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  • Crystal Ellefsen 09:00:08 on 2019/03/05 Permalink
    Tags: , , , declutter, ,   

    A Writer’s Milestone: My Book “Outer Order, Inner Calm” Hits the Shelves Today! 


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    I dedicated The Happiness Project to my family.

    I dedicated Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill to my mother and father.

    I dedicated Happier at Home to my sister, Elizabeth.

    I dedicated Better Than Before to my family, again.

    I dedicated The Four Tendencies to my agent, Christy Fletcher (Questioner).

    Outer Order, Inner Calm is dedicated to you: my readers, listeners, and viewers.

    My hope for Outer Order, Inner Calm is that you'll start reading or listening to the book, and before long, you'll spring to your feet, unable to resist the siren call of clearing clutter. It feels so good to get rid of things we don't need, don't use, or don't love! This book is meant to make that process as easy and as pleasant as possible.

    If you flip through the book, you’ll see that it’s written mostly in short, separate bursts of ideas and suggestions. At the beginning of each of the seven sections, I include a one-page introduction, but for the most part, it’s a collection of quick, concrete tips. It’s meant to be something you read fast to get yourself psyched up to clear clutter.

    I first came up with the phrase "outer order contributes to inner calm," when I was writing The Happiness Project more than ten years ago. It was a "Secret of Adulthood" that I included in my "Happiness Project Manifesto."

    I paced through our apartment to size up the clutter-clearing challenge I faced. Once I started really looking, I was amazed by how much clutter I had accumulated without my realizing it. Our apartment was bright and pleasant, but a scum of clutter filmed its surface...

    Once I'd finished the closet, I went back through it once again. When I finished, I had four bags full of clothes, and I could see huge patches of the back of my closet. I no longer felt drained; instead, I felt exhilarated. NO more being confronted with my mistakes! NO more searching in frustration for a particular white button-down shirt!

    - The Happiness Project

     

    When I was touring for The Happiness ProjectHappier at Home, and even Better Than Before, I noticed how energized people became during any discussion of outer order. Any time the subject came up, people laughed, talked among themselves, and were clearly interested. The fact is, for most people, outer order contributes to inner calm, and any time the subject arose, people wanted to hear more.

    Even after spending all this time thinking about outer order, it still surprises me how much it matters—how much energy, focus, and cheer we get from creating outer order. It seems like a fairly trivial thing to worry about, but the effect certainly isn’t trivial--for most people.

    Just last night I cleaned some clutter from our utility closet. (Yes, even after writing this book, I'm still finding pockets of clutter in the apartment.) And this morning I walked over the closet, just to gloat at the beautiful order.

    I'm thrilled that this day has finally come. Outer Order, Inner Calm hits the shelves.

    Curious about some of the "behind-the-scenes" elements of making this book?

    If so, I wrote about the cover design process, working with the illustrator, recording the audiobook, and "a day in the life" during this busy season.

    Many readers and listeners have asked how they can be helpful -- which I very much appreciate! If you'd like to support me and help readers find this book, you can:

    • Share a photo of your copy of the book on social media (tag me @gretchenrubin and use hashtag #OuterOrderInnerCalm)
    • Leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Audible, or wherever you purchased your copy.
    • Request the book at your local library
    • Share a before-and-after photo on social media or your own blog if you tackle clutter using the ideas from the book. Use the hashtag #OuterOrderInnerCalm and of course tag me @gretchenrubin. I love to see a great before-and-after.
    • Share a link to your favorite Happier podcast episode with a friend or on social media
    • Share a quote from the book on social media

    I had such fun writing this playful, hopeful book. I hope it helps you discover ways to make more room for happiness in your own life.

     
  • Crystal Ellefsen 10:00:34 on 2019/02/12 Permalink
    Tags: , , , illustration, , ,   

    Revealed! Some of My Favorite Illustrations from the Book “Outer Order, Inner Calm.” 


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    With each book I write, I think, "I'll never have as much fun writing a book again." And then I love the next book project even more.

    Many aspects of writing Outer Order, Inner Calm made it particularly enjoyable.

    In it, I use a very accessible, concise approach. This book is meant to be read quickly, to get you fired up to clear clutter. I was inspired by a book whose structure I've always admired: Michael Pollan's Food Rules. I'd always wanted to write a book like that—and I did!

    I also loved the opportunity to include illustrations. The strange, dreamlike book Profane Waste is my writing presented with the photographs of artist Dana Hoey. In my book Happier at Home, I included some of my own photographs of my home. I've always wanted to explore visual possibilities again.

