~ There is only one journey: going inside yourself. ~
- Rainer Maria Rilke


Do Self-Help Books Really Work? ~ Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The common sense answer would be "no." As with the weight loss industry, the self-help industry continues to thrive--where, one would imagine that it would be a shrinking market if each book were truly the panacea it claimed to be. But, as with any genre, there are those who read self-help books (guilty) and those who do not--which would reinforce the notion that the books do not work, for the related reason that those who read them keep coming back for more.

But, as with the weight loss industry, the question is not a simple "does it work or doesn't it?" Because there might indeed be a small subset of clients for each who are able to follow the principles of one or another program and who are duly improved and move on to healthy, productive lives. Others may follow them but enjoy "top ups." They would therefore return to their favourites, or to new ones that that provide different spins on the same ideas.

But the issue is bigger than that, also. I think it has to do with our prevailing attitude. I'm as guilty as anyone in, at some level, wanting a quick fix--a true panacea. Though most of the books state, over and over again, that the ideas they promote *will* work if they are applied, practiced and learned with some considerable measure of persistence, few of us are willing to commit to that kind of persistence. We read the book, apply the ideas for a few days, then fall back into our old habits and complain about how nothing works (read: nothing works well enough to jolt us out of our quick-fix mentality, to make us persist and push through without any evidence of results. We've lost our sense of short-term deprivation for long-term gain).

The big new trend seems to be the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy approach. The theory is that instead of targeting behaviour (e.g. a task-oriented book on lists and organizing life strategies for combatting procrastination), they target thought and attitudes (e.g. *why* don't you want to do this? If you don't get to the root of the question of where your resistance lies, no number of lists or goals will help you--you'll just fail to meet them and feel all the worse). It makes sense--never mind that this too is not a new idea.

But it doesn't address the widespread sense of entitlement--the attitude that says "I should be able to lose weight *and* have that McDonald's supersize meal with an extra sandwich on the side." Ahem. It's that whole matter of facing the fact that some things that need to be done simply aren't fun, but they *have to be done*. It's not negotiable.

So, it becomes a chicken and egg questions. Is it that self-help books don't work, or that people don't stick to them long enough to discover whether the methods outlined will actually address their issues? And if that's the justification given, it's ultimately irrelevant where the method breaks down ("If you had followed my method and persisted with it, it would have worked like a dandy. But you didn't--so how can you expect results?" And, on the part of the reader: "the ideas are great, but the book didn't motivate me to follow through--maybe this next book will resonate with me more deeply"). In which case, the answer to the question is reduced, once again, to a simple "no." :-)

Now I'm off to read my self-help book about ceasing to procrastinate by becoming more self-confident. It worked for today, at least. And for that, I can be very glad indeed. :-)

::Posted by Anduril Elessar @ 4:34 PM::::



Autumnal ~ Friday, July 20, 2007

Today has been decidedly blustery and autumnal--but the sun is lovely. I have no news for today, other than that I hope to go for a walk later this afternoon. It's a zen kind of day, in that sense.

::Posted by Anduril Elessar @ 3:58 PM::::



Story by Robert McKee ~ Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Today, I've set aside time to go through Robert McKee's excellent articulation of the elements of effective narrative. I figure, it's a good reminder, as I want to start working on Inanna next. I think I'll need to "storyboard" it out in order to make it the most effective. It will likely be a few weeks of planning and working out the details and the arc of the scenes, sequences and acts (so to speak). Of course, my storyboards don't include drawings--but I do use a whiteboard and coloured stickies. It's nice to have that visual expanse to refer to--or so I found when I was working on _An Immodest Proposal_. It really made a difference in keeping things tight and focussed.

The McKee book is called _Story_ and while it's ostensibly aimed at screenplay writers, many of the principles apply to prose as well--particularly since the movement is towards more scene-based narrative in novels. The current aesthetic--conditioned by film, I suspect--parses exposition as less readable, direct and engaging, and scenes/action/movement as more engaging. And so, I've been working on that--trying to minimize exposition and narrative summary and have more active, relevant scenes instead. It's a lot harder that way, and when there are word length constraints, it's not always possible (e.g. the story I'm working on right now, for a contest. The word limit is 5,000 and so I've been dancing around that--add a bit, take out something elsewhere--for the last while. The result has been more exposition than I'd like. Still, that's often the challenge--creating interesting characters and a story that's layered, complex and full, but also doing it within a reasonable word limit).

The other thing I'm doing today is working on the aforesaid story, and trying to add stronger closure, while staying within the word limit. So--back to that!

::Posted by Anduril Elessar @ 1:05 PM::::



Tesseracts 11 Update and Road Trip Pics! ~ Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Well, the page is up! Tesseracts 11. Of course, perhaps this whole pseudonym thing is overrated, since it seems to cause some confusion: Susan Deefholts on one page, Khria Deefholts on the other. The same thing happened with the Anglo-Indian anthology too. I ended up as Susan Nagy on one credit and Susan Deefholts on another (I think the cover promises a piece by Susan Nagy, while the actual book only delivers one by Susan Deefholts). Likely, I was the only one to notice the disparity, in that instance.

So, though I'd like to go for the "it's now out there and I have nothing I can do to change it" distancing effect of a pseudonym, perhaps that's just not meant to be. But, hopefully, they'll send a galleys (and I also hope this posting on their website is the preliminary mockup with the content roughed in, since there are a few typos. I don't want to be the one to point that out to them, so I can only hope that someone else does, or they pick up on it themselves!).

Here, too, is the link to the pics from our road trip! I loaded them in Facebook, but the link should still work.

Album 1 (From our initial departure to our visit to Princeton)

Album 2 (Woodstock and the Finger Lakes).

In other news, our screen door is broken as a result of persistent efforts on the part of the furniture delivery guys. They tried really really hard to get the thing in, but even with the laws of physics slightly bent and the bohemoth mostly in the door, something had to give. Better the ~40 year-old screen door than the new, leather, sofabed couch, destined to save us oodles of cash and help reduce energy consumption on hot days, when we can sleep in the basement rather than turn on the AC.

::Posted by Anduril Elessar @ 6:31 PM::::


P r o f i l e

Anduril Elessar
Susan Deefholts

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Death of the Professional Writer Greatly Exaggerat...
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