self-helpI’m meant to be writing a follow-up book to A New Name. Meant to, because I’m still at the planning stage.  There’s different reasons for this.  I’ve done some speaking and blogging. IVF has occupied most of this year – and I haven’t been able to face it. Also there’s laziness and sheer, unadulterated fear.

I’ve had a couple of ideas floating around.  The stuff I know about is eating disorders – so it would make sense to do something on that.  But the issues underpinning EDs are very similar to the ones underlying depression, self-harm, addiction, OCD… and life.  If I stick ‘eating disorder’ on the front, people will judge the book by the cover.  And most will think, it’s not for me.

Even if I do focus on EDs, who am I writing for?  Sufferers?  Carers?  The church? All – or none of the above? The internet is awash with books by doctors and specialists who are way more sorted than me. People with answers, where I still have questions.

I don’t think you can do life by yourself, let alone ‘recovery’. But for the sake of argument, I google ‘writing a self-help book’.

Here’s what I find. (I’m not making this up):

‘Much of it comes down to two skills:

  1. The ability to reduce complex topics to simple 3-step processes.
  2. The ability to produce quotable phrases.

…anything that’s hard or doesn’t produce immediate results isn’t going to sell.

No one will pick up a book that tells them that their goal is difficult to achieve and will take a lot of time and energy. Come on, of course no one wants to put in any effort! …We want fast, quick, easy, n0-brainer solutions to our problems. So, if you, as a writer, can’t deliver that kind of solution, you’d better change genres.

…If you can’t think of one big idea, then use steps. Create a 3-step program to achieve what your audience wants to achieve. Each of those “steps” may actually cover a vast area of mastery, but as long as you can encapsulate each area in one clear word or phrase, then your readers will forgive you.

For example, if you’re writing a book on how to cure a health problem holistically, your 3-step program might include:

  1. Find out the cause.
  2. Adjust your lifestyle.
  3. Try alternative therapies.

Those three steps are so vague as to be almost useless, but that’s not the point. The point is, you’ve created a 3-step program to cure, say, yeast infections, and your readers will accept your word on it….

Then..add fillers’.

I  resist the urge to go back to bed and unplug the google.

I don’t have three steps.    I have stories from people like me – many of whom have never struggled with an eating disorder.

I don’t have a cause, a lifestyle, a therapy or a solution. I have a tottering faith that needs propped up each day.

I don’t know how to help myself – or anyone else. I have a Saviour who does: but He can’t be explained in a soundbite.


So I come back.  To the empty page.  I think.  And I try to write.


9 thoughts on “Self-Help-Less

  1. Yours sounds much more like the kind of book I might manage to read than the Google kind. As I read this post I just thought how much I love you and identify with you through your blog even though we’ve never met and probably won’t till heaven. Do whatever you want with the book – if it’s anything like your blog it’ll be heartfelt, hopeful and helpful. Be encouraged – you’re making a difference already. x

  2. Emma – You have the book in your heart. I believe you are correct the root of many of our struggles are the same. You are also correct Jesus – the answer – cannot be explained in a sound bite. That is why I think what you have to say is so very important. We need to know this life of healing, recovery, sanctification, whatever word is used, does not have a quick fix or 3 empty steps. We ALL need propped up every day. You can tell us that with wit, wisdom, experience and encouragement. You do that now. Yep, writing a whole book can be daunting, but I believe in Jesus in you because you believe in Him more than you believe in yourself. I agree with PWP. Today I am encouraged in my walk because of your words.

  3. I think you have a perspective that could sell. How “fixed” are we in 3 steps? Are we “fixed” in twelve? Is the issue really the sinful condition of the heart of man? Are most of us actually addicts in one form or another? What is the nature of addiction? What does it say about how we view God? Is addiction the default mechanism for coping alone in a fallen world?

    These are deeper questions than what is probably addressed in one of those “ta-da now your free” kind of books. Perhaps those who’ve read a few of that kind will see your perspective as much more real and helpful.

    I would like to encourage you as well. I don’t comment real often, but Caroline and I read your blog everyday. Though I cannot directly relate to some of the outward behaviors (EDs, OCD, body hatred) I recognize and know many of the heart issues behind them. I relate to the daily struggles of the Christian walk. The only suggestion I will offer you is whatever you decide to write your book about, please don’t package it into a tidy, contrived 3 step process. Make it real.

  4. I agree with Chris on this Emma – I am an everyday “New Name” reader too and think you have a real gift of taking gospel truth and applying it and explaining it in really tough areas of life. A few of us have firsthand knowledge of some of these challenges but the underlying issues are common to all – being pointed to Jesus is always the right way to go, but it is often hard to know what that might look like, either for ourselves or others we know and care for. I found your “Theology of Eating Disorders” for UCCF really helpful and would love to read more of that type of pastoral theology in your very accessible style, whatever the title on the front of the book!

  5. I think you are right, who is the audience? Because the danger is that there is a conflation between God and health. One’s healthy response around food issues. Then the God we choose is the one who tends to fit our needs; an applicatory God who is more or less one size fits all, because we have predetermined the God of our needs to some extent. If that sounds ridiculous, well, i was listensing to the last inside health prog. on radio 4 which included a bit on obesity. I would not have liked to have been the one to have posited a theology of obesity, nor the God of the obese! Other side of the coin?

  6. Emma pleeeeease write another book!! I have given “A New Name” to so many people – none of whom have suffered EDs, but what you say is relevant to us all. Your blog is so insightful, searingly honest and helpful every day.

    Praying God will guide you what to put on your blank page!!

  7. This is SO comforting.
    I keep thinking, “my stuff is not marketable!” And then I look at what makes it marketable, and I despair. And so I resolve to create ‘pure art’ for my 24 readers that would buy the book. (But secretly hope it would be a best-seller anyway).

    Go write what’s in your heart, what God has made you to write.

    And – if it’s any consolation, your first book had something about eating disorders on the front, and everyone read it anyway BECAUSE IT WAS SO DARN GOOD.

    Praying for the freedom to dream a little in your writing. Xx

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *