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  • feedwordpress 11:00:28 on 2018/09/25 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , Matt Klam, novels, , , Who is Rich?   

    A Novel Depicts an Obliger in Deep Obliger-Rebellion (He Has an Affair and Spends All His Money) 

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    On a recent trip to Texas, I finished Matt Klam’s novel Who Is Rich? This novel came out in 2017 and got a lot of buzz.

    It’s about the once-famous cartoonist Rich who has stalled out in his career. Every summer, he teaches a week-long class at an arts conference in a beachside town. He’s married with two children, and has also been carrying on an affair for a year with Amy, another teacher at the conference. The novel focuses on what happens during the week of the arts conference when Rich and Amy are there together again.

    I enjoyed the book very much, and I was especially interested to see the Four Tendencies in action. I’m always on the hunt for the Tendencies! This story involves two Obligers: Rich and Amy. Rich’s wife Robin may also be an Obliger, but we don’t see enough of her to judge.

    Rich is definitely an Obliger. He’s having Obliger thoughts and facing Obliger challenges; he shows Obliger strengths and weaknesses. He’s spinning out in major Obliger-rebellion.

    I won’t give away everything that happens, but his Tendency shows most clearly in a few places.

    For instance, he reflects, "People make you do things you don’t want to do." Now of course, all Tendencies have to do things they don’t want to do; this is true for everyone. But it has particular bite for Obligers.

    Rich’s wife Robin is always telling him they need more money; he doesn’t earn enough; they must scrimp and cut back. In an act of deep Obliger-rebellion, Rich buys Robin a $3,000 bracelet, a dollar amount that he knows will wipe out the checking account of their cash-strapped family. He thinks: "From this distance, Robin couldn’t do anything to stop me. I’d worked hard to earn these precious funds to buy a gift she didn’t want or need, to signify my love."

    Then, in further Obliger-rebellion, Rich doesn’t give the bracelet to his wife, but instead gives it to his lover Amy—who, by the way, is a multi-multi-millionaire. (For instance, to play in a softball game, she wears a pair of diamond earrings worth more than $220,000).

    When Obligers enter a state of Obliger-rebellion, they often feel that they’re acting out of character. They’re puzzled by their own actions. As he buys the bracelet, Rich thinks, "I attempted to interpret my irrational action. Had I ever done this kind of thing before? No. A life in the arts requires vigilance and restraint. Was my behavior out of character? Yes, technically, and also terrifyingly, although it was possible that this was merely the culmination of a period of interior deadness and anger, that something had been building for months, or years, that the recent and ongoing stresses had pushed me over the edge."

    Obliger-rebellion is mysterious and important. It blows up a situation—which can be beneficial, absolutely, but can also be destructive.

    Many people have emailed me with examples of the Four Tendencies they’ve spotted in books, TV, and movies. Keep them coming!

  • feedwordpress 10:00:12 on 2018/02/10 Permalink
    Tags: , , novels, ,   

    My 5 Favorite Novels About Relationships 

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    Given that Valentine’s Day is approaching, if you’d like to read a novel about relationships, here are some of my favorites.

    Never fear, each one stands on its own, and is well worth reading even if you’re not particularly interested in the subject. If you’re looking for a compelling, page-turning novel, choose any one of these:

    1. Crossing to Safety, Wallace Stegner – A beautiful account of love as it unfolds over the years. Fun fact: Justice O’Connor told me this is her favorite book.
    2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen – of course! One of the most purely enjoyable novels of all time, with a great hero and heroine.
    3. Happy All the Time, Laurie Colwin – a happy story of new love, with all its delights and anxieties.
    4. The Enchanted April, Elizabeth von Arnim – four very different women, strangers to each other, rent a castle in Italy for a month, which has unexpected consequences in their lives.
    5. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson – love comes to a minister, very late in his life. One of my favorite novels, ever.

    What’s your favorite book about relationships?

