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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Can A Writer Create A Better World?



How can a writer change the world?

It’s a big question.  It’s one that many writers may have asked themselves.  Have any found an answer?

A lot of writers simply write because they feel drawn to crafting something, using words and/or images to create a book that not only the writer enjoyed penning, but that the readers will enjoy reading.  Others write out of ego, dreams of fame, and pride.  Some writers hope to win the lottery and get rich off of their books.  How many write books with an intention to change the world?

Deep down, I think a lot of readers want to change the world, influence lives, or contribute to a better life for many.  Some writers hope they can at least turn one reader’s life around and inspire that person to greater heights.  Writers want to create a world that they’d like to live in and at a minimum, their writing helps them transform their own mindsets, and frees them to live through their words.

What is the best way to change the world with a book? 

 Does one write fiction, non-fiction, poetry, short story, essay, a children’s book, a photography book or some other format or genre to expedite such a change?  

Should the book come in certain format – audiobook, vook, eBook, trade paper, hardcover, mass market – or all of them? 

Does it need to be translated into multiple languages in order to impact a planet of 200 nations and 7.3 billion people?

Should the book be given away or should the proceeds from its sale be donated to a particular cause?

Do you need to enlist someone with a big social media following or status to endorse you and open doors to the public at large for your book?

Should you write a book and then hope people read it, spread word-of-mouth praise, and watch the book take off in a grassroots effort?  Or do you first do something – accomplish something major – and then hope to parlay your fame into getting people to adopt your book?

Is it ethical if someone pulls of a hoax and writes a book filled with lies if that very book somehow helps people to change the world in a major, positive way?

Authors try to write what they know.  Their work comes from a place of knowing, believing or experiencing.  Writers are inspired by who they know, their past, their environment, their fears, their desires, and dozens of other factors.  But they can’t write what they don’t know, what they haven’t seen or felt, what they didn’t even believe was possible.  Writers are humans and limited by the laws of nature, the courts, and science in their conceptualization of what is or of what could be. They are limited by the time in history that they exist.

What would it take for a writer to write a great book that brings about a revolution either in action, thought, or spirit?  Some authors have certainly found ways to influence millions of people, as well as other writers and leaders, but even the most successful ones have been limited in their ability to reach and impact everyone.  

Does this mean that whatever an author writes, in order to truly be influential, he or she will need a massive publicity and marketing campaign to get the job done?  Of course, but most writers don’t want to spend time promoting a book.  They’d rather keep writing.  

I guess a real book-centric movement would eventually take off on its own, where an author’s disciples take up the job of spreading the word to others.

Many books tackle singular topics – love, peace, wealth, humor, beauty – but few seek to tie every aspect of life together so that we find a way to give life meaning, a purpose to our existence, and a means to live a rewarding life.  Even that formula is limited – it sounds self-helpish.  How do we write a book that changes minds, influences hearts, and leads other to real action that makes the world better and people’s live more fulfilled?

Maybe the world simply can’t be changed by a book.  The world is very tribal.  No matter what some book says, 1.5 billion Muslims or 1 billion Christians will live in accordance with their faith.  Their book of importance is either the Koran or The New Testament.

In other cases, it’s hard to unite a world that is divided by many things.  For people who lack running water, how could they understand or appreciate people in America who waste more resources than others could ever hope to attain?  For educated youth of the West, how can they relate to impoverished African communities where disease, violence, and nature scheme against its residents?

This isn’t to say different people and places can’t find common ground, but you can see just how difficult it is to get people of different circumstances, knowledge, resources, histories, and needs on the same page.

Even if you write a book that influences one billion people, you still missed more than 85% of the world.  

And even if you have the whole world united behind your book, for it to last, we’d need to make sure the next generation adopts it.  It’s a never-ending process to get people to buy into something – and then to continually resell it to them and for them to hand it down to their progeny.

Where do some books go wrong in their attempt to change the world?

1.      They are too ambitious or they don’t shoot high enough.

2.      They propose simplistic or unrealistic measures.

3.      They present an interesting idea but fail to give substantive how-to-implement details.

4.      They fail to take into account the built-in prejudice or opposition to what is being suggested in their book.

5.      They fail to write clearly and concisely, and instead ramble on, almost incoherently, to the point people can’t fully focus on a tangible solution.

6.      The book will seek to change so many things that too many readers feel challenged or threatened by it.  We want things to change for the better – but for it to not cost us anything.

7.      Readers think the change proposed is for other people to adopt and not really for themselves.\

8.      Some books are misunderstood and misinterpreted.\

9.      Some great books get dismissed because something negative about the writer is revealed, thus undermining the world.

