Big claims and authoritative voices sell ideas. It works in politics, in the media and it most assuredly works in non-fiction. The confident presenting of a big claim – especially claims around more for less, are persuasive. Tell everyone it’s going to be easy, pain free, cheap, and at the same time way better than anything they might have had to make an effort for, and you’ve got sales. Part of why climate deniers get attention comes down to this – who cares about science when someone is willing to tell you that you do not need to make any difficult changes in your life? It’s why ‘make your life perfect in five minutes a day’ books sell even though they don’t work. Too many of us want miracle cures and get rich quick schemes and will keep buying them regardless of all evidence that it doesn’t work. The next one will be the one to save us.
This, it has to be said, is one of the places I fall down as an author. I’m not very good at making claims for the marvellous powers of my books to totally transform your life in three easy steps. Every now and then someone comes back to me because a book, or a blog post has had a transformative influence in their lives. I have to say not one of them has ever suggested it was easy, and often those transformations occur because people were already looking, already doing the groundwork and just needed a bit of insight or inspiration to help them in their journey. I’m glad to be a part of that, but it’s not all about me, by any stretch of the imagination.
For me it’s an ethical issue. Not setting the reader up to believe something I know isn’t true. My meditation book will not bring you enlightenment in just three weeks. I don’t even have a list of ten easy things that will transform your life. My ancestors book doesn’t have any radical theories about how Atlantians from outer space taught Druids how to talk to dolphins. I’m afraid that When a Pagan Prays is not a telephone with all the gods’ phone numbers in it and I cannot promise that following my approach to prayer will cause the universe to give you everything you want and need. To be honest, I think it won’t, I don’t think that’s what prayer is or how it works. Worse yet, Spirituality without Structure is not religion made easy, and has made some people a bit uncomfortable, by all accounts.
Coming soon from me: a dream book that will not enable you to decode every dream in order to predict the future, will not teach you how to improve your life in five easy steps and doesn’t have any nice little lessons in it for really easy things to do now and then when you feel like it. While I wouldn’t object to making a living as an author, I can’t write the kind of misleading sales pitch that seems to get people excited.
But, here you all are, my inexplicable tribe of blog followers who turn up and read and share and feed back. It reassures me greatly to know there are at least some people out there who don’t need impossible claims and a hard sell of instant salvation to show up. There are other people on spiritual paths who expect to struggle, to hurt sometimes, to get confused, angry and frustrated and to have to deal with that. I’d rather write for people who can use it than produce any amount of best selling ‘all your spiritual troubles solved’ books that manifestly don’t solve anything. I have read enough of them, for research purposes, and I have yet to see any simple solution that gives you everything you want for no effort and might work. They don’t work, and then you have to bend your reality to explain why they don’t work, or convince yourself that the shit you’re going through is, for reasons that are beyond you, somehow for your ‘greater good.’
It’s quite a relief, I find, to be able to say ‘shit happens.’ Sometimes for no reason, often with no side order of utility, and no evidence of a greater plan. It probably isn’t your fault, you didn’t earn or deserve it or make a contract before you were born. Shit happens, and none of my books will spare you that, but they also won’t make you feel guilty about things you have no control over.