  • feedwordpress 23:43:03 on 2017/02/03 Permalink
    Tags: , , novels, , , , , , , ,   

    How Agatha Christie’s “Kittens” Game Helped Prepare Her to Write Her Famous Mysteries. 

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    When people ask about career change, or also, how to get more fun in life, I often find myself telling people: “What you did as a child is probably something you’d enjoy as an adult, for work and for play.”

    I’m fascinated by how a person’s play as a child can prefigure their adult life. For instance, a friend who played with her three dollhouses well into her teens is now an interior designer.

    I was reminded of this when I read Agatha Christie’s fascinating Autobiography.

    In recalling her childhood days, Christie noted of her nurse that “Perhaps because she was an old woman and rheumatic, my games were played around and beside, but not wholly with, Nursie. They were all make-believe.”

    Christie would sit near her nurse,  and play games with “The Kittens.”

    “Nursie was too wise ever to talk to me about them, or to try to join in the murmurings of conversation going on round her feet. Probably she was thankful that I could amuse myself so easily.”

    Many years later, while Christie was recovering from the flu, her mother suggested that she might try writing a story.

    Christie got the idea to write a detective story when she was working in a medical dispensary. She started to think about how the murder would be committed, and by whom, and why.

    As the story started to take shape, she began to form her characters, and then, she recounts, “I took all three [characters] off the tram with me to work upon–and walked up Barton Road muttering to myself just as in the days of the Kittens.”

    Much later in the book, reflecting on the process of writing, she says, “Oh well, I suppose it is just the same as when I was four years old talking to the kittens. I am still talking to the kittens, in fact.”

    For me, this story has three lessons:

    1. We never know what’s a “waste of time,” for ourselves or for other people.
    2. What we did as a child is probably something we’d enjoy as an adult, for work or play.
    3. People do best what comes naturally.

    Do you agree with some or all of these conclusions?

    The post How Agatha Christie’s “Kittens” Game Helped Prepare Her to Write Her Famous Mysteries. appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

  • feedwordpress 15:32:54 on 2016/10/14 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , novels, , , science fiction, , , ,   

    “If I Have a Regular Daily Routine and I Stick to It, I Can Be Much More Productive.” 

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    Interview: Sharon Shinn.

    I love to read, all different kinds of books. One of my friends shares my taste for fantasy and science-fiction, and we swap books back and forth.

    A few months ago, she gave me a copy of Sharon Shinn’s Troubled Waters, and I was hooked. I’ve been working my way through all of Sharon Shinn’s books, and she’s written a lot.

    If you want to try these novels, I’d start with the “Elemental Blessings” books — I was thrilled recently to get an early copy of Unquiet Land, her latest addition to that set.

    Side note: In these “Elemental Blessings” books, the forty-three possible “elemental blessings” play a large role in the development of the characters and in the culture of that world. These blessings cover many aspects: joy, intelligence, beauty, creativity, love, travel, surprise, swiftness, power, triumph, luck, health, and so on.

    If you know these books, you may be interested to know that Shinn very kindly drew my blessings — which are just about the least glamorous blessings imaginable! Certainty, endurance, and patience. Sheesh. But they’re surely wonderful blessings for a writer, for whom it’s so important to have an idea and stay sitting in the chair long enough to hammer it out.

    Because I’m such a fan of Sharon Shinn’s books, I wanted to ask her about habits, creativity, happiness, and all the rest.

    Gretchen: Which habits are most important to you? (for health, for creativity, for productivity, for leisure, etc.)

    Sharon: Like everyone else on the planet, I have too much to do and not enough time to get it all done. I find that if I have a regular daily routine and I stick to it, I can be so much more productive than if I just make a list and hope for the best.

    I basically have two jobs—I’m an editor for a bi-monthly association magazine, and I write science fiction/fantasy novels—and I do both of these jobs from home. However, the magazine is essentially my full-time job, so it gets more of my time. One of the reasons I stick pretty closely to a routine is so that I can find enough hours to work on my books. On weekdays, I spend from roughly 9 to 5 working on the magazine, then I take a 30-minute break to walk or exercise, then I spend a couple of hours in the evening writing fiction.

