While I started out predominantly editing fantasy and sci-fi (giant wolves, civil wars on new planets, and so on), since becoming full-time freelance, I’ve had the chance to work on more traditional fiction, children’s books, memoirs, nonfiction (a history of American witchcraft, the true story of a man’s adventure in the Amazon), and so on. And though the books with tips on how to invest in the stock market could be termed self-help, I just recently began copyediting my first real self-help book. And, well, it’s been quite…helpful.
The one self-help book I have read prior to this one was The Seven Habit of Highly Effective Teenagers, given to me as, yes, a teenager. As a book devourer, I promptly read it and actually really enjoyed it, but the lessons didn’t stick, and now I can’t remember a single habit (perhaps because I wasn’t looking to actually change anything about my life). In fact, my attitude toward self-help books has been a lot like this:
Authors of self-help books just want to sell their book (or the newest version of their book), and in so doing are taking advantage of insecure/sad/hopeful people.
It’s a cynical view, I know, but I didn’t know how someone could claim to know how to completely turn someone else’s life around through a book–especially considering the varied backgrounds of readers. I was admittedly disdainful.
But editing my current self-help book–and this is one thing I absolutely love about editing–has really taught me something. Anyone can benefit by taking a step back and evaluating their life, intentionally looking into the black box of how we make decisions and why and then making honest adjustments to become that person we want to become. And that, I think, is a common first step in self-helps: self-evaluation. Even though I’m very happy in my life of traveling, editing, running, churching, and Brian-ing, it’s still important for me to make sure I’m continually striving for better–and that can only happen if I know where I am now and intentionally choose how I move forward.
So here’s to a new outlook on self-help books! I should know better than to judge a book by it’s genre, but I am happy to change my opinion on the matter.
Back to editing!