I've been doing some revisionist thinking about self help.
Many things have contributed to this: a 10-day webinar about narcissism and two books I recently finished.
The 2010 book Living Oprah (given to me as a gift) is about what happens to your self-esteem if you followed every piece of advice from the old Oprah Winfrey Show for a full year. Oprah Winfrey-fan Robyn Okrant does this as an experiment and hilarity ensues. But along the way she starts to question the value of most self-help agendas and time-sucks and wild-goose chases. I too like Oprah but am realizing self-nurturing does not provide for yourself or others the way we've believed it should.
It's amazing how positive Okrant managed to stay about Oprah and the Oprah-industrial-complex. This book was in no way anti-Oprah as much it was questioning our obsession with self-help.
So this parlayed nicely with another book I was reading at the same time, Selfie by Will Storr (also a gift book). This was an amazing book about the unhappy intersection between pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps American Individualism (and an Ayn Rand kind of conservatism) with the self esteem movement (EST and other Californian self-help initiatives, a largely post-hippie liberalism). Both have merged to produce this 2020 world citizen.
I’m someone who has always been attracted to self-help prescriptions because I believe I’m in dire need of it and I have the willpower and stamina to actually do the things. Am I self-improved? Has it all been a waste of time and a tragic loss of engagement with possible communities and outward serving life models?
I bring this up in Big Bang Poetry because I know there are a large group of poets who find poetry writing helpful toward self-exploration and self-healing (self-help in a nutshell), or as part of the meditative process. While that has never been my main goal in writing myself, I do see the value in it, which is why I’ve been working on 52 Haiku.
These are both good books if you are interested in refocusing your aims and where you choose to place your time. It might also affect what subjects you choose to write about.