of the creative process. Rather than despair about how difficult it is to write a really good article, embrace the challenge of your craft. While you’re at it, embrace the challenge of your creative industry. For instance, publishing a book traditionally seems nearly impossible these days. Take that challenge on by either figuring out the publishing game or self-publishing. Relish the creative edge – you need it.

7. Need for ample amounts of faith and belief. When we’re making something from nothing, we need to be able to rely on faith and belief in ourselves and our work. Without this we can operate from despair and give up before our work is complete. Tap into your belief that you are on the right track, and do it often.

8. Need to have our work responded to. Whether it’s ego or a deep desire to share your creative work, most of us need for our work to be seen and received by others. This will vary for each person, some wanting just close friends to see our work, others wanting a wider audience. Just be sure to get feedback from the right people at the right time.

9. Need for certainty. Ironically, one of the needs for artists is the ability to live in uncertainty. Traveling the creative path can make you feel lost most of the time. That’s why certainty in other areas of life: home, relationships, income, can help you have a sense of being held while you soar. Have some rootedness so you can be ‘out there’ as much as you need to.

10. Need for time. This seems to be the need that people struggle with the most. If you never get any time alone to work on your art, your life will be filled with other people’s ideas and thoughts. Make choices that allow time for your art. The laundry, your e-mail, your garden will all be there an hour later, after you have spent time with your art.

Again, I did not prioritize these. While I believe we all share these needs, everyone will have their own sense of the needs’ hierarchy. On my blog, tell me which needs have priority over the others, and add a need you have that I haven’t mentioned. To go further, make a list of your needs and assess how well those needs are being met right now. Brainstorm one thing you could do to work toward having those needs met, and then do it. This article is part of my year-long series of top ten lists to celebrate ten years in business at Original Impulse. Stay tuned until the end of the year when I bring all the articles together in one place for your creative enhancement.

Copyright 2009 Cynthia Morris. Cynthia coaches creative people to confidence and completion and inspires life as a creative adventure. Visit to get an infusion of inspiration for your art, writing and life.

Your Turn:
Are your actions supporting your own creative needs? Do you recognize when something is off? More importantly, how to you take the steps to correct this? I would love to hear what you think!
Happy Art-making! ~ Jaime Lyerly

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