Self-Help and NaNoWriMo @ BYOB Party in November (Part 1)
This time, the BYOB party welcomed an overwhelmingly large number of individuals who work in the software space.
Nilesh Trivedi the engineer who has made it to all our BYOB Parties so far, talked about Zen Pencils, a departure from the usual heavy stuff he reads like philosophy. He showed me a couple of panels that reflect the writer’s conundrum. Gavin Aung Than, the creator of this comic strip, used to read biographies of of people whom he thought had more interesting lives than he did; this inspired him to use his flair for cartooning to illustrate quotes from the greats. His story is very interesting. Read it here.
Ralph A decided to skip the self-help and talk about a very tech book called The Apple Revolution: Steve Jobs, the counterculture and how the crazy ones took over the world by Luke Dormehl. It’s a non-ficional account of how the hipster hackers of the 1970s generation in California mastered capitalism. Ralph reads extensively and he felt lucky that he fell upon this little known book, a relatively new one at that, published in 2012. A movie Abhaya watched called Pirates of the Silicon Valley explains the Microsoft and Apple story too, in case you are interested.
I talked about Dorothea Brande’s book Becoming a Writer, which I reviewed for our Review and a Half Segment(Parts 1 and 2 here). It seemed like a good choice considering it was NaNoWriMo month. Is a book that does not advocate MFAs and rather helps the writer deconstuct herself close to self-help? The question arose. Brande mentions many interesting tips like writing every day at a prescribed time, completing a short story, meditating on the character and plot (it helps!). I agreed with her assertions- a writer must learn when to be an uncensored writer and when to be a very ruthless critic of her own work. But does this book help with the malaise of the age that a writer faces the most? No, distraction is a recent issue and no book has yet been written that can distract the writer from social media entirely.
Jaseem Abid, a platform engineer at Fybr, talked about his taste for more simple books. He read the Lord of the Rings in a month dedicated exclusively to fantasy bingeing. He finds the classics impossible to read, though he is reading Lolita. Inevitably, he arrived at a book he really liked, a self-help book called The Last Lecture, which is more the wisdom of one’s last moments than a self-help book though it is a work that teaches you to value the small things with immense effect. He is not a fan of self-help books and was unhappy that Steve Jobs recommended a book such as Autobiography of a Yogi, an autobiography of Paramahansa Yogananda, a spiritual book with an element of the self-help quotient.
To end the debate, Abhaya mentioned a book called Wrong: Why experts keep failing us–and how to know when not to trust them. In a world where the flow of information is dictated by gurus of all kinds from the science, finance and health sectors, there is still immense lack of perfection and even fraudulence. Self-help books written in the dozen can not help people; even experts fail us. Solutions are the need of the hour but these elude as constantly.
In a world where self-help is looked upon with increasing skepticism, this was an illuminating session.