Rubin, Gretchen (2009). The Happiness Project. New York: Harper. ISBN: 9780061583254
I seem to have a lot in common with Gretchen Rubin. Writing. Living in an urban setting. A tendency to be irritable. Would usually rather read than do almost anything else. A sense of wasting my life, letting small details of getting through the day override the greater aims I have. But I really knew I would like her book The Happiness Project when she started talking about Benjamin Franklin.
Ever since I first read Franklin’s Autobiography in undergraduate school, I have thought about his habit of tracking his habits as a tool toward self improvement. I remember the other students and the professor in my American Literature class mocking Franklin for keeping track of his “errata,” but thinking how much it reminded me of something I might do. But it never occurred me to actually try this method until Rubin’s book.
I have created a chart on a piece of paper that has the days of the week in columns, and the elements of my life I would like to make sure I accomplish down the side of the page. Eating breakfast, flossing, walking, reading poetry are all there. I also have some specific goals in terms of writing, socialization and business development listed. I quickly saw how this was a great tool for helping me focus my time, and make sure that I actually make time for the things I consider important but have been actually doing in a haphazard fashion.
Gretchen Rubin is also a great motivator because she details her own weaknesses, her failings, her perfectionism. Similar types of books have been off-putting to me in the past because they seem so high-minded. Here is someone showing her own imperfections while nudging us to improve our own.
Rubin also focuses on what she calls “Being Gretchen,” and is essentially a great place for all of us to start: focus on the things you like to do, are good at, and in work with your natural inclinations. Diets, exercise programs, and other setups to change habits frequently ask us to take on some imposed structure that goes against our natural inclinations. For writers, I think this is an important meditation in terms of how we write. there are so many books and websites out there about how to develop a writing discipline, how to write a book/novel/poem/how to blog/how to journal/etc. and, really, when you study the great writers in all of those genres, they each have their own idiosyncratic way of approaching the task.
Rubin also is very good at combining factual research with her own personal experience, creating a balance between expertise and real life. Nobody really likes a know-it-all who seems to have all the answers; we relate better to someone who eats junk food, snaps at her family,and wishes to change but doesn’t really want to be different person.
Gretchen Rubin’s blog is : http://www.happiness-project.com