Podcast 22: Creativity! Listen to Rosanne Cash, Save Your String, Fight Drift, and a Lesson from the Writers’ Room.

It’s time for the next installment of  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

This week, we have a theme! Creativity.

Update: Elizabeth and I, and our families, were recently in Kansas City together, to celebrate our mother’s birthday. We shot a quick little video to say hi to listeners. Check it out here.

Try This at Home: Save string — which is a phrase from journalism that means, find ways to save your little bits of ideas. To read more about choreographer Twyla Tharp’s process, look in The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life. Woody Allen discusses his method saving string in this Wall Street Journal interview.

PodcastNotebookElizabethHere’s a photo of Elizabeth’s podcast notebook (string not pictured).

Do you “save string?” What do you save, and how do you save it? Fabric scraps, art supplies, recipes, quotations, ideas for a garden, ideas for April Fool’s Day pranks…let us know.

Interview: Our guest is my friend, the brilliant singer, song-writer, and author, Rosanne Cash. She’s a Grammy-winning singer and composer who has recorded 15 albums and won countless awards.

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As we discuss, she wrote a terrific memoir, Composed, which I read years before I met her, and loved. Elizabeth also loved it.

Her latest album, The River & The Thread, a collaboration with her husband, producer, and co-writer John Leventhal, won three Grammy awards.

It was so much fun to talk to her! I was just sorry that Elizabeth was in L.A. and couldn’t join us in person.

The song Rosanne talks about in the interview is When the Master Calls the Roll.

Now you’re probably dying to see Rosanne perform in person. In September, you can see her in Nashville at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Info here. Or if, like me, you’re in the New York City area, you can see her at Carnegie Hall. Info here.

Gretchen’s Demerit: Here’s the link to the video of the 5×15 talk I gave ondrift and a post I wrote about drift. I’ve saved the string–but I haven’t turned it into anything (yet).

Elizabeth’s Gold Star: Elizabeth gives a gold star to Jenna Bans, the creator of The Family, the TV show that Elizabeth writes for.  (Trailer for the show here.) Jenna Bans gets a gold star for building a great creative atmosphere in the writers’ room.

Elizabeth and I have a favor to ask. We’re part of the Panoply network, and Panoply has created a listener survey. If you could take a few minutes to take the survey, it will really help us — and Panoply — learn more about our listeners. Thanks!

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors. Want to avoid post-office pain, and buy and print official U.S. postage for any letter or package, right from your own computer and printer? Visit Stamps.com to sign up for a no-risk trial, plus a $110 bonus offer — just enter the promo code HAPPIER.

Also, thanks to Casper, the online retailer of premium mattresses.  Pay a fraction of what you’d pay in the store, get free delivery, and returns within a 100 day period.  Get $50 off a mattress purchase by visiting Casper.com/happier, promo code HAPPIER.

We’d love to hear from you: have you saved string— and if so, did it make you happier? Like Rosanne Cash, have you figured out ways to help you quiet the critics in your head?

Comment below. Email: podcast@gretchenrubin.com. Twitter: @gretchenrubin and @elizabethcraft. Call: 744-277-9336. Here’s the Facebook Page.

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Want to know what to expect from other episodes of the podcast, when you listen toHappier with Gretchen Rubin?” We talk about how to build happier habits into everyday life, as we draw from cutting-edge science, ancient wisdom, lessons from pop culture—and our own experiences (and mistakes).  We’re sisters, so we don’t let each other get away with much!

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HAPPIER listening!

  • statmam

    Saving string. Absolutely! That’s why the bookstore sells those pretty fabric-covered and leather-bound notebooks.

  • Yes, yes, yes!! I so identify with the bits of string, am always rushing home from my morning walk desperately repeating to myself some priceless nugget so I won’t forget it before scribbling it down, writing on the margins of the church bulletin during the Sunday service using that little stub of a pencil they put in the pew racks, scrambling for a pen at a stoplight. I so identify with the little scene in Happier at Home where Gretchen is using a broken blue crayon to write a note to herself on the back of a school strep-throat notification. See the picture of my inbox below. You can see the edge of a bulletin and a whole little string of pink Post-It notes.

  • Alex

    Wow Gretchen, I just watched your video on drift and it really hit home for me! I definitely hope you do something more with that “saved string” because it is a topic that I (and I’m sure others) could benefit from hearing more about. Thanks!