    For Outer Order, Inner Calm, illustrations seemed right. I love the beautiful, highly distinctive work of British cartoonist and illustrator Jon McNaught, and he did a terrific job of adding an additional layer of visual interest and engagement to the book.

    I was really lucky that Jon was interested in taking on this project. He's got a real cult following and is a very successful graphic novelist, and he often creates the covers for the London Review of Books. You can see his work on Instagram here.

    For instance, I got a huge kick out of this illustration—can you guess why? Jon decorated the mug with the bluebird featured on the cover of The Happiness Project. I often incorporate that bird into various designs, and the bluebird of happiness is my personal symbol. I'm not sure how many readers will notice this insider reference, but I enjoy it!

    Some illustrations proved to be a challenge. For instance, one tip suggests that you might "Create a seasonal photo gallery" with a collection of themed photos that are displayed only for a short season. In my family, we have a Halloween display (Halloween costumes over the years) and a Valentine's Day display (our annual Valentine's Day cards).

    The first version of the illustration showed an array of many different kinds of photos. And the photos were hung on the wall. It took a couple of iterations to get to a visual representation of a "seasonal photo gallery."

    It also took us a few tries to get the right illustration for the "travel tidy-up." The first attempt showed an unpacked overnight carry-on bag, but I meant that you'd go through your backpack, purse, or briefcase while you were waiting to board.

    I was particularly focused on the final illustration—both because it came at the end of the body of the book, and because the last tip is my very favorite. I won't reveal it here—spoiler!—but it makes me choke up with emotion every time I read it.

    The idea is powerful, but...how to convey it in an illustration? Without being overly mawkish or clichéd? It was a very tough challenge. When you look at the book, see what you think. I think Jon hit exactly the right note.

    As a writer, I want to push myself with every book: to write more clearly and more beautifully, to think more deeply, and to take advantage of all the possibilities of the form.

    This playful little book taught me a lot.

    Thank you to everyone who has preordered the book. Be sure to claim your pre-order bonus here.

     
  • Crystal Ellefsen 21:15:39 on 2019/01/31 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , Mollie West Duffy, No Hard Feelings,   

    “Caring Too Much About a Job Is Unhelpful and Unhealthy.” 


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    What is the role of emotions in the workplace? How do you stay happy when other people are grouchy or stressed out? How do you unplug from work concerns to enjoy true leisure?

    I think about questions like these all the time, so I was very interested to hear about a new book, No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work.

    Liz Fosslien is a strategy and design consultant who has worked with companies including Salesforce, Ernst & Young, and the Stanford d.School.

    Mollie West Duffy is an organizational designer at IDEO New York. She has helped companies and start-ups such as Casper develop good workplace culture.

    If you love a great self-assessment quiz, you can take their quiz about "Emotions and You" to help you understand yourself, your team, and your organization better. Also, if you preorder their book, they have a special bonus for you here.

    I couldn't wait to talk to Liz and Mollie about happiness, habits, and productivity.

    Gretchen: What’s a simple activity or habit that consistently makes you happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative?

    Liz: I take photos of any design that I find interesting. I recently photographed: lotion packaging at Trader Joe’s, a tiny neon snail graffiti, some vibrant bricks, a sparkly Peet’s coffee cup, tangled white and gray wires, and a patch of floor dust. When I feel stuck in a creative rut, I scroll through my weird photos for inspiration.

    Mollie: Exercising first thing in the morning. It can be a run, barre class, or even reading my email and the news on my ipad while walking on the treadmill. Even if I only do it for 20 minutes, it gives me energy for the day, and no matter what else happens the rest of the day, at least I’ve accomplished that.

    Gretchen: What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

    Liz: I wish I knew that happiness doesn’t mean always being happy. I used to fall into I’m-going-feel-like-this-forever spirals, which only made my bad feelings feel worse (e.g. I would get anxious about feeling anxious). Now when I have a blue moment, I realize it’s ok, and that I’ll feel better again soon.

    Mollie: That we have control over our own thoughts and thought patterns. I love the quote by Deepak Chopra: “There are only two things we can put our imagination to: one is anxiety, which is a form of imagination, and one is creativity. And we have to choose creativity in order to transform the world.”

    Gretchen: You’ve done fascinating research. What has surprised or intrigued you—or your readers—most?

    Liz: I knew that interviews aren’t the best way of assessing job applicants, but I was still surprised by this study: Yale Professor Jason Dana and his colleagues asked two groups of students to predict their classmates’ GPAs. One group only had access to past grades and current course enrollment, while the other was also allowed to conduct interviews. The students who interviewed their classmates were significantly worse at predicting future GPA. Even scarier, most didn’t notice that some interviewees had been instructed to give random and sometimes nonsensical responses.

