For my birthday in April, a thoughtful friend sent me a card with a joke about cooking with vodka and a book called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I was skeptical of the book. Its cover is bright and cheery and says “Happiness” on it. It falls in the “self-help” category. It is a bestseller. I put it in my nightstand book queue, a place where books face unclear fates.
While packing for our vacation last week, I did the usual frenzied gathering of reading material, grabbing The Happiness Project and Yuvi Zalkow’s A Brilliant Novel in the Works.
These two books were an odd pair. Yuvi’s book was an odd pair with the beach. But both books and the beach ended up being just what I needed.
I’ll post about Yuvi’s novel (which I adored) later. If I’ve chatted with you recently, I probably mentioned The Happiness Project. I told you it’s full of wisdom that seems obvious when you hear it, which somehow makes it more powerful. It says you should work at being happy. That you shouldn’t feel selfish or petty or uncool for doing so. And that being happy will make others around you happier. And this is all wrapped up with interesting quotes and tidbits from great thinkers and spiritual leaders. Gretchen Rubin is a sensible person and a thorough researcher, which makes the exploration of the topic more interesting but also preserves a kind of detachment from the concept of “happiness” that calmed my anxieties around self-help indulgence.
One of the ideas that kicked me in the kidneys: “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of good.” In other words, don’t let your idea of how things should be done leave you paralyzed, doing nothing. I am guilty.
My friend is special. I’m not buying off her wedding registry like everyone else, I’m going to find a piece of artwork that captures her unique style yet still surprises her in a way that makes her raise one eyebrow and smile. This piece will be a one-of-a-kind original yet reasonably priced and created by an artist who has an interesting personal story I can tell her about as she delicately lifts it from sophisticated wrapping paper.
This has been a four-year search. My friend has had a baby since then, so I feel the piece of art should reflect her new maternal role as well. And that will cover the baby gift I need to get her, too…
So. You see.
And I do something similar with my writing. As if I’m afraid there are only so many words, or rather, so many perfect moments where the mood and coffee and sunlight come together in just the right way for me to capture a stunning combination of ink and paper.
Speaking of ink and paper, I remember the brilliant hoodie-wearing art director (mentioned here) once telling me he was making an effort to think of his Moleskines as “less precious” and actually use them. I knew exactly what he meant. For one, the things aren’t cheap. And they’re so beautifully and simply constructed it’s easy to let yourself believe only the purest ideas or sketches or poems should kiss their pages. But they are for using; that is their primary function. None too precious. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
This idea, the bigger idea of working to be happy, and some practical problem-solution tactics from Gretchen Rubin changed my mind about this blog. I’m starting a new full-time job Monday at an advertising agency. Time is about to become precious. But rather than abandon the blog, I plan to post more often.
Not all of the posts will be great. But they haven’t been so far. And that’s OK. The blog is my daily writing workout to get me in shape for the pole vaults and marathons that sparkle in my peripheral vision: my Other Writing Projects.
I hope you’re excited to see more posts in your inbox or RSS reader. Actually, where and how do you read this blog? I’m curious. If you do go to the actual site, you’ll see I’ve got a new template design going. There are some pages explaining some things. There is an attempt at loose categorization of posts. There are some little nuggets that might change from time to time. Kind of fun.
Let me know what you think, and if you have anything in particular you’re going to think of as less precious in your own life. Any big happiness changes? Spill it.
(I realize I asked you a few questions in this post. Answer what you may.)