SPS 149: The 4 Tendencies of Bestselling Authors & Writing Great Books with Gretchen Rubin

Posted on Mar 23, 2022

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Gretchen Rubin is here! She is the author of The Happiness Project, Happier at Home, Better Than Before, The Four Tendencies, Outer Order, Inner Calm and more. She is the host of the award-winning Happier podcast, and she also has an accompanying Happier app. She is a leading voice in the self-help memoir space, or as she calls her work, being self-helpful. Gretchen began her career as a lawyer clerking for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. As we learn, in this episode, while walking through the streets of DC, she realized that she wanted to be a writer. 

We get to follow the evolution of her writing career, and she had done all of the preparation and everything required to be a writer before she discovered this was her calling. We also learn about the creative structure and what makes things clear and digestible for the reader. She shares how her first biographies were and exploration into the human experience featuring big names and notable characters. We talk about the actual writing, the importance of reading, and how not all of your research and notes need to be included in your work.

One of her biggest books was The Four Tendencies, a book about understanding personality profiles to make your life and the lives of those around you better. Gretchen shares the personality categories that go into The Four Tendencies Framework and a fun quiz that anyone can take to find their category. We talk about relaunching and promoting your work and the importance of doing everything you can to get your valuable work noticed. This is a super exciting interview with a lot of insight on writing and knowing what works for you!

Show Highlights

  • [01:43] When Gretchen wrote her first book, she was a lawyer working for Sandra Day O’Connor. This is when she wrote Power Money Fame Sex. She’s been a writer ever since.
  • [04:09] She did everything to prepare to be a writer. She was finally able to carve out a place in creative nonfiction. She now has so many ideas for projects that she wants to work on.
  • [05:31] It’s important for writers to read a lot of different stuff, because we don’t always know where our ideas are going to come from.
  • [07:28] Gretchen wrote biographies because they are about human nature. Writing about JFK or Winston Churchill is sharing gigantic examples of these people’s lives. 
  • [10:10] In her early work, Gretchen experimented with creative structure. Now she tries to keep things simple and structured in a way that will serve the reader best.
  • [14:01] When writing you can’t include all of your notes, especially if you do extensive research. You need to be willing to cut your darling.
  • [15:16] Studying fiction can improve non-fiction writing. Gretchen copies passages that she truly loves. 
  • [17:43] She wrote novels of ideas that she never published as a book. Except Profane Waste
  • [18:39] Consistent work. The Four Tendencies Framework divides people into four categories including the upholder, obliger, questioner, and rebel. These are based on how we respond to expectations. 
  • [23:20] People love quizzes. It’s a great way to build a list. People get their results, and then they want to learn more. 
  • [29:08] Gretchen launched the The Happiness Project, Tenth Anniversary Edition: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun, to refresh the project and promote it to new readers.
  • [30:09] Lessons learned. Are we doing enough to promote our creations? People love updated things. 
  • [32:09] Know yourself and think about what works for you. Don’t let people tell you what the best way is. What worked for you in the past? Actions not outcomes.

Links and Resources

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