The Artist’s Hierarchy of Needs

Have you ever seen the “Artist’s hierarchy of needs?” It is based on Maslow’ structure; however, the basic need for a self-actualization, or achieving one’s full potential including creative activities, is the point at the bottom on which the whole triangle balances. Creativity comes first, the food, water, shelter and sleep are at the top, or the last needs to be fulfilled.

If you are planning to use November to write a 50,000+ word novel that is suitable for publication without many months more of rewrites, you will need to abide by the topsy-turvy hierarchy of needs for this entire month. Participating in the NaNoWriMo challenge, may mean that time spent cooking, cleaning, sleeping and even bathing will have to be curtailed in order to find more time to write.

However, over the years I’ve found ways to increase my written output. So, I do have some advice for those that want to attempt this impossible challenge. The easiest way to create content in the least amount of time is to write what you know. Your own life story may not be that interesting, so don’t feel confined to the truth. If better ideas spring up, or you decide to appropriate events that happened to friends or celebrities, remember that you are writing fiction, not a real autobiography. With a word processor you can use the search and replace feature to alter names and appearance of the people after you are finished. This also relieves the fear of being shunned by family members who don’t appear in the best light.

However, even when writing a novel based on your own life you need a plot. There must be a challenge that you face or a problem to overcome; whether you succeed, fail, or just accept your fate..The story line found in Cinderella is often used. It starts out with recalling an event that shifted your life from pleasant to some degree of miserable. Then, after three nights at a ball—make that three different attempts to overcome the problem—you encounter one last disaster, run away and prepare for defeat. However, your fortune shifts due to someone’s gallantry or pure grit on your part.

Your idea for a novel based on your own life still will need embellishment. To complete this within a month will require planning. The initial troubling event, each of the attempts to overcome the problem, and the final triumph each require multiple scenes. Perhaps you wish to write a scene each day. The number of scenes covering the first two sections will have more for the last section with the resolution. There might be 10 scenes introducing the problem, and 16 scenes in the attempts to solve it. Then, for the ending stretch, when fortune shifts, only 4 scenes would be required.

Even if you hit the goal of 50,000 words, you will still be less than halfway to a new novel. The next few months will be consumed editing and rewriting until this morass of words makes sense and flows in a manner to keep the reader interested. Still, I wish you the best of luck!

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