Sam van Zweden




Side Effects of Being A Writer

There are many side-effects of being a writer, but I’m talking specifically about one: imagination. This works in two ways, one good and one bad.

I tend to catastrophize. My imagination gets away from me, and I fill to the brim with anxiety about anything and everything. Going to a party: people will think I’m awful, I will say terrible things, I will make bad impressions and get into trouble! I’ll look like an idiot! I’ll never have any friends, ever, because I couldn’t talk to anyone at this one party, and then I’ll die alone with cats and cross-stitch (<– these things are cool seperately. Together, risky.)  My imagination gets carried away, and I picture the worst possible outcome to all situations, and assume that this will happen to me.*

Daydreams are far more fun and happy than catastrophizing. Yesterday D and I got accepted for a house we applied for. We’ve been at our current place for three and a half years, and it’s gotten to the point that I actively really dislike the property. It’s cold, it’s damp, the kitchen’s downstairs and the loungeroom upstairs, it takes a week to dry our washing, it’s mouldy, I’m scared my books and D’s camera gear will get eaten up by mildew, or that we won’t get our bond back just because the place is old (see? Catastrophizing!).

Anyway, the new place is a dream. Maybe this is just a result of comparing it to our current place, but I’ve been daydreaming wonderful things about it. In these daydreams, I’m a domestic goddess, all because I have an entryway complete with coat pegs and shoe-rack, benches and loads of cupboards in the kitchen, and a separate laundry where I can iron and dry washing (currently happening in the study and bedroom, respectively). The study has a door! And cupboards! And there’s space everywhere, and I will put books in all of that space. Last night I actually dreamed about where the couch will go. We’re not into the new place until the start of August, but my daydreaming will get me through until then.

So while my imagination helps me write pretty stories and be all creative and rad, it also affects my personality and non-writing thoughts. Writing and creativity aren’t self-contained things, they’re who I am. They’re present always.


*Even in the case of this blog post. “Over-sharing much? Nobody cares, you’ll lose readers,” says brain. Shut up.

Creative People’s Needs?

One of the fantastic links from the Creative Liberty post from last night was over at

This awesome post looks at a creative person’s hierarchy of needs (as opposed to everyone else’s, which were outlined by Abraham Maslow in 1943). Creative people, according to Cynthia of, have ten basic needs additional to those Maslow talked about.

They are:
1. Need for creative space.
2. Need for creative peers.
3. Need for creative fuel.
4. Need for imaginative space.
5. Need for the body to be expressed.
6. Need for your creative edge.
7. Need for ample amounts of faith and belief.
8. Need to have our work responded to.
9. Need for certainty.
10. Need for time.

Cynthia goes into more detail on all these points, and they’re quick interesting, so hit that link above and check it out.

I have creative space. It’s covered in washing, and under that there’s books and pens and ink and paper. But it exists, even if I rarely get work done there. Work is usually done in bed – so I guess that’s my creative space too.

I’ve recently gained some creative peers. Genuinely creative people, who want to get together and do creative things. I’ve never had that before, and I’ve been surprised by what it’s done for my creative process. It forces me to produce things, and share those things. It gets me excited again about the act of creating. So I think Cynthia’s hit the nail on the head with this one – creative peers are incredibly important and helpful. And they also help cover the “need to have our work responded to” while trying to figure out how to get published.

Creative fuel… in abundance. Thank god I live in Melbourne, where there’s something writing-minded on every day, fantastic festivals, and also a plethora of unusual things to get the creative juices flowing. No shortage of creative fuel, sometimes just a shortage of time or money to absorb it all.

One of my teachers has recently introduced me to a great idea that covers both “imaginative space” and “body being expressed” – she calls it the three-idea walk. She walks, for as long as it takes for her to have three ideas for her work. She doesn’t take her notebook or anything, and walks no longer than this, because more than three ideas in your head will lose their potency… I’ve taken up this idea and I think it’s awesome.

Also in terms of bodily expression – I miss yoga. I used to love going to the gym for bodybalance classes… Recent circumstances mean no gym for me anymore, but just concentrating and stretching really does something for me. I love it. It’s calming.

Creative edge – Cynthia calls it problem-solving “the publishing game”… oh, and what a game it is! Knowing the Right Names and Right Faces, going to The Right Events, reading The Right Publications… it’s such a huge thing to tackle, and there’s so much to know!

I think perhaps Cynthia’s gone a bit off-track when she talks about a creative person’s need for “certainty”… I think that’s everyone’s need, and Maslow covered this with his “need for security”. We’ve all got it, this isn’t new.

The need for time… I think this is a little like the need for security, that it’s something everyone needs. But perhaps it’s more of a priority for creative people. Time is a constant battle for me, and making time to write means giving up something else I enjoy doing, like sitting down to watch a movie…

So what do you think? Where do you stand with these needs? Do you think they’re right?

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