    I can’t manage that every day, of course. I take yoga classes one night a week, and sometimes I go out with friends instead, and other obligations often come up. But my goal is usually to have at least three nights a week where I can work on my books. I’m a little more free-form about my weekends, but I try to find time for at least one writing session on Saturday or Sunday as well.

    To be fair, I can’t tell if that level of discipline can be called habitual or the clockwork doggedness of a slightly obsessive personality. I tend to get restless and cranky if there’s something I’m supposed to be doing and I haven’t had the chance to do it. And I’m not very good at relaxing. Although I always promise myself I’ll lie around and do nothing once I’ve finished all my tasks, somehow I always find another task to do.

    Take a recent Sunday afternoon when I had no plans or obligations. I was thrilled with the idea of just stretching out on the sofa and reading a book. Instead, I made a pie.

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

    I spend about 20 minutes every weekday morning doing stretching exercises. A number of years ago, I threw out my back, and it was agony—I couldn’t stand for more than a few minutes, I couldn’t sit at all, I could simply lie down and be miserable. It took weeks of physical therapy before I started improving, and I never want to be in that much pain again. So I do the exercises I was taught back then, and I’ve supplemented them with stretches I’ve learned in yoga and from a friend who’s a physical therapist.

    The desire to avoid pain is a great motivator, but I don’t think I would be as faithful about the exercises if I didn’t make them a part of my morning routine. In fact, since they’re not part of my weekend routine, I rarely get around to them on Saturday and Sunday. So I know that for me, making the exercises habitual is the only way to keep my body healthy.

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

    Travel! When I’m on a trip, I don’t do my morning stretches, I don’t meet my evening writing goals, it’s like I’ve given myself a pass because I’m in a strange environment. On the one hand, that plays havoc with my productivity (and sometimes bothers my back). On the other hand, sometimes I worry that I’m too much a creature of routine, so I think it might be good for me to slack off now and then so I don’t become a total automaton.

    But the minute I step into my own house, I’m back on track.

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

    I’m definitely an Upholder. I keep promises to friends and I honor my private resolutions. Occasionally this makes me a less-than-ideal guest, because sometimes I hold off on RSVP’ing until I’m absolutely certain I’m going to have the time and inclination to attend an event.

    Being an Upholder can also make it hard for me to drop out of ongoing commitments that are no longer fulfilling or that have become too time-consuming. I sort of have to argue with myself to convince my brain that it’s OK to stop going to community choir practice, for instance. This is also the reason I don’t issue ultimatums to myself unless I’m really, really, really certain I want to end a current behavior. See the next answer!

    Do you have any particular bad habits that you wish you could break?

    Yes! Every night after I get settled in bed, I pick up the iPhone and start playing word games, usually Scrabble or Spelltower. I know it’s bad for me. I know the blue light will sparkle across my retinas and make me think it’s time to start waking up. I know that I’ll get so engrossed in the game that I won’t just play for a reasonable ten minutes, I’ll play for half an hour…or an hour. But at the time, that little break in the day feels like a gift to myself, and I look forward to it.

    What I need to do is devise a time limit or cutoff time—No games after 11 p.m.!—and stick to it. But I’ve hesitated to do that because I know I’ll honor the restriction, and I’m not quite ready for that…

    What’s a simple habit that consistently makes you happier?

    I have a piano in the living room, but I rarely sit down and play. For a long time I felt guilt whenever I walked past it and realized I’d let another day go by without touching the keyboard except to dust it when I was cleaning the house. So a couple of years ago I decided that, any time I dusted it, I would also sit down and play it, if only for ten minutes. Since I usually clean the house once a week, this means I’m playing on a regular basis. I still wish I could find an hour a week, but it makes me happier to have these short interludes at the piano.

    Oh, and I eat chocolate every single day. Usually in the afternoon. Is that a habit or an indulgence? At any rate, it makes me happy.

