The book that started it all
It’s a bold claim. And generally Dark Angels veer towards modesty.
But in this case, I seem to have the written evidence. With the republication of We, me, them & it approaching, for its 21st anniversary edition, I contacted people who might have read the book when it first came out. The answers I received were heartwarming, humbling, surprising, and many were from Dark Angels. Here are just a few:
“The foundation text of the Dark Angels philosophy.”
“Writing human is now hard-wired into business and public life. This is the book that started it all.”
“I landed in the ‘business writing’ world from a different planet – literary publishing. I had good instincts, but no real idea what was going on. Reading We, Me, Them and It made me feel completely at home in my new-found tribe – and made it totally natural to treat writing for business with the same care and respect as any other form of writing.”
“We, me, them & it is the only book I recommend. I remember reading it for the first time and feeling liberated.”
I could go on. There are many more. But the important thing to ask – is it still relevant today? Gillian Colhoun writes: “I’ve often found myself returning to this book; each time finding a new and surprising way to connect with John’s words. In short, this is a seminal book that provides a lifetime of ‘Aha!’ moments.”
Why? It’s the essential question to ask, at the core of my own practice in writing and branding. I have to answer by saying, first, that the book achieved a lot and helped to change the way business uses words. Not just business, but organisations of all kinds – Dark Angels come from every area of working life.
Perhaps, most of all, individuals have been changed, or so they tell us when involved in Dark Angels activities. I believe that the humane philosophy at the heart of this book pointed the way towards Dark Angels.
Of course, I’m pleased the book is now being republished because that gives affirmation to Dark Angels. If you’ve been on one of the courses you will recognise the belief in the power of words, in their ability to liberate us from corporate restrictions and bring greater joy into our lives. That message applies now as it applied then. Perhaps I’d add that the years have brought an even greater adherence to the sheer art and craft of writing. Because we have always linked business and personal writing.
“This book gave me a new way to think about business communication and creativity: one, most importantly for me, that helped close the gap between my commercial and personal writing activities.”
I guess there is something to do with history here too, if that’s not too grandiose a way of thinking about it. This is the book that brought me, Jamie and Stuart together, so it is very much part of the Dark Angels founding story.
In the spirit of this post, I’ll leave the last words to someone else. Richard Pelletier, our American Dark Angels partner: “It was the book that changed everything. Place names, diagrams, adverts, headlines, stories. Raymond Carver. Yeats! Tone of voice. IDEAS. I was so gobsmacked that I wrote a review, got it published, emailed the author, and pushed my way into his life. Then? Friendship, travel, clients, workshops, books, WRITING. JOY.”