Gretchen Rubin is a blogger and author of many books, including the #1 New York Times and international bestseller The Happiness Project and its bestselling follow-up Happier at Home. After attending Yale Undergrad and Yale Law School, Gretchen originally began her career as a lawyer. She was a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, and Chief Adviser to FCC Chairman Reed Hundt. It was while clerking under Sandra Day O’Connor that she realized that she wanted to become a professional writer. Her other books include biographic bestseller Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill and Forty Ways to Look at JFK, as well as Power Money Fame Sex: A User’s Guide.
Gretchen Rubin is truly an inspiration to all of us here at Playing Grown-Ups, and we are honored to have her share her insights in this month’s interview.
Sherri: When you were a little girl, what did you want to be when you grew up? As you grew up, how did your career objectives change?
Gretchen: Weirdly, I don’t think I ever thought about it. I just kept aiming for the next obvious hurdle. I didn’t know what I wanted to do after college, so I went to law school—that dangerous default decision!
Sherri: What motivates you both personally and professionally?
Gretchen: I’m motivated by a love of reading and writing. I love to read, to research, to pursue odd obsessions—and when I learn something or read something wonderful, I want to write it down, turn it into my own material, and share it.
Sherri: This month, we have been focusing on how to cope with procrastination. Do you have any helpful hints for us?
Gretchen: Just about anyone who has ever put off a troublesome task is familiar with one of my Secrets of Adulthood: Working is one of the most dangerous forms of procrastination. When there’s some chore you just don’t want to tackle, every other chore seems alluring. As a friend told me, “My apartment is never cleaner than when I have a writing assignment due.” If you want to get yourself to do something, make the alternative to that task to do nothing.
When I want to do the difficult work of original writing, I often work outside my apartment, in a library a few blocks away. This gets me away from the temptations of the internet, and it also forces me to do nothing else but write. I say to myself, “I’ll stay here for two hours,” and then I’m stuck. If I’m not writing, I’m just sitting there. Sure, sometimes I jump up and go look for a book in the stacks, but that doesn’t take long. I end up writing just to pass the time. At home, by contrast, there’s no end to the useful tasks that I can find to occupy myself.
I wrote about this on my blog, and someone commented, “Oh, this strategy wouldn’t work for me! I can spend hours on forums.” He did not understand this strategy. You do nothing. No reading, no tidying, no calling, no errands, no filing, no emailing, no re-formatting of a document.
So if you often find yourself procrastinating by working, try making yourself do nothing.
Sherri: We at Playing Grown-Ups love food! What are some of your favorites? Do you have any simple recipes that you might share with our readers?
Gretchen: I’m no cook, so don’t really have any recipes. I like very plain food, for the most part. Some of my favorites: Greek salad, quiche Lorraine, scrambled eggs, hamburgers. And can I include coffee?
Sherri: You seem to have so much energy and vitality. Do you have any advice for us on how to stay youthful?
Gretchen: Thanks! that’s very nice to hear! One quick trick to make yourself feel younger and more energetic: jump. Just jump up and down, do some jumping-jacks, run down the stairs, hop over a puddle. There’s something about getting both feet off the ground that feels child-like and zestful.
Sherri: How do you find the balance between your writing (blog and books), responding to fans and spending time with your family? Is it hard to make time for everything since the blog has become so successful?
Gretchen: So far, I feel incredibly lucky that everything fits together. Blogging is just as fun as writing a book—different, but just as rewarding. Of course, one advantage of writing about happiness is that I feel very justified in taking time to do the things that make me happy—like hanging out with my family! I really enjoy every part of my day and my work. And I’m grateful for that, every day.
Sherri: Who has inspired you (or still does) and how?
Gretchen: Wow, that’s a big question. There are a lot of answers, but one is certainly my sister, Elizabeth Craft. She’s a TV writer, and she became a professional writer before I did, and I know her example helped me take the risk to try to become a writer, myself. Also, I’m the kind of person who worries about what I “should” be like, but my sister never wavers in her acceptance and understanding of herself. I try to emulate that quality.
Thank you, Gretchen, for taking the time to answer our questions! To find out who next month’s interview is, stay ‘tooned to Playing Grown-ups for all the latest info!