    Have you ever read any of Sharon Shin’s books?  Which one is your favorite?

    The post “If I Have a Regular Daily Routine and I Stick to It, I Can Be Much More Productive.” appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

  • feedwordpress 20:31:51 on 2016/09/23 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , novels, , strategy of accountability, ,   

    An Interesting Accountability Solution from a Fantasy Novel: the Booth of Promises. 

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    I love fantasy fiction, and I recently discovered the work of Sharon Shinn. I’ve been reading my way through all her novels.

    I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of her novel Unquiet Land, which is the new addition to her Elemental Blessings novels.

    These days, everything reminds me of my Four Tendencies framework, and Unquiet Land was no exception. (Don’t know about the Four Tendencies? Find out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel here.)

    One key aspect of the Four Tendencies is understanding the role that accountability can play. For Obligers, outer accountability is crucial; for other Tendencies, it may not be needed, and for some people, may even be counter-productive.

    But because Obliger is the largest Tendency, accountability is a very important strategy. And Unquiet Land features a great accountability solution.

    In the country of Welce, people can go to the Plaza of Men to visit the booth of promises. “Here patrons could swear, before witnesses and for all eternity, that they would accomplish specific tasks, and their vows were recorded in books kept by the booth owner and his family.” The promissor can choose whether to make a public recording that anyone can ask to read, or a private one that’s not released until he or she gives permission or dies.

    In beautiful script, the promise is written in a record book and on a heavy sheet of paper. Both copies are signed and can be sealed, and one copy is given to the promissor.

    An interesting method of holding yourself to a promise! Using the strategies that I outline in Better Than Before, a person commits in writing (Strategy of Clarity), decides whether that promise is more powerful when public or private (Strategy of Distinctions), and is creating accountability (Strategy of Accountability). Plus, the promise is made as part of a formal, elaborate ritual, which gives it extra strength (Strategy of First Steps).

    I wish we had something like a booth of promises — but of course, we probably do. I’m sure there’s an app that does the same thing!

    If you want to read the first book in the Elemental Blessings set, get Troubled Waters. So good.

    Do you think that you’d be better able to stick to a good habit if you made a promise in a booth of promises?

    The post An Interesting Accountability Solution from a Fantasy Novel: the Booth of Promises. appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

  • feedwordpress 20:00:45 on 2015/12/01 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , novels, ,   

    Revealed! Book Club Choices for December. Happy Reading! 

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    First, a personal announcement — the paperback of Better Than Before hits the shelves on December 15. Always a very exciting time for a writer.

    If there’s a person in your life who is trying to change a habit, this could be a good holiday gift! (Couldn’t resist the plug.)

    Okay, enough self-promotion. Now, for the recommendations. Because nothing boosts happiness more than a great book, each month, I suggest:

    · one outstanding book about happiness or habits

    · one outstanding work of children’s or young-adult literature–I have a crazy passion for kidlit

    · one eccentric pick–a widely admired and excellent book that I love, yes, but one that may not appeal to everyone

    Shop at IndieBound, BN.com, or Amazon (I’m an affiliate), or your favorite local bookstore. Or my favorite, visit the library! Drumroll…


    A book about happiness, good habits, or human nature:

    Walden by Henry David Thoreau

    Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.


    An outstanding children’s book:

    The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

    Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.


    An eccentric pick:

    Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

    Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.


    Some readers have said that they wished that I’d describe and make the case for my book choices, instead of just providing links. I’ve noticed that many times, when someone describes a book to me, I want to read it less. And often, weirdly, the better a book is, the worse it sounds.

    Nevertheless, because so many readers have requested it, I’ve decided to give a bit more context for these choices in the book-club newsletter. So if you’d like to know more about why I made these selections, check there. To get that free monthly book-club newsletter, and to make sure you don’ t miss any recommendations, sign up here.

    In any event, I assure you that, for all the books I choose, I love them; I’ve read them at least twice if not many times; and they’re widely admired.

    If you read last month’s recommendations…what did you think?

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