BETWEEN THE LINES:Phillip Chidavaenzi
TODAY I am feeling a little confessional, so I am going to start off with a confession. These days I hardly ever read motivational or self-help books.
This is a no-holds-barred conversation, hoping that no one will be offended, even if I am going to slaughter your sacred cows.
Let me start off by commending all those that have opted for motivational writing. Just like those who have opted for creative writing, motivational writers are also storytellers.
The only thing that differentiates them is they tell their stories in different ways.
Nevertheless, it takes courage to be a motivational writer. You have to be bold. You have to be convincing. You have to be convicting because, just like a professional journalist, your only tool of the trade is the truth.
As a creative writer, on the other hand, one can get away with anything. In as much as readers can speculate over how much of a writer’s life experiences are captured in their novel, the latter can get away with fiction because that is the nature of the genre.
But when you are a motivational writer, the reader might be keen to know if what you are trying to sell to them has worked in your own life.
I hardly read motivational books because often I do not find them motivating because half of what I am reading, I have read it elsewhere before. Many of the books tend to be repetitive.
If I come across a book titled How to Become A Success or How to Become a Billionaire, I can guarantee you I am not going to read that book. You probably have to give me a portion of the billions first to persuade me to read it.
Writing motivational or self-help books is not an easy thing. Several people have approached me with requests to do biographies (for themselves or other people), but I have always avoided that. Compiling a biography is a long, painstaking process that demands a lot of interviews, and re-interviews, and sometimes long travels. However, if you have the time and resources, nothing should stop you from doing biographies.
What are the best practices for writing self-help? Choose your topic wisely — one that resonates with many people is likely to find many takers. And it is not just about the topic. How do you deal with the subject? If you are writing about marriage or leadership or time-keeping, how many books have you read on a similar subject, and how is your approach different? What about your own personal experience?
If someone writes extensively on leadership, and the same shop that sells their books also has books on leadership by the gurus of the genre, John C Maxwell, Stephen Covey, Robin Sharma and Dale Carnegie etc, why should I buy their book besides the fact that perhaps we are friends? Food for thought.