Today’s guest post is by Sarah Moore. Sarah Moore is a diehard book nerd with an insatiable lust for literature and a library that’s about to eat her house. She chronicles her bookish journey on Instagram @newleafwriter and blogs at New Leaf Book Nook, where she write about books, social media and literary crafts.
I love Gretchen Rubin, author of “self-helpful” books The Happiness Project, Happier at Home and Better Than Before. I love, love, love Gretchen Rubin. If Gretchen Rubin would leave her family and come live with me, I would absolutely do it. But only if she brought all her books.
See, Gretchen (“Can I call you Gretchen? What about Gretch?”) is like us: She absolutely adores a good read. In fact, reading is a pretty big part of her job description, so girl knows a thing or two about how to manage a book. In following her journey over the last several years, I’ve learned lots of lovely literary lessons from her that I thought I’d share with you today.
1. Only Buy Books You Really Love
Okay, so I’m still working on this one. I routinely buy books I don’t need and might not read any time soon, just because I love their covers and flipping through their crisp new or well-worn covers. But Gretchen has taught me that it’s worth it to avoid buying those intermediary purchases so I can afford to buy more expensive books I truly want.
Her approach? She checks books out from the library first, then decides whether or not she wants to read them again. If she does, and truly wants them as part of her personal collection, then she buys the book. Oh, to have that sort of discipline. Maybe someday.
2. Use the Library to the Fullest
Again, good ol’ Gretch just loves that library. She works there, finds great reads and uses it as an escape from her apartment. As someone who also works from home reading and writing all day long, I find the library a great addition to my life.
3. Make Your Shelves Shrines
This is my absolute FAVORITE lesson from GR, as I sometimes call her. In Happier at Home, she decided to make shrines around her house to the things she really loves. She has a gallery of photos for her children she only brings out on Halloween, and another for Valentine’s day. She has a tray of perfumes and scents. She has a game shelf. And of course, the books.
I decided to follow her good example a few years ago, and started arranging my bookshelves in the most pleasing possible way, with little objects and collections of bookmarks to accompany them. Lo and behold, my shelves were an instant hit on Instagram … turns out that was a literary lesson I reaped in spades.
4. Record Life Lessons
Books are full of little treasures, like quotes and song snippets and just beautiful phrases. If you read them and move on, though, you lose their beauty and it’s sometimes impossible to find what you need again. Instead, write them down! While Gretch records her favorite thoughts in Word documents that she indexes and gets made into books (overachiever), I just dog-ear pages and go back to them later.
5. Make Your Own Books
The truth is, anything that involves multiple pages and a cover with words in between can be a book. Think about it: You probably have journals that have taken on the significance of a real book, little compendiums of precious thoughts that you want to keep forever.
Gretchen taught me to chronicle my family journey photographically using Shutterfly. Books. She taught me to write down my favorite quotes and thoughts. Book. She taught me to cut out things I find beautiful and write my thoughts around them … and thus was my art journal born. Book? Book. Anything can be a book, and some of the most precious members of my library are the books I’ve made myself.Check out these '10 Literary Lessons from @GretchenRubin' from Sarah at New Leaf Book Nook! Click To Tweet
6. Be Faithful to Auto-Buy Authors
Gretchen is very loyal to certain authors, such as Samuel Johnson. Sure, he’s dead, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t read anything he’s ever written. He’s totally an auto-buy author, and I was impressed by that before I even understood what it meant. For me, Stephanie Meyer is an auto-buy author. So is Barbara Kingsolver. Find the writers you love, and devote yourself to them.
7. Treat Magazines Like Literature
I’m not a huge magazine lover, but Gretch finds a lot of worth in these lesser books. She is constantly whipping out facts and statistics, anecdotes and jokes from magazines, which she tears through just as quickly as she does her books. I’ve learned from her to treat magazines as literature, containing shorter stories, to be sure, but stories nonetheless.
8. Build Your Life on the Foundation of Your Own Nature
One of Gretchen’s splendid truths is that you can only build a happy life on the foundation of your own nature. If you try to base your decisions off of what might work for someone else, you’ll just end up unhappy. The same is true in the book world. I sometimes get sad seeing others who manage to read for a living, or watching high school students devour 30 books in a month while I scrape 8-10.
Oh well, though. My nature isn’t to read all the time; I love to write and spend time with my kids. My nature involves a little less bookish success right now, and that’s okay.
9. Choose a Spiritual Master
While writing The Happiness Project, Gretchen noticed that many happy people have a spiritual master, someone who informs their morality, their approach to the world and even their life choices. After some search, she found St. Thérèse of Lisieux, a sweet and quiet little nun who died in her twenties, but did so with such grace that she was sainted and is remembered today.
I don’t know that I have a spiritual master, but I do hold a few authors in almost god-like regard. I’m thinking Barbara Kingsolver, JK Rowling and Richard Dawkins. I return to these authors again and again for their words of wisdom, and it comforts me that they’ll always be there.
10. You Better Freaking Enjoy It
If Gretchen has done anything for me, it’s to prove that nothing is worth doing if you can’t do it happily. That doesn’t mean you have to be delighted every moment of the day. Sometimes even things you really love doing feel like a chore, and that’s okay.
Examples, you say? Sure. I don’t always love taking Instagram pics, or writing blog posts, or updating my Twitter feed. I do it because it makes me happy in the long run, and I enjoy it as a whole. My choices make a huge impact on my life happiness-wise, so even if I don’t always love every moment, I love the whole.
Books are the best teachers, plain and simple. But I think we can agree Gretchen Rubin is a pretty good one too.