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Maslow's Hierarchy for Writers

"Why Write Online?" It's an important question, and we might be thinking about it wrong. I used to think it was open to interpretation. To each their own. Lately, I've realized my answer mysteriously evolves the more I write.

The importance of "finding your why" can't be understated, and unfortunately, the menu is overwhelming:

  • To uncover opportunities
  • To connect with community
  • To get into a routine
  • To clarify thinking
  • To build an audience
  • To discover interests
  • To change careers
  • To monetize
  • To improve on the craft
  • To discover voice
  • To start a business
  • To leave a legacy

Each dish is equally enticing. When I started writing, I ordered the whole menu and quickly crashed.

What if there was a logical way to model and relate the different reasons to write online? Maybe there's a clear sequence in how you should shift your focus over time. Maybe it's not subjective. Maybe there's a hierarchy. Hierarchy = pyramid.

Dear God: another pyramid.

(At least it's not a Venn diagram)

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This is loosely based on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. The pyramid metaphor makes sense here, because higher levels can't be fully satisfied without strong foundations. Creative block often comes from high aspirations without getting the fundamentals down.

As a rookie writer, I started from the top of the pyramid and worked down. I wanted to monetize a newsletter so I could leave my job (purpose). The napkin math panned out. I changed my name to Dean Dukelis and decided to only write Hunter S. Thompson style fiction based on real events I experienced in VR (identity). I was so obsessed with quality, that I never published anything. I aimed for the peak, and violently fell down hundreds of feet to the desert floor. I almost gave up.

The house of cards I built collapsed, but I was fortunate to fall into a community.

For months after my first Write of Passage cohort ended, I met every weekday morning with an accountability group. We checked in for 10 minutes, and then wrote together (on mute) for an hour and a half. Even though my writing project collapsed, I had friends in similar boats. We'd frequently give each other feedback and help each other rebuild.

It's tempting to aim for the top, but it's more sustainable to start from the bottom, slowly build up, and embrace the long-game. Spend a few months and get each level right before you climb.

1)

Accountability Groups

Community

Make friends, build accountability groups, and exchange feedback

2)

Publish Consistently

Quantity

Build a broad portfolio of passable writing

3)

Scope, Structure, and Voice

Quality

Expand and refine on a small subset of your already published work

4)

Personal Monopoly

Identity

Don't converge onto a limiting identity until it absolutely makes sense

5)

Opportunity

Purpose

Target a portion of your writing to take shots at life-changing opportunities

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