Update Feb 16th: We have a winner. Congratulations, KLZ, you are the winner of a paperback copy of The Happiness Project. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your mailing address.
Oooh, we have a nice giveaway today. Gretchen Rubin is giving away a copy of the paperback of her New York Times #1 Bestseller The Happiness Project to a Writing is My Drink reader. Make a comment below to enter. A winner will be randomly drawn and announced Wednesday February 16th at Noon PST.
The paperback release of The Happiness Project is March 1st, but you can pre-order it now on Amazon. Gretchen is offering a copy of her “Happiness Paradoxes”to those who pre-order and send her an email with mailing address in body of the email and the phrase “I pre-ordered” in the subject line. Her email is email@example.com.
Today I’m talking to Gretchen Rubin, author of the New York Times bestseller The Happiness Project, an exploration of what truly makes us happy. I read it last summer when a very good and trusted friend said that I must read it. One of the insights I got from the book was this: it’s way too easy to default into a low-level dissatisfaction even when life’s going fairly well, but often if we take the time to make some small changes, we can reset our happiness thermostat just a wee bit higher. That’s right. We have to try! (And most everyone I know, including myself, seems to need to be reminded of that)
Theo: The Happiness Project seems to be all about examining your life and then making small simple changes that in the long run or the short are going to make you happier. What if one underwent a Happiness Project for one’s writing life? What habits, beliefs might we examine? What small changes might—n the long run or the short—make us happier writers?
Gretchen: I think it’s very helpful to write every day. Not for the whole day, every day, of course, but even for just ten minutes – that way, you stay current with a project. It’s on your mind all the time. That helps good ideas come more easily. Also, I used to think I could only be productive if I had big chunks of time, but now, if I have even twenty minutes, I’ll sit down and do what I can. I also make sure to get plenty of exercise! I’m a restless person, and it’s tough for me to sit still. If I exercise, I’m less likely to jump up and down. For my own writing, I need to read constantly – that’s how I get ideas, both in terms of subject, and in style. I have to fight to keep enough time for a lot of reading in my schedule.
Theo: I’m curious how you fit writing into your life these days? Do you have a writing routine?
Gretchen: I’m a full-time writer, but that doesn’t mean I’m writing for the entire day, alas. For me, every day’s schedule is different. I used to find that frustrating, because I love routine, but now I’m used to it. I try to make sure that I have several hours to do “hard” work, that is, original writing, plus I do several hours of “light” work, like answering emails, taking reading notes, getting my newsletter organized, reading Twitter and Facebook, etc.
Theo: Do you have a favorite writing tip you’d like to share?
Gretchen: Have something to say! Whenever I have trouble writing, I stop and say, “What am I trying to express?” Once I know the thought I’m trying to communicate, the writing comes easily. This sounds so obvious, but it’s surprisingly common that a writer is trying to write without having much to say.
Theo: I love how your book takes a methodical approach to something so intimate as happiness. You were a biographer of famous leaders, a lawyer, and clearly a logical sort of person, so what was it like to write about all the personal parts of your life?
Gretchen: For some reason, that wasn’t a problem for me. It was very clear to me what personal stuff I would include, and what I wouldn’t include, so I didn’t struggle with that question. I’d never written in first person before, though, so that was an interesting writing challenge.
Theo: Do you have any tips about building a platform?
Gretchen: Start as early as you can. A lot of writers say, “I’m going to work on that as soon as I turn in my manuscript.” Building a platform is a matter of tiny steps, over a long period of time – so start as soon as you can.
Theo: What are you working on now?
Gretchen: Another book about happiness – an inexhaustible subject.
Learn more about Gretchen Rubin @ www.happiness-project.com