    Mollie: Our readers are surprised to learn that emotions can also go viral. Researchers at Baylor University found a nasty coworker not only makes you and your family grumpy but may have a ripple effect that extends as far as your partner’s workplace. It happens like this: I come home irritated because of my crabby colleague and snap at my husband. He catches my bad mood and goes to work the next day equally irritable. My colleague’s sour attitude might then spread to my husband’s coworkers.

    Gretchen: Have you ever managed to gain a challenging healthy habit—or to break an unhealthy habit? If so, how did you do it?

    Mollie: I’m constantly working at being a better sleeper. I often have a hard time falling asleep, even though I go to bed early. I have created an elaborate bedtime ritual that usually helps. I watch 10-15 minutes of a slow British TV show (I highly recommend Escape to the Country on Netflix) in bed to unwind, and then listen to a boring audiobook on a 30-minute sleep timer. I also sleep with an eye mask, earplugs, and a white noise machine. My husband is a comedian, and he has worked this ritual into a joke he tells on stage.

    Gretchen: Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?

    Liz: I am a Questioner—I find it hard to work on something when there isn't a clear goal. The upside is that I can use specific and sometimes overly ambitious goals to motivate myself. When I wanted to learn HTML, I sketched out a complicated website design, and with that vision in mind, was able to slog through a bunch of tutorials and documentation and actually build it.

    Mollie: I am definitely an Upholder. My mom has been telling me to “do less” since I was a small child. I am such a creature of habit, so the Upholder “discipline is my freedom” motto really resonates with me. Liz and I worked well together with this tendency combination. With the help of many Google Drive folders and documents, I made sure that we met all our deadlines (our editors were shocked when we handed our manuscript in ahead of schedule!), and Liz saw that our finished product was pithy and punchy by questioning until each section was necessary and helpful.

    Gretchen: Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits or your happiness? (e.g. travel, parties, email)

    Mollie: As an Upholder and an introvert, I can take on too much. There are daily habits like exercise, reading, and meditation, that I need to do for myself. But I also like to meet work, social, and book obligations. When I get overscheduled, I get overwhelmed.

    Gretchen: Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”) Or a quotation that has struck you as particularly insightful?

    Liz: I’ve always loved this line by Toni Morrison: “You wanna fly, you got to give up the sh*t that weighs you down.” It’s a good reminder to say no sometimes and to stop listening to the “you can’t do this” monster that lives in your brain.

    Gretchen: Has a book ever changed your life—if so, which one and why?

    Liz: I started drawing comics because of Calvin & Hobbes. There is a storyline where Calvin finds an injured raccoon and tries to nurse it back to health, but the raccoon doesn’t make it. Calvin and Hobbes mourn the raccoon and confront what it means to die. The entire story is told in black-and-white drawings, but it made me cry. To me, Calvin & Hobbes is such a shining example that you don’t need anything fancy to create a thing that will stick in someone’s heart forever.

    Gretchen: In your field, is there a common misperception or incorrect assumption that you’d like to correct?

    Liz and Mollie: We’re so often told to “pursue our passion.” It’s easy to assume that means we have to love every aspect of our job, and that work should consume us. But caring too much about a job is unhelpful and unhealthy. It makes small problems seem exceptional and throwaway remarks feel appalling. One of our new rules of emotion at work is to be less passionate about your job. This doesn’t mean don’t care, it just means keep a little more emotional distance between your identity and your work. This offers a solution to a lot of anguish! You won’t hyperventilate before a big presentation. You won’t be frustrated to tears by incompetent teammates. You will actually put your phone away on date night and you won’t be haunted by work FOMO as you backpack through Machu Picchu.

     
  • Crystal Ellefsen 10:00:38 on 2019/01/22 Permalink
    Tags: , ,   

    My 2019 Book Tour 


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    Outer Order, Inner Calm is about to hit the shelves! And that means I’m about to go on a book tour. I love getting the chance to see readers, listeners, and viewers face to face.

    Please note that most events require a ticket. Details and ticket links for my 2019 book tour are here. (If you have questions about an event, such as when tickets will go on sale, ask the event organizers; they're in charge of those issues.)

    My favorite part of touring is the question-and-answer sessions, because people’s questions give me a lot of ideas and insights into people’s concerns.

    In fact, I wrote The Four Tendencies book in large part because whenever I spoke about Better Than Before, even though I was highlighting the most interesting ideas about habit-formation, most people asked questions about the Four Tendencies framework.

    Similarly, when I was touring for The Happiness Project, Happier at Home, and even Better Than Before, I noticed how energized people became during any discussion of outer order. Any time the subject came up, people laughed, talked among themselves, and were clearly interested. The fact is, for most people, outer order contributes to inner calm, and any time the subject arose, people wanted to hear more. So—I wanted to write a book about it. And now it's time to take it on the road!

