The Happiness of Doing Something New: the Audiobook Version.

People often ask, “What’s something surprising that you’ve learned about happiness?” Here’s one thing: I was very surprised by the truth of the principle that Novelty and challenge bring happiness.

I believed that this observation was true for a lot of people, but I didn’t think it would be true for me. I love routine. I revel in the little pleasures of my ordinary day. I don’t like to travel. I don’t even like to go to new restaurants. My favorite thing to do is to hang around the house and read in my pajamas.

But I had to test that theory for my book, and I discovered – yes, this is very true. I realized – and studies confirm – that novelty and challenge often mean delayed happiness. First comes a stressful period of feeling frustrated, stupid, exposed, insecure, confused…but along with that discomfort, you get a big surge of happiness.

That’s exactly what happened to me with my blog — in fact, I started the blog solely for the purpose of testing that principle, and my blog has proved it to me.

Today I’m going to do something novel and challenging. I’m off to record the audiobook for The Happiness Project. I’m going to read my entire book aloud – they estimate it will take eleven hours! (Mercifully spread over four days.)

What will it be like to listen to my own voice for eleven hours? Will I have enough liveliness in my voice, or too much? I imagine it’s pretty tough to strike the right balance. I’ve listened to Jim Dale read Harry Potter and Cherry Jones read the Little House books – extraordinarily good.

Also, what will I think of own book, when I’m reading it aloud instead of silently? I’ve heard of writers who read their work aloud as part of the editing process, but I’ve never tried that.

This process will be novel and challenging, but in the end, I imagine it will bring happiness. I’ll go to a new part of town, in a new environment with new people doing something new — and the experience will very likely boost my happiness. I’m certainly happy and feel very lucky that my publisher decided to do an audiobook at all.

* I’d heard of The Pioneer Woman before, of course, but I hadn’t gotten around to visiting it until Pamela Redmond Satran told me to check it out. Funny stuff there.

* If you’re interested in launching a group for people who meet to do their happiness projects together, sign up for the starter-kit. More than 3,300 people have requested it. You might also like to check out the Facebook conversation for group leaders — that’s a good resource if you’re getting started.

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  • yasmin

    Fun. Let us know how it goes.

  • So exciting about the audiobook! Good luck recording it!

  • Shandells

    I am a huge audio book gal, I always have something on when I am working. Look forward to hearing you.

  • liz1956

    Glad to hear it will be an audiobook, hopefully available on Look forward to hearing your voice.

  • heatherconroy

    I am always amazed by what you are doing! It’s great to see how far a blog can take you and in which directions. I’m conflicted now- I ordered the hard copy of THP but I might like the audio..

  • I always love it when authors read their own work. Of course I adore Jim Dale and Cherry Jones, but there’s a lot to be said for the person who’s closest to the material doing it. So good luck, I hope you have fun. I’ve done some voiceover work, and once you get in a rhythm there’s a very special feeling that comes with being in that little room, just you and the headphones and the microphone and the words. Okay, I know there’s also an engineer outside the glass, but you really do get to create your own world inside the booth.

    • gretchenrubin

      I went today for several hours — turns out it’s really interesting, but
      also takes a HUGE amount of concentration. It’s a lot easier doing your own
      book; people who read other people’s work must have to prepare a lot. Even I
      didn’t emphasize sentences the right way some times.

      I didn’t have to wear earphones, which was a nice surprise.

  • Jonathan

    I listened to your interview that you did on tv earlier today. I found your voice quite easy to follow despite the fact that I have a profound hearing loss. I found your voice to be clear, well-paced, and well-enunciated.

    Have fun with the entire project!

  • WinterWrite

    How exciting and fun! Best of luck with the audiobook. It’s cool that you don’t have to wear earphones. Can’t wait to listen to it.

  • As an audio engineer, I can assure you that recording your own voice for the first time will prove to be a revealing and ticklish experience. Don’t be surprised if your voice sounds different than like you usually hear it. That’s because we hear our own voices through our head, which can makes quite a different sound when you hear it on a recorded medium.

    But you’ve heard your own voice recorded before, haven’t you Gretchen? I remember you did a TV interview or two …

    Cheers, and good luck in the studio. Say hi to the engineer for me 🙂

    • gretchenrubin

      I wonder if I’ll ever be able to listen to it myself!

  • A.

    I always read my work aloud, and I strongly encourage other writers to do that too. You catch so many more errors and mistakes when you do that. Even though it’s not very green, I suggest printing things out too. You catch more mistakes and typos that way then proofreading on a computer screen. If the goal is to turn in clean copy, whether a book, an article or a school assignment, reading it aloud is the way to go.

    • gretchenrubin

      I HAVE to edit on hard copy at some point. It’s just strange how different
      words read on a page in contrast to on a screen. Reading aloud is a great
      discipline but it takes a LONG time to do it!

  • NurseBarbara

    I pre-ordered your book, but now wish I had waited to buy the audiobook. I’m very much an audio-learner, and remember books I listen to far longer than ones I read. I’m looking so forward to getting the audio-version now! Let me know when it comes out!

    • gretchenrubin

      It’s so interesting — so true that some people learn better by reading,
      others by listening. I’m just the opposite — need to read something in
      order to remember it.

      I just found out last week that they were making the audiobook, or I would
      have mentioned it so people would know they had the choice!

  • This is interesting. When I do something routine, more often than not, I try to do it quickly or efficiently, or certainly largely unmindfully. But doing something novel opens up my senses. I am less mindless and more here and now, with fewer expectations and more curiosity, and I think those are all high-mood characteristics (mindful, present, curious).

    Another thing I like about your idea is that novelty is something without my own control. It’s seems a fairly simple thing to add novelty, and even the idea of doing so improves my mood.

    Good one, Gretchen!

  • Carla

    GREAT to hear that your book will be offered as an audio version!! This I DEFINITELY am buying! Thanks for letting us join you on your journey.

    • gretchenrubin

      Thanks for your enthusiasm! Today I hit the half-way mark in the recording.
      My book is 663 script pages, yipes! Really fun to be recording it.

  • jennywenny

    Another thing about trying something new is it makes time go slower, I listened to a fascinating documentary on bbc radio 4 about why time goes faster when you’re older and its partly due to the fact that you’re doing less new stuff…