Karen 2.0

5 Apr

At the moment I am reading a book called Mini Habits by Stephen Guise. Actually, I’m reading a lot of books at the moment, because I always read multiple books (it’s like being able to select which chocolate you most want to eat now from a carefully curated box) but I want to tell you about Mini Habits.

It was about a quid on Amazon when I got it. Taking into account Ramit Sethi‘s theory that money is well spent on any book if you get even one good idea from it, that seemed like a justifiable expense. And while Mini Habits is very repetitive (telling you on every page why mini habits work and you should do them), it is still a helpful idea, especially when I’ve been struggling with motivation for the old novel writing.

This is far from the first book of this kind that I’ve read. From classics by Dale Carnegie, Earl Nightingale and Norman Vincent Peale to more modern stuff from Gretchen Rubin, Tim Challies and Jordan Peterson, I’m willing to give it a go and see what I can learn. But often when people talk about “self-help” books they tend to do it in a scathing way, as if anyone who ever wants or needs help is beneath contempt. I prefer to talk about “self-improvement” resources – because who doesn’t want to improve themself? (‘Themself’ should totally be a word for the non-gender specific singular meaning of ‘them’, even if this spellchecker does not agree with me.)

In fact, a fixation on constantly improving is allegedly a feature of a particular personality type, and the rest of you don’t really care about it, so I may be on my own here. I am someone who has a category in her to-do list labelled “CPD” (continuous personal development). And I have a to-do list with categories.

But while my life is hardly a shining example of how it should be done (I barely earn enough to live on, for instance), my interest in new and potentially helpful strategies does produce results – results that please me, if no one else. As I write this, my inbox contains one email. One. And that’s only because I’m working on something related to it. Later, I’ll send off the piece of work in a reply to that email and then I’ll file the email. And then my inbox will have no emails. It’s a wonderfully light feeling, having an empty inbox, and it comes as a bit of shock now when I see other people’s inboxes (mostly through inept Zoom screensharing) saying things like “12,362 emails (657 unread)”. And I’ve had books published. I have never bothered a bestseller list (with the honourable exception of the Noir from the Bar anthology) but most aspiring writers never even finish writing a book, let alone get it published.

And Mini Habits is also bearing fruit, even if only in the sense that one of the suggested mini habits is reading two pages of that book every day 🤣 (clever author, there!) But maybe one of the reasons why I find this kind of stuff helpful is that I’m prepared to actually try it. Not think about trying it, but actually try it. Read the instructions and then follow them. One of the things I find most irritating in negative reviews of self-development books or systems is when the reviewer admits that they did not actually put the system into practice. They toyed with it, or did some halfway version of it, and then decided it didn’t work. Yeah, well most tools don’t work it you don’t actually use them. (This happens a lot with KonMari, by the way. I mean, sure, there’s nothing wrong with taking away some helpful bits and pieces from it, but is there any reviewer who has actually followed her method before deciding it doesn’t work?)

So where am I going with what is rapidly becoming a rant? I don’t expect to persuade anyone to suddenly embrace self-improvement (although seriously, there’s a reason why How to Win Friends and Influence People is never out of print) but maybe I hope to persuade you to be more patient with those who do experiment with achieving new, improved versions of themselves rather than scoffing. And when I finally finish writing Daughters of Fire (the novel that is giving trouble) it’s possible that Stephen Guise, Paul McKenna and Tim Challies will deserve a bit of the credit. Although I’m not mentioning them in the acknowledgements unless they promise to buy a copy.

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