    During previous book tours, for reasons that are mysterious to me, I’ve spent a lot of my hotel time watching HGTV shows. I do love a before-and-after, and while I never watch these programs at home, I couldn’t get enough of them on the road.

    But as I said in my “19 for 2019,” I’ve pledged that for this tour, I’m going to keep the TV turned off and read children’s and young-adult literature instead. I’ll get a lot of great reading time that way. If you have any book suggestions, send them my way. (I just discovered Peter Dickinson, wow.)

    Another thing I enjoy about book tours is that people often show me their heavily marked-up copies of my books, or their completed One-Sentence Journals. I love to see how someone has engaged with one of my books. I’m a big underliner and dog-earer, myself, so I get a big kick out of seeing my work get that treatment.

    This tour will be interesting because Outer Order, Inner Calm// is a narrowly focused book—outer order is a big subject, but it’s not as big as habits or happiness. I like tackling broad subjects (The Happiness Project, Better Than Before, Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill) and I also like to go more deeply into a specific area (Happier at Home, The Four Tendencies). This book goes deep, but it’s also a very quick read.

    My hope for Outer Order, Inner Calm and book tour is to create a “get psyched” experience. Sometimes I read a book or hear a talk that gets me so fired up, I can’t wait to get started myself.

    So far, the book does seem to be having that effect! For instance, the day after I finished recording my audio-book, my audio director emailed me a photo of all the junk she’d cleared out of her office. And the book’s publicist recently told me that she’d set aside a day to tackle some major clutter piles in her house.

    Even after spending all this time thinking about outer order, it still surprises me how much it matters—how much energy, focus, and cheer we get from creating outer order. It seems like a fairly trivial thing to worry about, but the effect certainly isn’t trivial--for most people.

    As I’ve said many (too many?) times, if you’re inclined to buy the book, a pre-order really helps me. Because of the way the book industry works these days, pre-orders give a big boost to a book, by creating buzz among the media, booksellers, and other readers.

    So, as a way to thank people who pre-order, I’ve created a pre-order bonus. It’s a 21-day clutter-clearing challenge, so you can get started creating order right away. Don’t worry—everything I suggest is concrete and very manageable. Remember, we can get a surprising amount done, if we do just a little bit each day.

    Gold star to everyone who has already pre-ordered. Periodically I get pre-order updates, and it’s so encouraging when that number has grown. Thank you.

    Added bonus: do you want a signed, personalized copy of my new book, Outer Order, Inner Calm?

    Pre-order now from famous indie bookstore The Strand, and you can have it shipped anywhere (yes, internationally!) or pick up in store once the book is out on March 5.

    I had such fun writing this book! I hope you find it useful as you find ways to make more room for happiness in your own life.

    Claim your preorder bonus here: outerorderinnercalmbook.com/bonus/.

     
  • Crystal Ellefsen 10:00:20 on 2018/12/07 Permalink
    Tags: , , , commitments, , , , , , , , , , ,   

    2018 Is Almost Over! Time for an “18 for 2018” Update. 


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    In episodes 149 and 152 of the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast, my sister Elizabeth and I talked about how we created a list of our "18 for 2018"—eighteen things we wanted to get done in 2018.

    I've been surprised by how enthusiastically people have embraced this approach to making changes and meeting aims for the new year. It's a really fun exercise.

    Well, we’re nearing the end of 2018, and I thought I’d review my progress so far.

    I have to say, I'm pleased with my list! I've crossed off every item.

    1. Start having weekly adventures with Eleanor.

    Eleanor and I have gone on many adventures in 2018, to the Cooper Hewitt (Eleanor's favorite museum), the Metropolitan Museum, the Frick, Color Factory exhibit, the Asia Society, and elsewhere. We also did a big adventure to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, though that doesn't really count as a "weekly" adventure.

    eleanor at museum 1 

    2. Fix my headset, runs out of battery really fast.

    3. Set up a home studio in this closet for my "Ask Gretchen Rubin Live" Facebook show.

    After talking to a lighting expert, I decided not to convert my closet, which he thought might seem claustrophobic to me and viewers, so instead, I bought a big standing light. He showed me how to adjust the light in the room for better video quality. Click here to view the schedule and join me on my next live show.

    4. Work with Barnaby so he’s better at coming when I call him.

    When I announced on the Happier podcast that I'd given up on this item, many listeners got in touch to encourage me to keep working on it—so I did! Now Barnaby does reliably come from anywhere in the apartment when I say "Barnaby, TOUCH."

    5. Clean out my massive tote bag collection. Each one is special.

    6. Take Eleanor to get her contacts checked.

    Although she (and I) resisted dealing with it, Eleanor is now very happy to be wearing contacts.

    7. Start making consistent progress on "Report to the Committee on Exploration." [should be crossed out//]

    We're in the very final stages of this project! My friend and I are creating this together, and our part is finished. All that's left is to receive the actual books. I'm so excited to see the final masterpiece. (If you want to read about a similar project called "Four to Llewelyn's Edge," I describe it here). We even have a gorgeous logo that was created by the brilliant Gabe Greenberg// for this imaginary inter-steller organization.

    8. Create a work calendar for the year.

    9. Finish My Color Pilgrimage and figure out what the heck to do with it; similarly, Outer Order, Inner Calm.

    Outer Order, Inner Calm is well on its way to publication on March 5, 2018. (If you feel inclined to pre-order, I really appreciate it! Pre-orders give such a boost to a book among booksellers, the public, and the press). Because of that book's publication, and also because The Happiness Project, Tenth Anniversary Edition came out November 2018, I decided to postpone worrying about My Color Pilgrimage until February 2019. I want things to calm down a bit.

    10. Tap more into my love of smell.

    I've been trying new perfumes more consistently and wearing my favorites more consistently. (One of my favorite times to wear perfume? When I'm going to bed.) I also signed up for two terrific perfume courses at the Pratt Institute. This weekend is my final class. Most important, I've been more aware of scent as I go through my ordinary day. It's easy to ignore smells, I find, if I don't make an effort to notice and appreciate them.

    11. Plan perfume field trip with a friend. [should be crossed out//]

    I did this twice and want to continue to do it. I've been to Perfumerie and Fueguia—I highly recommend both shops. I tried to go to Twisted Lily, which is near the Panoply studio where I recorded the Happier podcast, but it was closed. Eleanor and I went to an exhibit called "Design Beyond Vision" at the Cooper Hewitt—that was a great scent field trip. We visited a perfume museum when we were in Paris this summer. I'm always looking for a way to have a scent field trip.

    12. Get new phone for camera to improve the video quality of my weekly Facebook show, "Ask Gretchen Rubin Live".

    13. Figure out Instagram features and use it regularly.

    I still want to make better use of the many fun features of Instagram, but I am using it consistently. Eleanor has really enjoyed showing me how to use some of its quirkier aspects.

    14. Decide on a cause to give to as a family.

    We decided to give to Bottom Line, which helps low-income and first-generation-to-college students get to and through college; students get individual support to ensure they have the information and guidance they need to get into and graduate from college, from being a high-school senior all the way through to college graduation and career plan. I have a friend who works in philanthropy and is especially knowledgeable about educational organizations, and she recommended Bottom Line as an organization that does a really great job achieving its aims.

    15. Create the Four Tendencies workshop.

    As I expected, this item was one of the most demanding of all the items on the list. It took many months, lots of hard work, and the contributions of several terrific people. It's so exciting to have it finished! Ever since Better Than Before was published, people have asked for a Four Tendencies workshop. It's thrilling to be able to answer "yes" at last.

    16. Deal with the items we want to donate to Housing Works.

    In an extraordinary piece of luck, a Housing Works store has opened less than a block from my apartment. I've given so much to Housing Works (which, unlike many places, also accepts books). Working on Outer Order, Inner Calm has really helped me to stay focus on the satisfaction of donating items.

    17. Creating a list for listeners of the Try This at Homes and Happiness Hacks so far.

    At last! And just in time. You can download these two PDF resources here. I'll update these lists at the end of each year, and periodically after that.

    18. Get current with making physical photo albums with Shutterfly.

     

    What conclusions do I draw from my list?

    The biggest conclusion is that making an "18 for 2018" list is a great idea. I'm sure that I accomplished much more in 2018 than I would have otherwise. Putting items on the list, reviewing the list, talking it over with Elizabeth, seeing the list on the cork-board next to my desk, the desire to score a perfect 18 by December 31—all these mean that I'm much more likely to get these things done.

    Plus it's fun! I got a tremendous kick out of this challenge.

    I've also concluded that it's good to have a mix of items, with different levels of difficulty.

    Some span a long period of time and take collaboration with other people, like #9 and #15.

    Some are fairly easy, but need to be done regularly for me to see the benefit, like #1 or #16.

    Some were fairly easy to cross off the list, like #14.

    Some are time-consuming, but just once, or every once in a while, like #6.

    Some are fun, like #10 and #11.

    Some aren't fun, like #18.

    But they've all made my life happier in some way.

    One question: Given that I completed all items, should I have aimed higher? Was I too modest in my list-making? Robert Browning wrote, "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp,/Or what's a heaven for?" I can see an argument for both approaches.

    Are you finding it fun or burdensome to try to meet your New Year’s resolutions, observe your one-word theme for the year, or tackle your "18 for 2018?" 

    Want to share your list on Instagram? Use #18for2018 and #HappierPodcast and tag me: @gretchenrubin

     
  • Crystal Ellefsen 20:33:36 on 2018/11/13 Permalink
    Tags: , book cover, , , cover reveal, ,   

    Do you judge a book by Its cover? I do. Check out my new cover! 


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    I’m thrilled to reveal the cover of my next book: Outer Order, Inner Calm. Ta-da!

    I have to say, I love this cover.

    But it wasn’t an easy process.

    Danielle Deschenes is the super-talented art director who created it (she also created the cover of The Four Tendencies), and she must have done fifty or sixty covers before hitting on this one.

    It’s funny—we looked at cover after cover after cover, and some were good but not great.

    For instance, one proposed cover was gorgeous, but just too much like the cover of Marie Kondo’s blockbuster bestseller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

    And another cover was calm, but seemed…too calm.

    And it was all yellow. I liked the color, but I worried that so much yellow was harsh.

    In describing my own ideas for the cover, I’d said that I hoped it could:

    • incorporate the blue and yellow colors used in many of my other jackets and on my site
    • have a calm but energetic vibe, and not look like a book about meditation
    • make use of circles (I think that circles really draw the eye to a book jacket, see The Four Tendencies)
    • be eye-catching both on a bookstore shelf and in an online thumbnail

    We’d reviewed image after image, and time was passing, and at the very last moment, when we had to choose an image for the galley by the next day—even if had to be a temporary, placeholder image—she sent around a version very close to the final jacket. And everyone agreed: This is it.

    Take a look at what a masterful job Danielle Deschenes did at incorporating all of the suggested elements!

    Outer Order Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin

    And more than that, she suggested nature.

    This, to me, was the brilliant stroke. I love this suggestion of the sky, moon, and sunrise. This fits the book perfectly, too. The book’s epigraph is from Alexander Pope: “Order is Heaven’s first law,” and the theme of nature runs throughout.

    For instance, I quote one of my favorite passages from Jules Renard:

    "Oh! Old rubbish! Old letters, old clothes, old objects that one does not want to throw away. How well nature has understood that, every year, she must change her leaves, her flowers, her fruit and her vegetables, and make manure out of the mementos of her year!" – The Journal of Jules Renard

    And, given my current obsession with color, I love the way she uses color to suggest time unfolding and the serene energy of the natural world.

    I’m thrilled with it.

    Please note: If you don’t like the jacket, don’t tell me! As they say, this ship has sailed.

    At the same time that we were racing to finalize the jacket, I was working with editors and copy-editors to finish the text of the book.

    If you flip through the book, you’ll see that it’s written mostly in short, separate bursts of ideas and suggestions. At the beginning of each of the seven sections, I include a short essay, but for the most part, it’s a collection of quick, concrete tips. It’s meant to be something you read fast to get yourself psyched up to clear clutter.

    I was inspired to try this approach by a book that I’ve always admired: Michael Pollan’s Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual. I love the way Pollan presents his ideas in pithy, witty statements, and how he’s able to convey big ideas in such an accessible, fun, compulsively readable way. I’d always wanted to write a book in that style, and finally, I just couldn’t resist.

    As always happens, after I started writing about my own ideas, the form evolved to suit my voice and my subject. But if you look at Food Rules, you’ll definitely see the family resemblance.

    Also like Food Rules, the book Outer Order, Inner Calm includes illustrations, which I think really enliven it. In my previous book Happier at Home, I included photos of objects around my apartment, and that was a lot of fun. I’ve often thought I’d like to include more visual elements to my books.

    But I’ve never worked with an illustrator before, and it was interesting to see what Jon McNaught chose to illustrate, and how. I didn’t know I had strong views about illustrations, but it turns out…I do! I loved most of his illustrations, but there were a few things that I asked to change.

    Outer Order, Inner Calm started out as a “hooky book”—a book that I worked on when I wanted a break from working on The Four Tendencies. I’d sneak off (in my own mind) and work on the inexhaustibly absorbing subject of outer order. I had so much fun writing this book, and it’s exciting that it’s about to hit the shelves in March.

    If you’re inclined to buy the book, it really helps me if you pre-order. I have a pre-order bonus that’s not quite ready to launch, so if you do pre-order, gold star to you, and just hang onto your receipt or confirmation number, and stay tuned for pre-order bonus details. Pre-orders give a big boost to a book among booksellers, the media, and other readers.

    Want to support me and your local bookstore at the same time--and get a freebie for yourself, too? Pre-order Outer Order, Inner Calm at your local bookstore, and snap a photo of your physical receipt and save it to get the pre-order bonus when it's ready.

    Do you judge books by their covers? As a devoted reader, I think I should be able to say “no,” but I have to admit that the answer is “yes.” Though usually, it’s a matter of being intrigued by a great cover rather than being turned off by a bad cover.

    For a reveal of the illustrations and book tour details for March 2019, stay tuned!

     
  • Crystal Ellefsen 09:00:58 on 2018/11/01 Permalink
    Tags: , , ,   

    30 Tips I Use to Make Myself Happier, Right Now. 


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    My book The Happiness Project came out almost ten years ago—wow, that’s hard to believe.

    One of the most important things I learned as part of doing that project, and an idea that I put into practice in my own life all the time, is that I can influence my happiness. Yes of course, sometimes terrible circumstances make it impossible for me to be happy, but it’s almost always possible to be happier, and often with just a few small steps, I can give myself a big boost.

    I try to recognize the fact that I’m feeling blue (oddly, this is often easier said than done) and take action to lift my spirits.

    Here are 30 things I do to make myself happier when I need an immediate boost:

    1. Do ten jumping jacks.
    2. Go outside and look at the sky.
    3. Pet my dog Barnaby. Then…
    4. Text a photo of Barnaby to my family.
    5. Re-read a few chapters of a children’s or YA book in a series I love: Graceling, Harry Potter, Narnia, Melendy Quartet, etc.
    6. Enjoy a beautiful smell.
    7. Do a small good deed for someone else.
    8. Clear some clutter (I can always find some).
    9. Look for a beautiful color in my surroundings.
    10. Call my sister Elizabeth.
    11. Take a minute to be grateful for some basic aspect of my life: elevators, space heaters, Wikipedia.
    12. Send a family update (to learn more about “update,” listen to episode 2 of the Happier podcast).
    13. Clean off my desk.
    14. Copy some quotations into my giant trove of quotations.
    15. Look at my TimeHop app.
    16. Make sure I’m not cold, hot, thirsty, hungry, need to go to the bathroom, or experiencing mild discomfort: in other words, treat myself like a toddler.
    17. Re-copy my to-do list, so it’s fresh and clean.
    18. Go to the library.
    19. Watch an episode of The Office (American version).
    20. Make the positive argument.
    21. Randomly read a few pages of Virginia Woolf’s A Writer’s Diary.
    22. Make myself a cup of coffee.
    23. Make a plan for some future fun: plan an outing, make a date with a friend, add a book to my library list.
    24. Re-read Winston Churchill’s eulogy for Neville Chamberlain.
    25. Tackle some small, nagging task that’s been weighing on my mind.
    26. Move with more energy, put a smile on my face. When I act happier, I’ll feel happier.
    27. Plan to go to bed early. I always feel better in the morning.
    28. Hug a member of my family (whoever’s available).
    29. Allow myself to do some quick research on a subject that has been fascinating me, but is unrelated to my work.
    30. Listen to Nina Simone sing “Feeling Good.”

    In my books—The Happiness Project, Happier at Home, Better Than Before, The Four TendenciesOuter Order Inner Calm, and My Color PilgrimageI write about why these small actions do make me happier.

    It’s great to have a long menu of choices to consult. Of course, everyone’s list is a bit different. My husband’s list would include “Do a crossword puzzle,” for instance.

    What’s on your list?

     
  • Crystal Ellefsen 10:00:22 on 2018/09/15 Permalink
    Tags: , , book recommendations,   

    15 Books That Not Everyone Will Love 


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    Here is a round-up of some of my favorite eccentric picks.

    Now, looking at this list, you might ask, "Well, just how eccentric is a book like American Gods? It's a gigantically popular, best-selling book." By "eccentric," I mean that these books aren't for everyone. They suit my idiosyncratic tastes. Not everyone likes books that are fantasy-set-in-the-real-world. But I love it!

    People often ask me to describe the books I recommend. I don't like to do that, because weirdly I often find that when someone describes a book to me, I want to read it less. The best books often sound terrible. So I like to say, "Take it from me, this is a great book."

