Over at Space and Time you may have noticed we have a new columnist named Leonard Speiser. Leonard is highly proficient with IT concepts, and his column breaks these concepts down for the less tech of us, i.e.—me. I appreciate this because I do love harvesting good ideas from science and tech to spice up my fiction. (see Leonard’s column here)

Image courtesy of Charles-Axel Dein’s personal website

Today I popped on to Leonard’s Twitter and found a link from Charles-Axel Dein’s personal website to a post about Maslow’s Pyramid of Code, based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a motivational theory in psychology—so this is an interpretation of an interpretation of a theory. *mindblown*

Now granted, the post is talking about writing computer code, but if we tweak it just a bit it has a perfect application for writers. Letters, numbers, symbols… code is code, right?

In Maslow’s pyramid, each requirement is stacked upon the other in a pyramid shape. If the base is not intact, the pyramid can’t be built. The layers follow one another creating a simple standard for exceptionality.

The layers are correct, secure, readable, elegant with the pinnacle of accomplishment as altruist. I have printed this pyramid and have pinned it to my wall so I can evaluate my own manuscripts with it. It’s beautiful, simple and it makes sense. You can see Dein’s original post referring to Maslow’s Pyramid of code here. Here’s my modified version for writers and poets:

Any piece of writing should be:

  1. Correct: does the written work do what it’s supposed to? Has it been edited and formatted? Have the redundancies been weeded out? Is it as correct as possible? Have run on sentences and passive voice been eradicated?
  2. Secure: does the written work have vulnerabilities? Is it stored in the cloud, or backed up on your computer? Do you need a hard copy? Do you save on an external drive?
  3. Readable: is the written work easy to read and comprehend? Are there plot holes and lapses in logic? Does the dialogue feel natural? Is the world believable? Can the reader follow along and understand what you wish to communicate?
  4. Elegant: does the written work leverage well-known patterns? Does it make use of balanced syntax? Is there texture, rhythm and a variety of adjectives? Does the piece flow, bringing the reader along for the ride or must they struggle to stay afloat in the text? Is there a compelling start and satisfying end?
  5. Altruist: does the written work leave the humanities better than what they were? Does it inspire other writers to improve their work as well? Is it cleaning up unneeded bias, improving diversity, introducing better writing through worn out trope refactoring? Does it have a purpose beyond ego, whether this is to teach, enlighten or entertain?

I’m convinced that if I hold up any piece of writing alongside Maslow’s (writer mod) pyramid, adhering it to these guidelines would turn out an excellent piece of work. In fact, while I look at it with a writer’s POV, really couldn’t any artistic endeavor benefit from these modified standards? Or am I just crazy and making far too much of this?

What are your thoughts?

Image courtesy of Lia Parisyan
This entry was posted in #AMWRITING on by .

About Angela Yuriko Smith

Angela Yuriko Smith is a third-generation Shimanchu-American and award-winning poet, author, and publisher with 20+ years of experience as a professional writer in nonfiction. Publisher of Space & Time magazine (est. 1966), a two-time Bram Stoker Awards® Winner, a 2nd place winner of the Elgin and HWA Mentor of the Year for 2020.


  1. Marge Simon

    I am saving this pyramid! I do have more comments but writing you privately. I’d say classes in writing fiction need some sort of reference code like this, for beginners especially.

    1. Angela Yuriko Smith Post author

      I love your comments, both private and here. I really have been looking at my work, and even what kind of work I’m doing, with this in mind. I’m going to continue fleshing this out. I love it when someone else (in this case, Maslow) has a great idea the rest of us can bounce off.

  2. Michelle

    What an interesting perspective. This really does hold true for writers. I am going to keep this in mind. Thanks!

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