Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Self-actualization in the form of a book

Anyone who knows me personally, who follows me on the book-lover social networks I am on, who has kept up with my many blog posts KNOWS that I have a weird - obsession, you may say - with self-help books.  I am always striving to make myself a better person, though not always succeeding.

I am intrigued by the personal stories that they share.  It's nice to know that I am not the only one who feels this way or that way, not the only one who has gone through this, not alone on this particular adventure.  

And they are all adventures.  Life changing.  Whether we succeed or *gulp* fail, these adventures will stick with us for a lifetime, teach us something about ourselves, change us.

These are the books that I am the most critical of.  I have an expectation when I begin the book and, if you fall short, I will let you know.  These books, among all the books, are the most personal because these books are not about characters, storylines, settings.  They are about you and me ... and her ... and him ... and those two over there ... 

For me, there are things I want from a self-help book, especially when it comes to weight loss.
  1. I want a personal story.  I want to "bond" with the author, know that he or she has been there, that they have gone through this tough process, that they are human, that they have failed.  Personally, I don't want to read the advice of someone who has never been there because, as I've seen by these books, the information that comes through is very mechanical, very text book.  I also don't want to read a book by someone who talks about how "fat" they were, then find out that they only needed to lose 20 or 30 pounds.  That's not fat.  If that's fat, I must be ginormous, the size of a planet.  (Great self-esteem builder right there.)
  2. I want to know their background.  This does not mean that the author needs to have a PhD.  She can be a stay-at-home mom that did a lot of research before she began; he can be a guy that spent his whole life trying and, through trial and error, found something that works.  What I want to know is what "qualifies" them to write this book, what brought them to this point, this decision.
  3. I do not want a step-by-step plan.  That leads to failure.  Let's be honest with ourselves here - in real life, things happen, steps get missed, plans get broken.  No matter how organized you are (and, trust me, I am very organized), that's just the way things work.  Why set your reader up for failure from the get-go?  I do, however, want to know what you did, what worked for you.  Because it may work for me, too.  Or part of it may.  Or it just may inspire me to find out what will work for me.
  4. I want the author to be my adventure companion.  My friend.  You've told me about you - your fear, your failure, your pain, your sadness - and while reading your book, I've celebrated your success with you.  Don't throw me away like I'm a stranger.  After all you've shared with me, do you really think we still are?  Now, I'm not saying that I want the author to come for dinner, nor am I inviting myself to stay at their home for vacation.  What I mean by this, this story that, the more I think about it, reminds me about two different movies where the crazy patient intrudes on the psychiatrist's life haha, is that the books - the authors - that I think are the most beneficial, are the ones that invite the reader to continue down the path with them, encouraging them to follow their blog, a Facebook page, their Twitter account.  These are all free ways to keep in "contact" with your readers, to provide some extra information or encouragement.  Links to articles that you found helpful are a good tool as well.  Speaking of tools - was there an app or computer program or cookbook that you found especially helpful?  These are all good follow-up shares.
  5. Recipes.  Were there ones you tried that you found especially delicious?  Ones that became part of your weekly or monthly menu?  You can share a few in the back, more on one of the places I suggested earlier, and even encourage the readers to share as well.
 A self-help book is not like any other book you can write.  People are going to read your book because they want - NEED! - help.  This is not an autobiography where you just state your story and move on.  This is book "therapy" and, if you decide to write one of these, you should think long and hard about the impact you have on someone's life.  Your book - your story - may be the encouraging words that one person needs.  You may bring about big change.  You may save somebody's life.

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