Home > Books, Self-Help > Help Yourself, Pt. 5 – Chapter Two, Pt. 1

Help Yourself, Pt. 5 – Chapter Two, Pt. 1

Here’s the beginning of Chapter Two of my self-help book about how to write a self-help book. It’s all about how to show your readers why they should listen to what you have to say.

Have An Inspirational Back Story

Now, we come to a crucial point. You must, I repeat must, have a tale of hardship that you overcame in order to impress your readers. This is the fountainhead of “street cred,” a valuable commodity that can mean the difference between a desperate loser buying your book, or that desperate loser moving on to the next chowderhead on the shelf. You can always go with an “urban” anecdote – you were the youngest of five children, you survived a gunshot wound, your step-dad burned your nipples with cigarettes while you were locked in a dog kennel, and so on. If you’ve heard one of those stories, you’ve heard them all. Bo-ring. But, if you absolutely insist on going with a tale like that, embellish it. You are now the youngest of ten children, and on your sixth birthday, your parents traded the two-room shack your whole family lived in for a jug of moonshine that was brewed in a prison toilet. Lonely housewives (a demographic we will discuss later in the marketing section – those plagued by existential ennui, with nothing but time and hubby’s cash on their hands) eat that stuff up. It’s lazy, but it works.

However, if you tread down that route, at some point people are going to tire of you talking about your burnt, deformed nipples. Janet Jackson has the heavy market share in that department already. Instead, try to focus on the scars that people can’t see. Topics that people can relate to. Most of us didn’t “grow up in the projects” or “bang with the Vice Lords” — achievements that are perpetually set on a high pedestal in the “street cred” community. I don’t know anyone who has watched their cousin bleed to death on a bus stop bench, and then fought off the crackheads that swarmed in to field-strip the dead body. We can thank Hollywood for perpetuating these disgusting stereotypes of inner-city hardship. I’m willing to bet that if we were to travel to Compton right now, we would witness nothing more than a roving squadron of West Side Story-esque nancy-boys, prancing about, dance-fighting each other. And this is where “tough guys” come from? I don’t know if I should cry or fart.

Psychological conflict trumps physical pain any day of the week. Example – childbirth is said to be the worst earthly torment there is. Look at how many mothers are out there. They’re a dime a dozen. Would you buy a book written by a mother, just because she endured the agony of labor for what, like 16 hours? Of course not. True pain is everlasting. The greatest artists always have a hidden, deeply-rooted internal suffering that manifests itself in the form of a song, painting, or book. Kurt Cobain didn’t write a little ditty called “I Hate Myself And Want To Die” because his crotch hurt from pooping out a kid.

Tell your readers about your “invisible” scars. If you don’t, you can’t maintain the image of a brooding, deeply-pained martyr who wants nothing more than to keep others from experiencing the tragedy of becoming a brooding, deeply-pained martyr. Psychological suffering is, and always will be, totally hot to those lonely housewives we talked about earlier. Let them know what molded you. Maybe your trust fund turned out to be smaller than you thought. Maybe your skeezy older brother wrested control of your family’s privy purse while you were away on holiday in the Caribbean. Maybe you walked in on your yachting instructor having violent sex with your squash coach when you were just an impressionable youth of 12, and now you can’t get aroused unless your partner is spanking you with a racquet and ordering you to mind the starboard aft. Maybe you were forced to use a second-class Finnish masseuse (the Finns are vastly inferior to Swedes when it comes to massage) during that one year your father had to slash the family budget when his oil rig in the Alaskan wilderness was overrun by hippie squatters. These are the disappointments and embarrassments that leave entrenchments in the psyche. They also leave entrenchments in the bank accounts of clueless losers who can’t get enough of the drama. How do I know all of this? I lived the mythical character-shaping existence of which I speak. Traumas, dramas, baby mamas – it’s all here.

Part Two of Chapter Two will be up on Wesnesday.

Here are the previous entries:

The Cover

The Blurbs

Disclaimer

Introduction

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  1. Mollie Player
    February 13, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    I love this subject matter, and the subject of your whole blog. Thanks for the positive thoughts.

    Mollie

  1. February 15, 2012 at 7:10 pm

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