Here's my recent Newsletter from artist Robert Genn:
Getting to 'must'
November 23, 2007
Psychologist Abraham Maslow has written, "A musician must make
music, an artist must paint, a poet must write--if he is to be
ultimately at peace with himself. What one can be, one must
be." The question for many would-be creators is simply how to
get to "must."
Maslow spent a lifetime researching mental health and human
potential. He emphasized the study of healthy minds and
successful systems rather than the abnormal and the ill.
He was particularly interested in the hierarchy of needs,
meta-needs, self-actualizing persons, purposeful play, and
peak experiences. Leader of the humanistic school of psychology,
he referred to his ideas as a "third force"--beyond Freudian
theory and behaviourism.
Maslow saw human beings' needs arranged like a ladder. The most
basic needs, at the bottom, were physical--air, water, food,
etc. Then came safety needs--security, stability, comfort. Then
psychological or social needs--belonging, love, acceptance.
At the top were the self-actualizing needs--the need to fulfill
oneself, to become all that one is capable of becoming. Maslow
felt that unfulfilled needs lower on the ladder inhibited a
person from climbing to the next step.
For example, someone dying of thirst is not likely to write or
paint. People who managed the higher needs are what he called
self-actualizing people. These folks, he found, are able to focus
on problems outside themselves, have a clear sense of what is true
and what is phony, and are spontaneous, creative, and not bound
too strictly by social conventions.
Here are a few of Maslow's ideas for artists wishing to
Systematically study, understand and neutralize the effects of
lower needs. Accept the world in all of its complexity, mystery
and ambiguity. Take cues from the winners in this world, not
the losers. Keep the company of the doers, not the talkers.
Play your personal game on as many levels as you're able.
Fall in love with your processes, innovations, dreams and higher
ideals. Be sensitive to and welcome the arrival of peak
experiences. Have no guilt when you see yourself becoming
compulsive and proactive. Allow yourself to be swept up in your
PS: "Where was the human potential lost? How was it crippled?
A good question might be not why do people create, but why do
people not create?" (Abraham Maslow, 1908-1970)
Esoterica: Peak experiences are profound moments of love,
understanding, happiness or rapture, when a person feels more
whole, alive, self-sufficient and yet a part of the world--more
aware of truth, justice, harmony and goodness.
Maslow found self-actualizing people have many such peak experiences.
Acts of art can be structured so an individual sets himself up for a
series of them. He feels good, becomes habituated and demands
their repetition. Maslow was not a snob about his conclusions.
"A first-rate soup," he said, "is more creative than a
Current clickback: If you would like to see selected,
illustrated responses to the last letter, "Ambiguity," about
adding mystery and double entendre to your work, as well as
Antony Gormley material, please go to:
If you would like to comment or add your own opinion,
information or observations to this or other letters, please do
so. Write: rgenn at saraphina dot com
Put this on your "must do" list: A Premium Listing in the
Painter's Keys Directory is the most effective thing an artist
can do to be tastefully and respectably noticed. This
listing--really a mini web page--costs $100 per year--and we do
all the set-up.
You can find out how well it might work for you at Painter's Keys Directory
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(c) Copyright 2007 Robert Genn.
Thanks for your friendship.