I started the Inspiration Interview Series because I wanted to know more about the people who share their work with the world and inspire me to practice courage, be creative, and dream big. Gretchen is one of those people. Meet Gretchen!
Gretchen Rubin is the best-selling writer whose book, The Happiness Project, is the account of the year she spent test-driving studies and theories about how to be happier. On her popular blog, The Happiness Project, she reports on her daily adventures in the pursuit of happiness.
The Happiness Project is more than a book and a blog, it’s a movement. Happiness Project groups have sprung up around the world; hundreds of book groups have discussed the book; and rights for more than 32 foreign editions have been sold. The Happiness Project was even an answer on the game-show Jeopardy!
A graduate of Yale and Yale Law School, where she was Editor-in-Chief of the Yale Law Journal, Rubin started her career in law, and she was clerking for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor when she realized she really wanted to be a writer.
I had the pleasure of meeting Gretchen at the 2011 BlogHer Conference. Gretchen and I sat on a panel with Shauna James Ahern and Shannon from the Mr. Lady blog. After a wonderful panel experience, Gretchen and I had a conversation about happiness, vulnerability, writing, and work/life integration. It was inspiring!
I hope you enjoy Gretchen's interview as much I did. Her answer about managing perfectionism is so powerful! If you'd like to win a copy of Gretchen's book, The Happiness Project, leave a comment telling us one thing that makes you really happy! I'll draw three winners on Tuesday evening!
Questions based on The Gifts of Imperfection!
1. What role does vulnerability play in your work?
I write about happiness through the lens of my own experience. I've found that when I reveal my own faults, limitations, and quirks, I connect most deeply with other people -- and also, I'm best able to convey my conclusions about happiness. Hearing about my efforts to be happier is an effective way for people to think about the steps they might take, in their own lives.
2. What does authenticity mean to you and how do you practice it in your work?
I have twelve Personal Commandments, and my first commandment is to "Be Gretchen." The more my life reflects my nature, interests, and values, the happier I am. To be myself -- it sounds so simple and obvious! And yet, I struggle all the time to "Be Gretchen." I remind myself of things such as, "Just because something is fun for someone else doesn't mean it's fun for me -- and vice versa" and "I can choose what I DO, but I can't choose what I LIKE to do." These help me remember what's true for ME.
3. Is perfectionism an issue for you? If so, what’s one of your strategies for managing it?
I remind myself, "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." (Cribbed from Voltaire.) A twenty-minute walk that I do is better than the four-mile run that I don't do. The imperfect book that gets published is better than the perfect book that never leaves my computer. The dinner party of take-out Chinese food is better than the elegant dinner that I never host.
4. What inspires you? Reading. Reading, reading, reading.
5. What’s something that gets in the way of your creativity and how do you move through it?
When I feel myself dry up, I let myself read more, and at whim; I take notes without a purpose; I go through my old notes and files of favorite quotations. Also, I work every day, whether I feel creative or not. Discipline isn't the enemy of creativity, in my experience, but the wellspring.
6. Do you have a mantra or manifesto for living and loving with your whole heart?
I have several. "Be Gretchen." "The days are long, but the years are short." "It is not enough to love; we must prove it." "It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light." "Now is now."
Now, for some fun!
From James Lipton, host of Inside the Actor’s Studio
1. What is your favorite word? Kumquat
2. What sound or noise do you love? The sound of a night thunderstorm.
3. What sound or noise do you hate? Weirdly, the sound of liquid being poured in a cup.
From JL’s Uncle Jessie Meme
1. Best show on television? Any show that my sister Liz Craft or brother-in-law Adam Fierro writes for or creates.
2. If you could have anything put on a t-shirt what would it be? A bluebird (of happiness).
3. A talent you wish you had? Painting.
4. Dream vacation? Reading in bed!
5. What’s on your nightstand? Books and a few empty soda cans.
6. What’s something about you that would surprise us? I have a tattoo. No, really I don't. As I think about this, I realize that I'm surprisingly unsurprising. I hate sushi -- is that surprising?
Your six-word memoir: Days are long; years are short.
Connecting with Gretchen:
Can't wait to read your happiness comments! Check back on Tuesday night for giveaway winners!
Congrats to Michelle Merko, Metter, and Nancy Erisman!