The world of books, it seems, is divided at the top into two categories, fiction and nonfiction
But, as both a reader and an author, I don't experience books that way and I don't separate what I desire to write that way.
I do, however, have my own divide. I separate books into:
- Ones that tell you what to do, and
- Ones that are what to do
Ones that tell you what to do are the far easier ones to write, because much of the value is in the information, not the telling. My last book, Career Renegade, fell into that category.
Ones that ARE what to do raise the bar. Because it becomes more about the craft than the information. They must be so compelling, so engaging, so rich with color, sound, sense, smell, story and craft that the very reading of the book is what satisfies.
Then, there's a rarely seen third type. The hybrid.
These are books that, if you never acted beyond reading them, would have been worth the investment many times over. They're almost always driven by story. And, even though they're not overtly prescriptive, they illuminate the human condition and agitate emotion and movement on a visceral level, creating an experience that transcends the book itself and pulls you to do something to in some way to change the status quo.
Books like Three Cups Of Tea, The Kite Runner, The Tipping Point or Memoir of a Boy Soldier to name a few.
Fiction, nonfiction...doesn't really matter. When people ask what I write or read, I don't have an answer. I read books that in some way leave me different than when I began.
And, these rare hybrids are the ones I aspire to cultivate the craft, the life-experience and the soul to one day pen.
If your book is your just a calling card on steroids, that's cool. It serves a specific purpose in your bigger business plan. That's important. Nothing wrong with that.
But, for me, I want what I write increasingly to not just be the lead into a marketing funnel, I want what I write to eventually be the very embodiment of the experience being sought. The beginning, the middle and the end. And, that applies to books, essays, blog posts and beyond.
It' scary as hell to say that out loud. And to be blessed with a big enough community to know people are listening.
I'm sure not there yet. Could be years or decades before I am.
Dunno. But, there you go.
How about you?
Jonathan Fields is the author of Career Renegade: How to Make a Great Living Doing What You Love. He writes and speaks on meaningful work, being a lifestyle entrepreneur and creativity at JonathanFields.com and is a twitter heavy-user at @jonathanfields