Sunday, January 16, 2011


The concept of a need conjures up a hole in the fabric of some one's universe or the sense an organization has of being somehow incomplete or bereft of a particular commodity.  Need may just as well relate to even more amorphous apparitions such as love, esteem, honor, even the sense of morality.

Needs are multifarious; they relate where individuals, groups, institutions, and societies are concerned, offering forth a complex profile of existential health.  Men need jobs or at least occupations, which in large measure keep them out of the way of purposeful women.  Men also need a sense of purpose, which is good for keeping them out of saloons or therapist's offices.  Men are good at meetings, in particular meetings that keep them away from actual work.  Women need to be understood; they are happiest when they are understood by individuals whom they admire, but they have often found it expedient to accept being understood by individuals they tolerate, or less.  The biggest mistake a man can make with a woman is to tell her he does not understand her, which is tantamount to admitting he has no clue what she needs.

Needs are an introduction to the irony of seeming specific until someone asks you what you need.  A waitress at The Club Hotsy-Totsy, a long defunct bistro in San Francisco, once asked you if you needed anything.  Your answer surprised you and her to the point of a great discovery, an enormous air fare bill, and emotions neither of you thought you had.  Hearing or reading the word "needs" often reminds you of the times when stories or essays you have written and sent forth into the world of publication came back to you with the notation that your work did not meet the needs of the particular publisher.  Oh, yes, publishers do have needs, although they tend to be generalized, say romances or mysteries, or materials referred to as woo-woo, or of an extra reality basis that includes "the other side," ghosts, spirits, and the like, all as eager as the sales persons operating from telephone cubicles to make contact, pass along information, right old wrongs, or to inform some deserving relative where they'd cached an enormous sum of money.

Publishers do have generalized needs; they do not always know how to articulate these needs until they see a submission that causes them to think, I've got to have this.  When your first editorial job led to the promotion of status where you could be sure of getting a particular book project you wanted, a number of your writer friends pursued you, hopeful of discovering your editorial needs.  When you were forced to generalities such as "I'll know it when I see it," you were accused of having sold out your ideals.  Only one of your friends from those days went on to forge any kind of reputation as a writer and indeed you did call him into your office one day, setting forth the challenge, Matt, I need a mystery.  What you needed most in those days was not the ideals your writer friends seemed to have thought you'd abandoned but experience in the ways and who's of approaching reliable authors for reliable projects.

Will you ever be in a place where you have no needs?  You doubt it.  Your vision of yourself and those about you suggests with a strong voice that an individual who has no needs is dead, insensitive to the point of being as good as dead, or deluded beyond measure.  The times for being dead, insensitive, or deluded are, you reckon, a long, long way off.  Even if they are not, you need to get to work because a certain editor has given you a certain schedule which you need to observe.

No comments: