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Sunday, November 2, 2014

Can Writers Change A Life?


Can we legislate a better world through writing books – or do we merely advocate for it? Do we state a wish list that realistically won’t be implemented?  Are books merely idealistic and therapeutic, but not realistic?  Tell me, I want to know.  Or do I?

There are many how-to books out there.  Even more cover self-help and self-improvement in regards to finances, health, parenting, relationships, etc.  If you look at a bookstore’s offerings you’d conclude either that people are evolving and looking to improve all aspects of their lives or that we are so screwed up that we need books to address so many deficient areas.

With all of the books intended to help us, are we listening and making real changes that we sustain and build upon – or do we read books to make us aware of what could be and should be and somehow we idolize the promise of improvement without actually making any?

Sometimes reading books about something like how to have a better marriage makes us feel good about ourselves.  We realize, if the book truly speaks to us, that millions of people are out there, just like us!  Instead of taking newly learned action steps we, find solace in knowing others make the same mistakes and similarly muddle through them.

As a writer, I love to share my views, my analysis, my suggestions for improving and finding solutions to problems.  I imagine other writers feel the same way.  But if most people can’t, won’t and don’t act on what we seek to teach, are we, as writers, merely just writing about what we know and feel to be true but ignoring that such an approach still doesn’t help the intended readers.  It doesn’t mean we, as writers, are doing something wrong, but nevertheless we can’t break through to them under the current parameters of the dialogue.  It seems a new approach needs to be taken.

Maybe books can’t resolve problems.  Perhaps it’s up to therapists, medication, or other resources – or some combination of them – that will help people change.  Or maybe humans, at our core, are deeply challenged by the prospect of making changes we know we need and say that we want.  It’s easy to say what should be done – another to actually do it.

Humans are amazingly flawed.  There’s a disconnect between thoughts and action, reality and desire.  Books have tried to improve the lives of people and I think they have - or at least have laid an informed foundation for one to begin to change and improve.  Can you, as a writer, recognize this challenge, to find a way to penetrate the reader so that he or she won’t just become aware, but active in their need to change?

People buy millions of books hoping to change something. Most of the suggested changes revolve around common sense core principles – communication matters, time management, self-discipline, motivation, inspiration.  Want to start a business, lose weight or love your spouse like you always have?  The answer starts with one having the will and courage to change.  Without that, no strategies, resources, or steps can be undertaken and utilized.  No one can teach you how to take a risk, how to believe in yourself, or how to trust that once you get started the rest will fall into place.

Life is challenging, not just demanding.  We busy ourselves to make money, take care of our obligations, leave time for entertainment, etc., but beyond those things that require attention, there is also the battle of the mind that rages on inside of us.  We constantly talk to ourselves about could of, should of, need to… whether it's about saying the right thing, doing the right thing, or learning about the right thing.  We believe we want to change, but we make few efforts to do so.  What’s wrong with us?  We try to justify that it’s not our fault or that other things and people should change.  In the end, we come to accept who we are and stop dreaming of changing.

Maybe writers need to examine their passion for telling others how to live and how things should be.  Perhaps there’s too much pressure, guilt and stress that writers put upon others to change.  They mean well and aren’t wrong to expect more from others.  People recognize they have deficiencies and want things to change but it’s a proven fact that most don’t change what they know needs changing.

So let’s stop pretending that people can change if they just read our books.  Lets write a book showing writers how they must change so they write about change in a different way – or stop writing about it.

People don’t change because of:
·         Ignorance
·         Resources
·         Time constraints
·         Conflicting priorities
·         Suggestions that don’t work or aren’t realistic
·         Changes being needed by others as well – such as a spouse
·         The person not seeing a need to change (no danger/reward)
·         One's belief to accept themselves as is
·         Fear
·         Lack of support and encouragement

Another factor here is that if one miraculously changes something, such as losing weight, the mind, time and physical demands to bring about such as change puts them in a less than strong position to make changes simultaneously on other fronts.

Others, however, believe that once you have the frame of mind to make one change, it becomes a lot easier to make wholesale changes across the board.

People can change, but generally, it’s in limited ways, for a limited time period.  Old habits are hard to break.  Just look at yo-yo dieters, addiction relapses, and people who struggle their whole life with relationships or jobs.  Maybe they just didn’t read the right book.

Do not misunderstand me however.  We need to still try and not give up.  And books do impact us and help us in so many ways.  But we should reevaluate, as writers, how to write in such a way so that we have a greater impact not just in persuading one’s thoughts and views, but their actions.  Otherwise, we are really just writing for ourselves, leaving us to keep thinking we speak the truth when in fact our readers provide us otherwise.

Now, you may say the obligation is on the reader.  As a writer, you give them the tools, facts, ideas, and motivation but you can't do it for them.  But if the words fail to get the reader to act, we failed, just as parents or teachers are the ones that fail if they can't find a way to break through to raise a good child.  The writer has a huge burden – to get others what they have chosen not to do.  

Can you change a life?


Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2014

1 comment:

  1. Brian--I agree that traditional self-help books don't help as much as they're supposed to, and readers have become frustrated because they often feel 'preached at' and patronized by the writers. For that reason alone, it's often hard to accept the advice in the book, no matter how well meant, and therefore impossible to institute meaningful changes.

    As a reader of self-help, I've noticed this myself, and when a personal-development consultant named Ron Doades came to me and proposed that we write a self-book book incorporating important life principles but in a FICTIONAL setting and with fictional characters learning these lessons themselves, so the reader could follow along, I was intrigued and agreed to do it.

    The resulting book, REALIZING YOU: A Novel Approach to Changing Your Life, follows five characters over the course of a single weekend, where they each learn a valuable life lesson and use it to change.

    This approach--having a character illustrate change, rather than having it shoved down the throat of the reader--has been a winner with both readers and critics, both of whom say they believe it's more helpful and less demanding than traditional nonfiction self-help, and that it could be the wave of the future. The book continues to sell at online retailers and the favorable comments continue to roll in.

    So maybe it's not the idea of a self-help book that could be wrong--maybe it's the way self-help has been written up to this time, and maybe a novel like REALIZING YOU could be the beginning of a flood of similar books offering people a way to change in a subtler, more palatable way. I hope so, anyway.

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