Whenever a nonfiction manuscript arrives in my inbox for editing, I usually can’t wait to dive in: I’m excited not only to iron out any kinks in the prose but also to learn something. Recently, I’ve gained insights into living with dementia, alcoholism, and terminal cancer (and I should add that none of these books were miserable—they were all incredibly inspirational!). From a less emotional standpoint, I have learned about the craziness of being an HR specialist, the exploits of a nineteenth century American rogue, and working in the music industry.
But there is one kind of book I find it hard to muster much enthusiasm for: books about “financial freedom.” There a LOT of books on that subject around, it seems. It’s not the subject, per se (who doesn’t dream of financial freedom?); it’s the fact that the books I come across are all predictably similar. They all talk about setting goals, shifting one’s mind, and investing in real estate. It was interesting the first couple of times, but now it’s so rote that it’s deathly tedious.
To add some excitement to the process, I’ve begun to place little bets with myself as to what page range I might find the first reference to Tony Robbins or Robert Kyosaki. There are few others, too, but those dudes are the two most oft repeated names. A passing reference is irritating enough, but I am willing to let it slide. It’s a different matter, however, when I see whole passages given over to regurgitating the teachings of these “masters,” and I become incredibly hot under the collar.
So angry, Lorna! Chill, sister. Why do you care?
I guess this aggravates me for two reasons.
1. It shows a lack of original thought on the behalf of the writer. No “book with spine” relies too heavily on the wisdom and experience of other authors; it has its own contribution to make to the world. I don’t know much about Kyosaki, but after watching a documentary about Robbins, I know he has a uniquely powerful voice (in a literal sense, too; it’s as if he’s just finished smoking a 4-foot cigar), and any mention of him in your book will just make you sound like a follower, not a leader, and undermine your authority about your subject. After all, who was it said, “It is not the acolyte who sets the world alight”? Me. I said that. I just made it up as I typed. See? It’s easy to be original (if not especially profound...).
2. The likes of Robbins and Kyosaki DO NOT NEED HELP. They are more than capable of making their own book sales without free promotional support from unknown authors. According to Worth magazine’s 2016 “The Power 100,” Robbins is already worth $500 million and his many businesses generate $6 billion annual revenue. So, no, please don’t help him out. I think it’s safe to assume he wouldn’t do the same for you. I’m even annoyed I’m giving these guys some free publicity here! But I’m doing it to make a point, so I guess it's okay.
I’m not saying it is wrong to be inspired by people, and, let's face it, a completely original thought is a mythical creature that lives with the unicorns, but it is still possible to be endlessly original in the way you express those thoughts. So, put your own special spin on everything, and rid your writing of cliché and the likes of Tony Robbins forever! And if you get it right, you’ll be the one other authors can’t resist quoting … and then you know your message has set the world alight.
Lorna Partington Walsh, Wordsmith