This month, Rhobin wants to know about our nonfiction writing.
Reality resides in my computer. That horror story you think you live in is an illusion, thank Heavens.
Please consider a very small selection of examples:
- War It’s not just a duel between two forces, but an activity in which civilians are deliberately targeted. Weapons have been invented with the sole purpose of maiming children without killing them. Can that be real?
- Religion How likely is it for people to invent a God of Love, and then inflict innumerable cruelties in His name?
- Child raising In a decent world, everyone would love and cherish any child, regardless of parentage. In the so-called reality, some children are deliberately abused. Others are told one set of rules to live by, but their carers show them the opposite — and learning is through modelling, not instruction. Still others are suffocated with love, but set no rules, not allowed to experience the consequences of their actions, and so never grow up.
- Consequences If I spend my month’s budget today, I’ll starve next week. And yet, your entire horror story is galloping toward extinction because this simple concept is not applied by the small number of people who run the world. The major fossil fuel companies accurately predicted catastrophic climate change in the 1970s, then chose to spend billions of dollars to ensure it would happen. The people running the chemical companies are poisoning their own bodies with their own products. Is this believable?
I could go on. For example, high-rise buildings are insane. But Rhobin wants to know about my non-novel books.
My most difficult yet most rewarding book to write was the biography of a woman who survived the unsurvivable and achieved the impossible, more than once. Please read the opening page here. It will show you why this book has won four awards.
My writing career started with practical instruction. Between about 1972 and 1986, I was remoulding my personality out of mud. You see, thanks to those insane child-raising practices, I learned that “If there is a wrong way of doing it, or even if there isn’t, I’ll do it that way first,” and “Bob? He is the most impractical person on Earth.” All the same, I set out to build my house with my own hands. That house is still standing, although a tree fell on it once. The average brick veneerial would have been demolished. I fixed the damage in one day’s work.
I got a job with a building research organisation, and while working at survey design and the like, studied in the library. On weekends, my family and I visited owner-builders, swapping labour for knowledge and experience. When I was ready to start building, I got a job as labourer in a succession of trades, learning from each. Then I used the relevant skill on my growing house, and wrote it up for Earth Garden magazine. This was my first venture at writing, other than scientific papers, and resulted in my first book. It went through 4 editions between 1986 and 2018, after hundreds of thousands of copies sold in the tiny Australian market.
Oh, where does mud come in? That’s the raw material of the house.
Then I got more ambitious. My second book was actually a short story collection, with each story delivering a woodcraft lesson. About 60,000 copies found a home on somebody’s bookshelves between 1994 and 1999.
Reading this book will give you a few laughs, and fill a few enjoyable hours, while at the same time you can learn basic skills like how to hammer in a nail and saw straight and square, right up to doing a complex project like building a rocking chair.
In 2004, one of my nephews died of cancer, so in his memory I collected a bunch of experts, and we wrote a book to be of service to people experiencing that problem themselves, or if a loved one does.
Here is one of the chapters, for your inspiration. It is by David Hooper, who is no longer with us.
And just to prove that there ain’t no difference between fiction and nonfiction, the opening chapter is a short story. Several readers have told me that it left them in tears, the good kind.
My book on Anger and Anxiety was my first venture into psychological self-help, and it has psychologically self-helped many hundreds of people during its various incarnations.
Basically, it is standard CBT, but with the twists of language and illustration you would expect of Bob Rich, who believes that life is too short for the seriousness it deserves. Its previous publisher allowed it to languish among their backlist, so I have withdrawn it, and a rewrite is on my to-do list, one day. The publisher of my current books has advised me to separate the two topics of anxiety and anger. Even though the causes and cures are the same, people, he said, want a single-issue topic. So, one day, if you live long enough, you might find two books replacing one.
In the meantime, you can still buy a copy directly from me.
Then of course there is my current popular book: From Depression to Contentment: A self-therapy guide. It has been doing well enough that the publisher has invested money in an audio version.
Although the title, and the book, focuses on depression, the tools you can learn will help to relieve any kind of distress. I go through the standard tools of therapy to lead you to go from damaged to normal, but then use positive psychology and Buddhist concepts to go way above that.
Do read it: you have nothing to lose but misery. And if you are not miserable some of the time, I am sure you know people who are, and my tools will help you to help them.
The original version of From Depression to Contentment was 96,000 words long. My publisher ordered me to cut it to below 50,000, because people don’t buy longer self-help books.
So, I obediently cut, but being a Greenie, decided to recycle the leftovers. These were several short stories, each with a therapeutic discussion. I wrote a heap of new stories, included essays from Bobbing Around, and produced a companion volume.
The aim is basically to induce people to buy From Depression to Contentment. So, anyone can request a free copy here at Bobbing Around, and this is permanent. In order to enable me to advertise it in places like Goodreads, I am also offering it for sale.
As any project does (at least for me), once I started, I got fired up, and now this nonfiction-fiction hybrid is one of my favourites. Do grab a copy for free. All you need to do is to ask.
Oh. One more thing. Where can you have a look at these books, and how can you buy them? I’ll share a deep, dark secret with you. At Bobbing Around, there is a tab at the top, labelled “Bob’s Books.” Click on that and see what you can see.
If you take the trouble to comment on this essay, I can guarantee, you will be rewarded with a big, fuzzy blast of metta from me.
That will energise you to visit my wonderful friends below: