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Recommended Read

February 19, 2012

I consider myself more of a creative writing coach than a tutor as I aim to enable others to reach their  own writing potential.  So, I couldn’t resist buying a book of that title when I spotted it in Waterstones recently.  It is one of those books that ‘speak to you’ while browsing the shelves.  Author Jurgen Wolff has packed Your Writing Coach with hints, tips and advice for every level of the writing process from procrastination to production to publication and beyond.

While much of what he says has been useful for reinforcing and reevaluating what I already know, I have come across a few new ideas.  I would like to share with you what he has to say about Abraham Maslow.  I first came across Maslow’s theory of motivation during my years as a student teacher and applied it to the classroom situation.  The theory is based on a triangular hierarchy of needs.  In ascending order these are: physiological, safety (think safe-guarding), self-respect and self-actualisation.  Once the lower needs are catered for a person can address the higher ones.  Wolff suggests applying this theory as a plotting tool to address the characters’ needs and underpin universal themes in the storyline.

He goes on to explain how all the successful films put their characters in situations where they have to fight to survive at the basic level in order to ascend to the higher level again.  (Ask yourself ‘What does your character want/need?)  ‘He suggests that employing Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to your writing will enable your story to find an audience as long as it is well told.  The reason behind this is that it enables the audience/reader to confront their own basic needs and learn from how others cope in such situations.

I often use the hero’s journey technique to guide my writing but will definitely give Maslow’s hierarchy a go.  Another of Maslow’s ideas that I subscribe to is the phenomenon of the ‘library angel’ (or in this case the ‘bookshop angel’).  This is Maslow’s explanation for why certain books jump out or speak to us while we are browsing the shelves.  I am grateful to the bookshop angel who drew my attention to this particular book as it has informed both my reading and writing.  I wonder if the writers of the film ‘A City of Angels’ had this theory in mind for the library scenes.

An added bonus of Your Writing Coach is the linked online chapters at  The revised edition of the  book is published by Nicholas Brealey Publishing, London, 2012.


From → Reading

  1. I’m always on the look out for books such as this Judith. I think most writers love to read about writing and to soak up ideas and tips from other writers, so I’ll definitely be tracking this one down!

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