Self-Help from Other People

“You don’t need a projector to start wetting the bed.” – A.I.-Generated Inspirational Quote

Literature used to combine elements of narrative and self-help – you could get it all from Steinbeck, or Sherwood Anderson – or whichever writers you prefer – in one poignant and entertaining package. Now, in the 21st century, there is a civil war between self-guided improvement and storytelling.

Self-help literature from supposed ‘experts’ has never been more popular. They talk like there’s a systematic process by which you can do everything they did, and succeed. The problem is, they’re looking back on their achievements retrospectively.

The best example is the interviews with old people. I don’t mean your Granny or Grandad, I mean people in the news for being notably old. There was an Italian woman – 122 years young – who put her longevity down to smoking fags and drinking red wine. Good for her. She probably lived on a farm and cut her own wood well past her centenary – but it wasn’t the fresh air or exercise or sun.

Similarly, there was an oil magnate who insisted that he lived well into his nineties because he ingested a spoon of Vaseline every day.

I’m not saying they’re wrong. I’m just saying that there are so many more factors involved. The average millennial in the developed world today has a life expectancy of over a hundred. Would they live to 200 if they smoked and ate Vaseline and had a red wine intravenous drip? I don’t know, but I’m going to test the theory on my first child (disclaimer: I have no kids).

But how can other people teach you to help yourself? I could teach you to fish, and then you could fish, but that isn’t called self-help. It’s called teaching.

So if some famous advertiser tells you how to be creative the same way he became creative, chances are his model of success won’t fit you any more than him giving you his shoes will teach you how to tie your laces.

So, am I trying to teach people how to help themselves? Nah. Because it can’t be done. You can only give obvious advice, like Stephen King. The big man says ‘if you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.’ Thanks, Stephen. I would have assumed that to become a writer, I’d have to learn how to check the oil on a tractor, or spin a mean baton.

There’s no point here, I just like to analyse things until they make no sense, because we live in a floundering and deranged universe.

Peas, DP x


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