Tuesday, February 12, 2008

How Does One Find True Happiness? Read On...

Undercover as the Work It, Mom! team, I interview lawyer-turned-author Gretchen Craft Rubin about her latest book, The Happiness Project. She spent a year testing out every tip and truism about happiness that she could find; on her blog about the project, she shares her own formula for happiness, inspirational quotes, podcasts, and insightful posts about finding joy in life. (Her Earth-shattering happiness formula? "To be happier, you need to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth. Clunky, but it works.")

Raised in Kansas City, the lawyer-turned-author lives in New York City with her husband and their two daughters.

You've written biographies of John F. Kennedy and Winston Churchill, and your first book was a self-help satire analyzing power, money, fame, and sex; most recently, you worked on a collaboration with photographer Dana Hoey about why people like to destroy their belongings. How did you go from there to The Happiness Project?

My overarching interest is human character. Why do people behave the way they do? Each of my books explores this issue in a different way. I realized that I needed to make a systematic study of happiness -- especially if I personally wanted to be happy!What's been the most challenging part about working on The Happiness Project?The most challenging thing I've done -- and one of the most exciting and fun things I've done -- is to launch a blog. I was incredibly intimidated by the prospect, but now it is one of the joys of my life.

You earned your undergraduate and law degrees from Yale. Do you still practice law?

Nope, I gave up law. I like writing much better.What led you from a career in law to a career in writing?Once when I was visiting a friend in education grad school, I saw that she had a lot of dry, dull books lying around. I said sympathetically, "Do you have to read these books for your program?" She said, "Yes, but that's what I read on my own, anyway." I realized then that I never did any work related to law unless I absolutely had to. And since, at that time, I was clerking for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, I was surrounded by people passionate about law. I decided I wanted to do for my work the things that I did for fun. As it happened, at the time, I was working on a draft of what would be my first book, Power Money Fame Sex. I realized that some people write books for a living -- and I could, too.

What was your first-ever published piece about?

Zoikes, I don't remember! Good question!

What has been your biggest challenge in terms of juggling your career and motherhood?

Not having enough time. I'd like to spend more time doing Mommy things, and more time writing and researching. There just aren't enough hours in the day.

What do your kids think of what you do?

My 2-year-old is too young to understand. My older daughter (age 8) is beginning to see what I do. She likes to create "documents," loves to type, likes to write stories. So she's very intrigued with the process. However, she recently informed me that she wants to be an actress; writing is just her hobby.

Has The Happiness Project changed the way you live your life?

Absolutely. In so many ways. And for the better.

What do you do when you're feeling overwhelmed or uninspired?

My refuge is always reading. If I feel sad or overwhelmed, I often read children's literature. I never tire of the great children's classics. If I'm feeling uninspired right now, I often turn to a non-fiction book related to happiness. I have a huge stack waiting for me, and I find the subject inexhaustibly fascinating.

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