The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

As a fellow writer, Gretchen Rubin offers a lot of great advice about starting a blog, the uncertainty she felt taking the plunge and leaving her job as a lawyer to become a writer, and several pearls of wisdom on motivation.

Now certainly, motivation is a problem we all face, especially as writers.  We all want to become writers, but not all of us are willing to commit to what it takes to be a writer.  Many of us, myself included, are easily caught up in the demands of every day life and allow it to take us away from our true passion, which is of course, writing.

To be a successful writer, Gretchen Rubin mentions, you have to actually like writing.  It has to make you happy.  Otherwise, you’ll have a problem sticking with it.  People who are happy with what they do find the time to actually do it and therefore, are more motivated and successful.

As part of her happiness project, the author decides to dedicate an entire year to not only making herself happier, but to finding out what exactly makes her happy.  She focuses on work for an entire month, sharing what she’s learned.  Here’s a summary of some of her excellent advice:

-Aim higher.

-Challenge yourself by committing to something and sticking to it.

-Work smarter by boosting your efficiency.

-Focus on “now” and allow yourself to enjoy it.

-Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice.

-“Enjoy the fun of failure.”

My favorite passage in the book?  One of her “Secrets of Adulthood”:

By doing a little bit each day, you can get a lot accomplished.  We tend to overestimate how much we can accomplish in an hour or a week, and underestimate how much we can accomplish in a month or a year, by doing just a little bit each day. 

Reading her novel, The Happiness Project,  has really renewed my zeal for writing, and I thank her for that.  In addition, she offers a lot of great insight and tips on writing, finding a writing support group, and blogging.

If you’re looking for a book to boost your ambition and give you a kick in the pants, this might be a good one for you to read.  While the focus of the book is primarily the author’s search to define and find happiness, much of it is based around her life as a writer.  It doesn’t necessarily offer much on the craft of writing, but if you’re looking for a source of motivation, not only as a writer, but in your life in general, this will do the trick.

Books on Writing

Being a writer, I enjoy reading books on the craft of writing.  There are several that have really stuck out to me and have helped me tremendously with not only my own skills as a writer, but also with my motivation and inspiration.

Since every writer is a product of what they read, learn, and absorb, I’d like to share with you some of the knowledge and advice I’ve gained from other writers.  I hope this will help you as much as it’s helped me.

Write What Matters

If you don’t care about what you’re writing, neither will your readers.  This doesn’t mean you should take on only big subjects – war, peace, love, hunger, oppression.  It means that if what matters to you is the way the light falls on the bougainvillea in the morning, that’s what you should write about.  If what matters to you is the relationship between sisters and brothers, then that’s what you write about.

Write about what interests you, what you don’t understand, what you want to learn more about.  Novelist Amy Tan said, “I write about it [mothers and daughters] because I don’t understand it, because it is such a mystery to me.  If it ceases to be a mystery, and if I were an expert on it, I wouldn’t write about it.  I like to write about things that bother me in some way, that I have a lot of conflict with.”

Reread your writing to discover recurring themes and images.  Look for hints and innuendos within spontaneous or stream of consciousness writings.  If you’re bored with what you’re writing or lackadaisical about your commitment, return to the idea that birthed it.  More than one writer has been drawn off track by comments from her writing group or misdirection from a friend.  “Let nobody, your mother, your grandmother, your agent, your publisher, your producer, let nobody tell you the creator what you should do,” said Roots author Alex Haley, who invested twelve years in writing his life-changing book.

Be a passionate writer. – Judy Reeves

The Written Word

The written word preserves what otherwise might be lost among the impressions that inundate our lives.  Thoughts, insights, and perceptions constantly threaten to leave us before we have the opportunity to grasp their meaning.  Writing can keep technology-driven, fast-paced, quick-fix, ambiguity-intolerant modern life from overpowering us – and give us something palpable upon which to reflect.  Reflection slows matters down.  It analyzes what was previously unexamined, and opens doors to different interpretations of what was there all along.  Writing, by encouraging reflection, intensifies life.

– Helena Hjalmarsson