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This blog was featured on 04/13/2019
Gretchen Rubin on Writing, Creating and Skipping the Boring Parts
Written by
She Writes
March 2019
Written by
She Writes
March 2019

The Happiness Project’s New York Times bestselling author, Gretchen Rubin is known for her exploration of human nature in search for better ways to live life. With her books, blog, motivational speaking and popular weekly podcast, she has gained a loyal audience hungry for all things happiness, including habits, mindsets, environment, and human nature.

This month, she reveals her latest book, Outer Order, Inner Calm: Declutter and Organize to Make More Room for Happiness. In it, Rubin uses clarity and lots of humor to tackle the key challenges of creating outer order, by explaining how to “Make Choices," "Create Order," "Know Yourself and Others," "Cultivate Helpful Habits," and "Add Beauty" at home, at work, and in our daily lives.

On Writing

“For creativity, it's better to pour out ideas rather than to dole them out with a teaspoon,” Rubin says in a blog post upon her 10-year anniversary of blogging.

“When I started blogging -- and I confess, I still have this thought, sometimes, ten years later -- I'd think, 'This is a great idea. I should hold it back, so in case I ever run out of ideas, I'll have something in reserve.' No! I have to trust in myself, trust that I'll get more ideas. The more I do, the more I can do.”

To aspiring writers, or to those feeling stuck in the process, she offers this:

“Don't get it perfect, get it going.”

“The longest journey starts with a single step. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. All these proverbs are true. When I was starting this blog, I was paralyzed by the desire to do everything right -- and there were so many decisions to make! Finally, I decided, 'I'm going to talk to a few smart people with blogs, and do whatever they do. I can change things later, if I want.' That was a great way to get started. It's one of my Secrets of Adulthood: Most decisions don't require extensive research.”

These excerpts were originally published on Gretchen Rubin’s blog. Read her full post here.

On Research

Research in many forms, Rubin says, is a huge part of her work.

“Reading novels and memoirs, as well as science and traditional research. I read philosophy and essayists. I just talk to people and try to be an observer. Sometimes I find insights in unexpected places. I’m always taking notes and trying to process information, but it’s not always conventional.”

“I carry a notebook and will email myself notes. I also keep huge documents sorted by subject. I have quotes, which I think are said really well or profound, but don’t fit into any other category. I also think that by copying something, it helps put it into my brain.”

This excerpt was originally published on The Writer. Read the full interview here.

On Creating Fresh Material

“Happiness encompasses so many things,” says Rubin. “Relationships, including romance, parenting, friendship, work relationships. It’s the body, which includes energy, exercise, and diet. It’s all kinds of things related to health, such as mindfulness or spiritually. It’s also about time efficiency. It’s sort of limitless. The more I learn, the bigger it gets. To me, all my books are about human nature. What I like is taking a huge subject that I have to distill and make accessible to other people. I like that as an intellectual challenge."

This excerpt was originally published on The Writer. Read the full interview here.

On NaNoWriMo

Rubin is an enthusiastic supporter of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and praises the program for the habit strategies it offers.

“In all my work, I think about the question, ‘What makes us happier, and how can we get ourselves actually to do the things that make us happier?’ she says. “And one challenge for many people is: ‘I know I would be happier if I worked on a creative project, but how do I actually get myself to make consistent progress on this project or side hustle?’”

“A common happiness stumbling block is the feeling that you have a creative or entrepreneurial idea and impulse, but you're not putting that creation out into the world.”

“I've been fascinated by NaNoWriMo for years, as a way to tackle this problem, and it's interesting to think about why its design has helped so many people to complete ambitious projects.”

According to Rubin, NaNoWriMo taps into these habit strategies:

  • Convenience: by writing on the site, it's easy to save your work, get credit for it, and track your word count.
  • Monitoring: when we monitor, we tend to do a better job of following through, and this program is all about monitoring what you're creating. I remember that when I was writing my novel, I spent a lot of time checking my word count, to see if I'd reached the magic number of 1,667.
  • Scheduling: you're writing every day, and as my Secret of Adulthood holds, it's often easier to do something every day rather than sometimes or most days.
  • Loophole-Spotting: no excuses, no loopholes!
  • First Steps: for many people, it's hard to get started. This kind of boot camp, start-now approach is a way to get a project off the ground.

On Boredom

“Down with boredom.” This is a note that a friend kept on her computer, which has inspired Rubin’s writing ever since. Whenever possible, she says, skip the boring parts!

“In writing all my books, if there's an aspect of my subject that bores me, I figure out a way to write around it. And no one has ever seemed to notice. I try to do the same thing in all aspects of my life. Down with boredom. It's not always easy, but it's often more possible than you might imagine.”

This excerpt was originally published on GretchenRubin.com. Listen to her full podcast on boredom.

Photo Credit: Michael Weschler

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