10.  Some books conflict with one’s core beliefs, such as religious ones, and thus, won’t be explored by all.

So, even if we get through the numerous barriers of why or how a book can or can’t impact everyone – and we get past the fact that not everyone reads and that not everyone has access to the same book or even to a digital device to download it for free – let’s explore what kind of writer one would need to be to pull this off.

1.      What type of education or training would be required of a writer who can change the world?

2.      What kind of experiences would he or she need to have to not only be an informed writer but one who is viewed as worldly?

3.      Would the writer need some type of credential or professional position or title to give people a feeling the author is qualified to write such a book?

4.      Would the writer need to be neutral on so many issues, so as not to alienate or offend anyone?

5.      What if a writer had one bad or questionable experience, perhaps an indiscretion as a youth, or social media caught him doing or saying something inappropriate one drunken night?  Would the writer have to live a perfect past or risk being seen as illegitimate?

6.      What if the writer has a negative lineage, like his dad was in the KKK or his mother was a prostitute or an uncle is in jail? Would things the writer didn’t even do be enough to dismiss him?

Ok, you see what this sounds like, right?  A litmus test to be the president of the country.  There are no saints or superheroes that can serve a political office or write a world-saving book. Such people are as fictional as a fairy tale.  So will people accept a less than ideal author to be the one to transform their lives, alter their thinking, make great sacrifices, and act in a revolutionary way?

Maybe we ask for too much.  Maybe the world can’t be changed by one book or one writer.  Perhaps it takes many books by many writers to bring about a new world.  Or maybe our greatest truth won’t come from a book authored by a human. Could it be that it will be a computer, stacked with the best artificial intelligence, that will create the book that inspires humans how to live and coexist with one another?

Ok, so we’ve discussed many issues that could impact the world’s ability to embrace a single book that changes it on a grand and possibly permanent scale, including book distribution, format, genre, language barriers, tech accessibility, literacy, affordability, writer credentials, etc.  Now let’s tackle the main event – what will this book say that its readers will come to forever see the world in a new light?

·         What will the content focus on?
·         How will it be presented?
·         How long will it be?
·         Will the book tell stories or merely provide facts?
·         Will the book raise questions and present ideas, but not demand actionable steps?

So many questions.  I can’t presume to know the answers about an unwritten book by a non-specific author who may or may not be human. I would guess that a book, in order to have great influence would need to be written for all people, which means, taking a book and then rewriting it to fit the norms and needs of its readers.  Have a book for Americans – then customize it for Russia, both in language, its references, and its voice.  Further, create a teen version, a children’s book, and one that appeals to different age groups.  Just the way corporation’s customize an ad or product to fit the customs of various age levels, regions, or other demographics, a book that wants to change the world will need to change with the crowd it runs with.

Would a history-book approach work?  How about a book of humor?  Maybe a true-crime tale or an erotic fantasy?  Could a photography book or a spiritual self-help manual do the trick?  Yes, to all of the above.  Take a great work and reinterpret it through all media and genres.  Find a means to reach people’s hearts, minds, and wallets.  Use whatever format, genre, or writing style that will work for each faction of people.  The way to be on the same page is to have people read the same book – but to present it in a variety of ways.

I know of only one book this is done with:  The Bible.

The Bible has been revised and presented in numerous ways over the years, as people look to find friendly ways to feed the core teachings of The Good Book to all people.  But even those attempts have fallen short.  The world is divided and in trouble.  All is not well.

So what book will change the world, who will write it, how will it be published and distributed, and how can we get everyone to rally around a united approach?

Someone should write a book about writing the ideal book.  I’d read it.  Would you?

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. 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 BookMarketing

2 comments:

  1. Books which illuminate ways in which we can create a better world appeal to me. I believe that if you start with young minds and hearts, that is a good way forward because each big idea starts with a small seed. Writers can influence the world for the better, and they do. The secret is to have a vision which taps in to the spirit of the age; people like to read books which uncannily resonate with their dreams. When they see these ideas manifest, as if by magic, in print, they say, "Yes, I thought that!"

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  2. Oddly enough, earlier today, before reading this article, I submitted a speaking proposal to Book Expo America on Selling Books that Change the World. In that proposal, I cited the impact of authors like Harriet Beecher Stowe and Rachel Carson on slavery and the environment. My own 10th book, Guerrilla Marketing to Heal the World (forthcoming in April) is one I certainly hope will change the world: showing business how to profit by turning hunger and poverty into sufficiency, war into peace, and catastrophic climate change into planetary balance. http://goingbeyondsustainability.com/guerrilla-marketing-to-heal-the-world/

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