I’ve decided to start listening to podcasts at work, in an effort to optimise my time (though I still make the effort to be “in the moment” at regular intervals throughout the day). Last week when I got to the office, instead of flicking automatically to my local radio station to listen to the same ‘90s playlist on repeat –admittedly wonderful though that is- I wanted to engage my brain a little more: to learn something and to be inspired.
I downloaded the Happier podcast by Gretchen Rubin and her sister Elizabeth Craft. I gravitated towards this one first through familiarity; I was already aware of Gretchen’s work on promoting happier habits having read her book “The Happiness Project” when I was going through a particularly stressful time during my final year at University. I love the way Gretchen and Elizabeth are the antithesis of one another, yet communicate so well and support each other in their respective “weaknesses” whilst sharing in their strengths. I found them so entertaining that I listened to the entire back catalogue of 30 episodes in just under a week! There was one episode, though, that particularly resonated with me and that was the one where the sisters implored listeners to “do what you loved when you were ten years old”.
I thought back to being ten. My mum was doing a degree at the time, and I remember spending many hours in the library with her as she studied during the weekends. Though only 16 years ago, it was a time when technology was not yet cheap enough to be found in every home, and so I would pay 50p an hour to hire the “Ultimate Human Body” CDROM and sit at the boxy, white pc to explore it. I also remember reading incessantly; you’ve got a lot of spare time as a ten year old. I would read everything: from classic stories by children’s authors about mischievous farm animals, to weekend newspaper supplements left on the table by the grown-ups, to labels on the back of every packet I could lay my hands on. The constant absorption of information fuelled my imagination and I wrote story upon story, complete with rudimentary illustrations, and poems (I was OBSESSED with limericks).
Remembering that time when I was so fascinated by the intricacies of language brought with it a sense of guilt that I had let it slip. So what have I done, spurred on by Gretchen and Elizabeth? I did what ten year old me did- I joined the library!!
Firstly, I’d like to underline how wonderful it feels to enter into a library and be given something for free, no catch. You’re trusted with a card and told you can borrow up to 20 books at a time, no pressure to purchase at the end- it feels as though you’ve won some kind of literary lottery! My local library has just enough of a selection to keep everyone happy, including the option to download eBooks and audiobooks free of charge- a significant advancement since my ten year old library days!! I wandered each aisle in sequence, methodically working my way through the stacks in order to make an informed choice. I picked up a compiled anthology of Maya Angelou’s work at first- a colossus of paper and ink- then remembered I only had a three week loan and I should probably ease myself back into regular reading with some shorter tomes. I settled for four paperbacks: two non-fiction novels which drew me because of their cover art and bohemian sounding titles; two guides on writing, which form the second half of my “live like a ten year old” plan…
I’ve signed up to NaNoWriMo! This blog has been a gateway back into writing again, and I’m enjoying it so much I don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner! I fully intended to sign up to the month long writing competition last year, but my work schedule was unusually busy at the beginning of the month- I was somewhere between three weeks of back to back travelling to Romania, Turkey and Belgium when my mum asked how I was getting along with the story. I replied “It’s NOVEMBER?!”.
Better luck this year, eh?
I felt such immense joy at “rediscovering” reading and writing for fun that I nearly skipped out of the library, my haul tucked carefully into a reusable tote bag. I owe that feeling to Gretchen and Elizabeth, and I only hope that the podcast continues to inspire me throughout November, as I tackle my first ever “novel”. That’s not counting, of course, the 13 chapter illustrated novella of “The Witch Who Couldn’t Count” by Amy (aged 10).
Do you listen to the Happier Podcast (or have any other great ones to recommend?). What would YOUR ten year old self do, given the choice? Let me know!