Posts Tagged ‘writers’

Time to Self-Actualize

December 3, 2010

Don’t try this on concrete.

Just the other day I came across the following quote by humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow:

“Musicians must make music, artists must paint, poets must write if they are to be ultimately at peace with themselves. What human beings can be, they must be. They must be true to their own nature.”

Ahhh….I love it. I was first introduced to Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” (see diagram below) in an Industrial Psych course I took as an undergrad. All these bazillion years later, it still makes sense to me. Especially during trying times, when, unwittingly, I’ve tended to invoke its message as a mental boost to better understand what I am going through.

This is a pictorial depiction of Maslow’s pyramid:

It’s sort of fun to parse the six tiers constituting this pyramid. Looking back on my life, I’ve discovered I’ve been mired one too many times in Levels 1 and 2 — essentially, flopping around like a fish in an empty bucket, short on air but long on promise. Worrying, worrying, worrying — much too much about money.

The dark cloud of imagined poverty hovering above me, which never quite seems to dissipate, perhaps, was spawned during childhood. With parents that were products of the Great Depression, it was sort of a given. They knew first hand what it was like to be poor and reminded us of that, well, constantly.

Do you think I’m made of money?

Anyway, I don’t blame them, but it’s had an effect.

That said, I must clarify that I have been reaping the many benefits of Level 3 for years. Luck, a good marriage, and enough life experience has helped me appreciate how much that is worth.

Still…you always need more. That’s why there are three more tiers to scale.

For shorter durations, I have dwelt in the realm of the highest tier and it was glorious.

Self-actualization, the uppermost, the apex of the pyramid, is where bliss resides. During two memorable periods in my life, I savored it.

The first was in grad school. With studio space in which to make art, and unencumbered by a soul-sucking job, I worked long and hard and enjoyed every minute of it — even while suffering (i.e., a painting not working out and the misery that entails).

After grad school, I rented a small space on top of a clock store on Long Island and worked in it as often as I could. I produced a body of work that earned me a solo exhibition. Utter, complete happiness.

The second period was when I worked as a weekly columnist for a local newspaper in California. Driving around each day looking for stories and meeting fascinating, wonderful people who were doing what they loved to do. I was writing everyday and meeting deadlines. I just love deadlines. They’re great motivators.

Remember when Joseph Campbell said we should follow our bliss? And when Joni Mitchell said we have to get ourselves back to the garden? And when Marlo Thomas said we’re free to be you and me?

Abraham Maslow also said: “You will either step forward into growth or you will step back into safety.”

Safety, though safe, can be deadly. My New Year’s resolution, starting tomorrow, (because why wait until January 1st?) is to reclaim myself, rediscover my inner garden, reach out for bliss at the top of Maslow’s pyramid.

I’ve been there before. It’s not impossible.


No Good Earthly Reason NOT to Move

July 9, 2009


Beautiful Central Park

Beautiful Central Park

During a recent trip to my favorite place on earth, New York City — I’m verklempt already from clicking on this link — a good friend of mine had asked what I would miss the most about leaving L.A. 

With no ready answer, I was stumped. I had to think about it for a minute.

The best I could come up with? “The vegetable soup at the Good Earth restaurant.”


Which is true. I love that soup. And, of course, the friends I’ve made while living here. But there’s a lot to be said about living in the place that’s right for you, a comfortable place, a stimulating place, a beautiful place where you feel you belong. I’ve never felt that here in L.A.

Many non-native New Yorkers experience the Big Apple as “a great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.”

But not all non-natives feel that way. Lucky for me that I’m married to one of them.

Off the top of my head, I could probably rattle off dozens of reasons for moving back to New York City. Currently, at the top of my list is: The High Line.

But it’s also the everydayness of the city that I miss and love so much. Each time I emerge from the subway and step onto the sidewalks of Manhattan, my energy level soars.

ilovenyI DO!

Here in L.A., I sometimes quell my New York cravings by watching Woody Allen’s movies. Most of them have a character cast in the role of a tortured writer, too — which means that I get to feed two of my fantasies at one time!

These are my favorite Woody Allen films (skipping over the superb Manhattan — since you’ve already clicked (I hope) on the link at the beginning of this post):

1. For the most satisfying gorgeous apartments/loft space/architecture/ art gallery/boutiques/walking through the park porn — plus a scene shot inside one of my former stomping grounds, the old Tower Records store near Lincoln Center: Hannah and Her Sisters.

2. For a view of New Yorkers, street traffic, a Jewish wedding, Central Park, Fifth Ave. and Tavern on the Green!!: Crimes and Misdemeanors.

3. For a healthy dose of N.Y. intellectual types, writers, stage actors, shots of the Village, and the ability to feed yet another fantasy, that of being able to afford a Manhattan rental studio of your very own in which to write your new book: Another Woman

4. For a vicarious, yet, intense escape from tony  Manhattan to the tony Hamptons: Interiors.

5. For everything romantic and fabulous and wonderful about the city (plus an interesting juxtaposition of life in N.Y.C. vs. life in L.A.): Annie Hall.

6. Haven’t seen this film yet, but I want to! The trailer features a full-frontal Statue of Liberty, street cafés and some great local color — including a shot of a Lower East Side knish bakery!!!: Whatever Works.


I particularly enjoy stories that are set in New York, too, or where New York is one of the characters. What are some of your favorites? What have I missed?

Here are some of mine, which are set in Manhattan (I’ve also included a few links to good film adaptations — for your enjoyment): Rosemary’s Baby (Levin), Portrait of Jennie (Nathan), Days of Awe (Nissenson), Professor Sea Gull (Mitchell), Slaves of New York (Janowitz), The Metropolitan Diary (Monday’s section in The N.Y. Times), The Catcher in the Rye (Salinger), When Kafka Was the Rage (Broyard), Tepper Isn’t Going Out (Trillin), Reunion (Cheever), Diary of a Mad Housewife (Kaufman), Reunion (Ford), The Bonfire of the Vanities (Wolfe), All Mixed Up (Orlean), The Gilgul of Park Avenue (Englander), How to Date a Browngirl, Blackgirl, Whitegirl, or Halfie (Diaz), 84, Charing Cross Road (Hanff) — and The Fountainhead (Rand) — which I first read at the age of nineteen and then re-read twenty years later. I’m sorry to say, for me, it didn’t age so well (Rand was pretty strange, though — check out The Passion of Ayn Rand).