     

    1. American Gods by Neil Gaiman

    Buy from IndieBound; Barnes & Noble; Amazon

    2. Revenge of the Lawn by Richard Brautigan

    Buy from IndieBound; Barnes & Noble; Amazon

    3. Orlando: A Biography by Virginia Woolf

    Buy from IndieBound; Barnes & Noble; Amazon

    4. A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction by Christopher Alexander

    Buy from IndieBound; Barnes & Noble; Amazon

    5. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud

    Buy from IndieBound; Barnes & Noble; Amazon

    6. J. M. Barrie and the Lost Boys: the Real Story Behind Peter Pan by Andrew Birkin

    Buy from IndieBound; Barnes & Noble; Amazon

    7. Crowds and Power by Elias Canetti

    Buy from IndieBound; Barnes & Noble; Amazon

    8. Truth and Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett

    Buy from IndieBound; Barnes & Noble; Amazon

    9. The Golden Bough: a Study in Magic and Religion by James Frazer

    Buy from WORD; Barnes & Noble; Amazon

    10. Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar

    Buy from WORD; Barnes & Noble; Amazon

    11. The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis

    Buy from WORD; Barnes & Noble; Amazon

    12. Flaubert’s Parrot by Julian Barnes

    Buy from WORD; Barnes & Noble; Amazon

    13. The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein

    Buy from WORD; Barnes & Noble; Amazon

    14. Forty-one False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers by Janet Malcolm

    Buy from WORD; Barnes & Noble; Amazon

    15. The Official Preppy Handbook edited by Lisa Birnbach

    Buy from Barnes & Noble; Amazon

     
  • Crystal Ellefsen 12:00:30 on 2018/07/10 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , young adult books   

    A Selection of 9 Young-Adult Novels That I Read Over and Over 


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    I love to read. And I love to read children's and young-adult novels. In fact, I'm in three (yes, three) book groups where we read only "kidlit."

    And I love to re-read. I'm sure I've read some of my favorite books at least twenty times.

    In case you're interested in reading some YA novels, here is a list of some of my favorites. I've read all of them at least twice, and some of them many more times than that.

    Now, I must add, this is a very haphazard list of my favorites. There are so many books that I've read and re-read. I wanted this list to include some very well-known books, and also some that are less well-known, for people who are looking for something they may not have known about.

    1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

    Buy from IndieBound; Barnes & Noble; Amazon

    2. What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell

    Buy from IndieBoundBarnes & Noble; Amazon

    3. Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones

    Buy from WORDBarnes & Noble; Amazon

    4.  Jane-Emily by Patricia Clapp

    Buy from WORD; Barnes & Noble; Amazon

    5. Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron

    Buy from WORD; Barnes & Noble; Amazon

    6. Graceling by Kristin Cashore

    Buy from WORD; Barnes & Noble; Amazon.

    7. The Greengage Summer by Rumer Godden

    Buy from Barnes & Noble; Amazon

    8. Up a Road Slowly by Irene Hunt

    (Wow, I really dislike the new cover; ignore that.)

    Buy from WORD; Barnes & Noble; Amazon

    9. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

    Buy from WORD; Barnes & Noble; Amazon

    What's the difference, you may ask, among a work of children's literature, a work of adult literature, and a work of young-adult literature? In my three children's literature reading groups, this question often comes up. And there's no clear answer.

    And the sorting of books changes over time. Catcher in the Rye and Jane Eyre are now often shelved with young-adult literature, though they started out as novels for adults.

    What books have you read over and over?

     
  • Crystal Ellefsen 20:20:52 on 2018/04/22 Permalink
    Tags: , reader stories, testimonials,   

    Do You Want to Share the Story of Your Happiness Project? I’d Love to Hear About It. 


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    I love any before-and-after story. Whether it’s in a book, magazine, TV show, movie, play, or wherever I might come across it, once I hear the “before,” I’m hooked; I have to see the “after.”

    In fact, the working title of my book Better Than Before was Before and After.

    Because of my love for these stories of transformation, it has been thrilling for me to hear reports about how my book The Happiness Project has helped people go from before to after. Ever since The Happiness Project hit the shelves, people have told me stories of how they’ve done their own happiness projects, in their own ways, and how these projects have changed their lives.

    If this has been your experience, I’d love to hear about it – whether you’ve been in touch with me before, or whether this is your first time telling me about your before-and-after.

    The tenth anniversary of The Happiness Project is coming up (how is it possible ten years have passed?), and I’m working on material for the Tenth Anniversary edition. I’d love to include some stories from readers or listeners about their own happiness projects. These stories might be included in the book, discussed on the Happier podcast, or featured on my site.

    It’s fascinating to hear what people tried, what worked for them, and with what result. We can all learn from each other.

    So if you have a story to share, please let me know! Email me and tell me about your happiness project.

    If you have already written your story on your blog or somewhere else, feel free to leave a link in the comments.

    (Featured image photo credit: Kennedy from Elanest.com)

     
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