Helping the Self-Helper
Love, and do what you like. – St. Augustine; 354 AD – 430 AD
The self-help market is nowhere near as modern as we might imagine.
As far back as the third century, Augustine of Hippo was wisely advising his fellow colleagues on how to find fulfillment and answers through self-help and self-reliance. And ever since that time (much likely even earlier), the human being has been inclined to trust her or his own instincts in order to find solutions to life’s deeper conundrums, such as dealing with grief and loss, facing illness and physical pain, or learning and growing through relationships. While the human being may want to rely upon her or his own self, there also remains a hesitation and reluctance to proceed without gaining the approval and encouragement of an expert or mentor. Hence, the birth of the self-help industry.
The self-help industry is huge and continues growing impressively. As recently as 2014, it was estimated that the gross sales for self-help products and services in America alone had reached $10 billion annually. Interestingly, this industry appears to be the beneficiary of a very loyal crowd; the average self-help enthusiast will typically buy another self-help book within an 18-month period. The cynic might question why would a person buy another book a year and a half later that promotes a self-help technique that clearly did not work the first time around. The cynic would further wonder why, if the method was reliable, the writer would have needed to write a new book and the reader would have needed to read another book to yet again find the right answer and formula for success, good health, or simply a positive attitude and good feeling about life and one’s own circumstances.
Supporters and followers of self-help services and organizations would respond by pointing out that such negativity and distrust of the naysayers is one of the reasons that constant encouragement and motivation is required and sought out by self-help adherents. They offer additional proof by suggesting that new editions of popular works keep the information relevant and current. Just because someone learns to drive a car does not mean that the vehicle no longer needs regular servicing and maintenance. Similarly, learning and practicing universal truths does not mean we are no longer human or are no longer subject to our moments of obliviousness, where we fall back into old routines and habits that do not serve or support our positive interests.
When you think about it, writers are natural self-helpers. We believe (actually, we know but remain too modest to be so bold in our declaration) that we can write our way out of any situation and we can also write ourselves into ideal opportunities that bring our sharply honed talents to the forefront in order to deliver outstanding results for our client. In a nutshell, that is what writing is all about: creating content that a self-help audience cares about and causes them to become passionately inspired to take positive action and achieve definite results.
While those who are used to turning to self-help services and products will naturally subscribe to periodicals such as Selfhelp Magazine, where they expect to find professional advice and authors who will offer their own advice and promote their latest work, these same people are also more likely to be open to listening to and considering self-help advice from lay persons or those without accreditation or an established reputation.
That is where being an excellent writer comes into play. As many people know, L. Ron Hubbard was a mediocre science fiction writer who was advised to put his writing talents to better use and to invent a religion. A cynic would have laughed off this ridiculous recommendation: it required the creativity of a writer to take a crazy idea turn it into something truly dynamic. Or in this case, something called Dianetics, also known as Scientology.
This is not to suggest that writers should find a new direction and purpose in life, causing a multitude of new religious paths to be drawn upon the map of life. Rather, as writers, it is our job to bring deliberate and careful thought and work into our craft of creating imagery through the written word. Imagery that speaks to dark places, sings through the wildest winds, and soars and sails to places only dimly imagined in our dreams.
Even when we are writing technical materials, drab instructional manuals, or hawking services and products that we would never consider purchasing or consuming ourselves, it is essential to grab hold of that writer spirit that drove us to the insane situation of staring at a blank screen or piece of paper and which causes us to begin muttering to ourselves like one on the brink of a breakdown.
Yes, this is what we dreamed of when we chose to write. We simply followed that classic self-help adage: Love, and do what you like!
5 Star Writer Ray S offers extensive written and communication skills for most writing projects, including blogs, magazine articles, reputation management, essays, and social media assets.