Creative Writing 101

What do you think of these rules?

The Disappearance of This New York Icon Made Me a Little Sad

My mother is visiting from Kansas City, and she visited the museum, so I just saw her wearing the newfangled admissions sticker. “It’s just not the same,” I told her.

Quiz: Are You a Finisher or an Opener?

A thoughtful reader and fellow lover of taxonomies, Dianne Volek, suggested a new system of categories. Let’s call the two types of people “Finishers and Openers.”

A Post That I Simply Can’t Resist Writing

For the most part, I make a big effort not to tell “cute things my daughter said” stories to anyone but the grandparents.

Want to Snack Less and Concentrate Better? Try This!

Okay, humor me here. This sounds silly, but it really works. Try the resolution to “Chew on a plastic stirrer.“

I Love Lists

“I believe, then, that the characteristic or moral elements of Gothic are the following, placed in the order of their importance...

Do You Agree That These “Patterns” Make Places Beautiful?

This book doesn’t need to be read from front to back; I often just flip through it and study the parts that resonate with me—and look at the pictures, too, of course.

How Will You Make Your Own Summer?

The end of the school year is also significant to me because I still measure my own life by the school calendar.

Consider These Questions Posed to You Upholders

I’m still obsessed with the four categories I’ve developed–which, for lack of a better name, I’m currently calling the Four Rubin Tendencies.

Do You Want the Tenth Bite of Ice Cream More Than the First?

In case you haven’t been breathlessly following this line of argument: In a nutshell, when facing a temptation, abstainers do better if they abstain altogether, while moderators do better if they indulge a little bit, or from time to time.

Who Are Your Patron Saints? Here Are Mine

People often ask me, “Come on, what’s the key to happiness? If you had to pick one thing, what would you say?”

Do You Embrace These Contradictions?

As I’ve worked on my happiness project, I’ve been struck by the contradictions I kept confronting.

Don’t Assume That Everything Is so Different These Days

A thoughtful reader suggested that I might enjoy Little House in the Ozarks, a collection of the pieces that Wilder wrote for regional newspapers and magazines. Heck yes! I got my hands on a copy right away.

I Am Constantly Worrying Over the Choices I Made

I met Lisa through a writers’ group; oh, how I love to belong to groups. She’s a woman of many writing talents—journalism, fiction, TV-writing (in fact, did a pilot for CBS this season)— and I couldn’t wait to read her new novel.

Have You Ever Thought, “This Time Is Different?”

I have a friend who has started a new course of healthful eating. She told me, “This time is different. I’ve struggled with my weight my whole life, I’ve been on a thousand diets, but this time I’m changing my eating habits for good.”

Are You More Drawn to Simplicity or to Abundance?

I’ve come up with a new distinction, but I’m still turning it over in my mind. I’m not sure it works out…I would love to hear your response.

The Happiness Lesson from "The Office"

My daughters and I are huge fans of the TV show, The Office (the American version). We have the DVDs, we’ve watched every episode several times, and they get funnier each time.

How Well Do You Know Yourself? Take This Quiz

A key–perhaps the key–to a happy life is self-knowledge, because as the Fifth Splendid Truth holds, I can build a happy life only on the foundation of my own nature. In my own case, I’ve found that the more my life reflects my real interests, values, and temperament, the happier I become.

A Surprising Way to Figure Out What Someone Really Thinks

Sometimes when we ask a question, we know that people might be reluctant to give a true opinion. Maybe they’re worried about angering someone else, or appearing unsophisticated, or admitting what they actually think or do.

7 Tips for Making Other People Feel Smart and Insightful

We all want to get along well with other people, and one way to do this is to help people feel good about themselves. If you make a person feel smart and insightful, that person will enjoy your company. The point is not to be manipulative, but to help other people feel good about their contributions to a conversation.

Does Announcing a Resolution Make You More Likely to Keep It

My recent post, Beware of “decoy habits,” spurred a lot of conversation, and it’s clear to me that the subject is much more complex, and interesting, than I initially realized.

The 10 Inalienable Rights of the Reader

A thoughtful reader pointed out a wonderful list written by French author Daniel Pennac, in The Rights of the Reader.

Now I Stop Reading a Book If I Don’t Enjoy It—Do You?

One of the most important elements of my identity is my identity as a reader. I love to read–really, if I’m honest with myself, it’s practically the only activity that I truly love to do.

Happiness Becomes More and More About Being Content

For a long time, I’ve been fascinated by Heidi Grant Halvorson’s work: she studies the science of motivation.

Paralyzed? When Two of Your Values Are in Conflict

I spend a lot of time thinking about questions such as, “How do we change?” “Why is it so hard to make ourselves do things that we want to do?” ( for instance, why is it so hard to make myself go to bed?) and “How can we stick to our resolutions?“

My Imagination and My Reality Don’t Match Up

Recently, I had a very strong yet puzzling emotional experience, and I realized that I’ve felt before. I wish there were some wonderful term for this (perhaps there is, in German or Japanese).

If Blueness Threatens, I Look for the Humor in Any Situation

I’ve long been an admirer of Trish McEvoy — both for her beautiful products and for her entrepreneurial acumen in establishing her cosmetics company and her brand. So I was thrilled to hear that she was a fan of my writing.

Are You a Tortoise or a Hare? About Work

I love paradoxes, parables, koans, aphorisms, fables, and teaching stories of all kinds. Lately I’ve been thinking of the Fable of the Tortoise and the Hare.

I Have Two Comfort Activities

The brilliant (and gorgeous, not that it matters) Hilary Reyl has been a friend of mine since college, and I’m thrilled that her fabulous debut novel, Lessons in French, has just hit the shelves.

Do You Agree About These Motivations?

With all modesty, I do think my Four Categories of Personality may be one of my finest contributions to the study of human nature. Right up there with my abstainer/moderator split and under-buyer/over-buyer distinction.

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