Fillers Don’t Define a Book

All self-help books follow a pattern - they pique our interest in the initial chapters. Then comes a phase when all books read the same. Why is that? And is there a parallel, a lesson to be learnt in real life from this?

Fillers Don’t Define a Book
Artwork by Lysander Yuen on Unsplash

Hello Friend,

After reading my fair share of self-help books recently, I have realized that they all follow a pattern. They start with a brilliant, unique idea. The first few chapters present the core in the most masterly manner and back it up with intriguing research and anecdotes. The author wants to answer one key question, why all readers should listen to what she says.

This part of the self-help books, especially those around psychology, gets a firm grasp on my interest. I usually note what amuses me about the central premise and the structure that the writer has put forth thoroughly. And then the book hits a damper.

Though the initial chapters always pique my interest, the subsequent chapters are most tiring to read through. They are generally fillers, present just to elevate the central idea into a book.

This hack of chasing fillers taints most of the self-help books published today. To avoid that, the author needs to be an absolute master at what she is talking about. She needs to know a lot more than she is willing to include in the book, a rarity among authors of self-help books. They generally start as a blog post, evolve and expand after numerous interactions with friends and readers.

Another case when an author doesn’t chase the fillers is when she doesn't hesitate to give up on the conventional measures of completion and success. The author does not consider the number of pages or the quote-worthy phrases as her target – a case in point, most self-published authors.

The first is about confidence in one's prowess. The second one is about control on one's objective. Self-confidence and self-control allow a writer to eliminate the need to artificially puff up their work with unnecessary fillers. And this has an apt parallel in our real life too. If we have control over deciding what matters, discipline to pursue it and confidence to execute it, we need not surround our lives with fillers.

Avoid fillers in what you say or do. Be clear about your core and focus only on that. What do you believe in? Everything else that you undertake or achieve is just a filler — all it does is deviate you from what you should focus your time and energy on. What do you believe in? Everything else wastes the time of yours and others, just like a book full of fillers does for its writers and its readers.

The filler pages do not define a book, the same way the filler days do not define who we are. Our core defines us. So, ask yourself again — what is your core?


"The Radical Moral Implications of Luck in Human Life" by David Roberts

Allowing for luck can dent our self-conception. It can diminish our sense of control. It opens up all kinds of uncomfortable questions about obligations to other, less fortunate people. Nonetheless, this is a battle that cannot be bypassed. There can be no ceasefire. Individually, coming to terms with luck is the secular equivalent of religious awakening, the first step in building any coherent universalist moral perspective. Socially, acknowledging the role of luck lays a moral foundation for humane economic, housing, and carceral policy.

"Why Modern Life Feels Rather Undead" by Chuck Klosterman

Every zombie war is a war of attrition. It’s always a numbers game. And it’s more repetitive than complex. In other words, zombie killing is philosophically similar to reading and deleting 400 work e-mails on a Monday morning or filling out paperwork that only generates more paperwork, or following Twitter gossip out of obligation, or performing tedious tasks in which the only true risk is being consumed by the avalanche. The principal downside to any zombie attack is that the zombies will never stop coming; the principal downside to life is that you will be never be finished with whatever it is you do.

" The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn’t" by Steven Johnson

It has never been easier to start making money from creative work, for your passion to undertake that critical leap from pure hobby to part-time income source. Write a novel or record an album, and you can get it online and available for purchase right away, without persuading an editor or an A&R executive that your work is commercially viable. From the consumer’s perspective, blurring the boundaries has an obvious benefit: It widens the pool of potential talent. But it also has an important social merit. Widening the pool means that more people are earning income by doing what they love.

Postscript

I also write long-form essays by choice, which I publish along with the issues of this newsletter. I can email you these essays as well if you are interested. Just let me know. Or you could, of course, subscribe to the good old RSS feed.

I want to recommend below my essays and videos to you, published since I delivered the previous issue of the newsletter.

Have any recommendations or feedback for me? I would love to hear from you. Just hit reply, or you can even email me.

Thank you for reading and sharing.

-Amit

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