  • Sabrina

    I love when you think about something and then you immediately begin to see or hear things that are related and encouraging. I was reading “Happier at Home” on the subway this morning and this thought came to me and lingered: writing down ideas and memories will make me happier. People live busy lives and it is easy to forget things, but on top of that, I have a poor memory and unless I really work on remembering things, I will forget. And that makes me very sad and frustrated. As I walked to work, I thought of two things in particular
    1. where I could buy a notebook to hop onto my idea of writing things down
    2. it was Thursday and the Happier podcast will definitely be available to listen to this morning.
    So then, I’m listening to your podcast and the discussion about “saving string” happened, reinforcing the idea further.

    I bought a planner in January and have been using that to help “save string” with things I need to get done in a day. I am able to jot down ideas about what I need to do when I get home or next week or next month. My partner, a very organized person, is so excited (and somewhat annoyed. I am a questioner with rebel tendencies, so while she’s been telling me this for years, until I convinced myself it was a good idea, it was avoided wholeheartedly). The planner has reduced the amount of stress and frustration for me, but also between the two of us.

    If that is so successful, why not try to apply a similar type of documentation to all of the good (and sometimes bad) things I want to remember on a daily basis. I have thought about doing this in the past, but negative thoughts kept me away. (‘What if I don’t remember to write in it everyday.’ ‘What if I bought a nice notebook and then had to scribble something out.’ ‘There’s too much to write down! I don’t have time for that!’ just to name a few) As I embark on making this a habit, I have to keep reminding myself about how much I will enjoy looking back and remembering what happened, how even a quick note will help me trigger a memory and how it doesn’t have to be perfect. As I go along, I will figure out the best method for me, but I have to START!

  • Sabrina

    Also, I enjoyed watching the video of you and Elizabeth in Kansas City. I was thrilled to see the sculpture behind you. I was immediately flashed back to when they were at the New York Botanical Garden a couple of years ago. Glad they are making their rounds and others are getting to experience and enjoy them!

  • Kathryn Smith

    I identified with Ms. Cash’s naming of the ciritc! I have named my inner critic, Brytnii, and I frequently tell her to Eff off, and shut up while I’m working out. Trying to get more fit is hard, and it helps me to have a name to fight back!

    • L.S. Taylor

      Haha – the spelling of her name makes me picture her! I know that’s not fair or kind, but I can really really do it!

  • SK

    I save lots of string! I love recipes for home remedies/herbal remedies/personal care products, so I cut them out of magazines that I subscribe to or buy at our library’s thrift store and paste them into moleskine notebooks (the larger, kraft-paper covered ones). They aren’t organized in any way but I love pulling them off the shelf and flipping through them when I need some inspiration. I have a fantasy of starting an herbal-remedy or tea company one day.

  • ebrasse

    As always – a fabulous podcast this week. I’ve found a new album to be addicted to AND renewed my collecting string philosophy…

  • I used to use Google Keep to keep my string. You can type notes on your phone, take pictures with your phone, save web links and images, all in one place. It can be accessed from the app or your google account. Some people use Evernote in the same way.
    That being said, I’ve found that writing something works better for me. Something about pen on paper. I also draw or sketch out a lot of visuals, too, so it’s important for me to always have an unlined journal on hand. Google Keep has turned into more a of a personal assistant or to-do list, which is great, but not for my strings. I always have a sketch or watercolor paper notebook on hand and some NICE pens from an art store. Sometimes I use washi tape to tape things in there.
    I also use my husband’s brain! We have a thing we say to each other: “Can I put something in your brain?” It means that we expect the other person to listen to us speak our idea or thought out loud and let us verbalize (or even verbally sort out) what’s going on inside, but it is not the other’s responsibility to remember it. If the other does remember it, that’s great, but never the expectation. It’s just the theory that two brains are more likely to remember it than one. It also helps because we can think back to when and where we were when we talked about something as a tool to help us remember!

    Gretchen: yesterday I referred to myself in the third person to make a decision about a difficult situation at work. I had stood up to a co-worker and he did not take it well. I felt like I really wanted to go into work the next day with an olive branch so it didn’t feel uncomfortable between us, but I couldn’t think of anything that would actually help the situation (and not let him exploit my time or goodwill) and I thought to myself: I know I want to resolve the situation, but should Heidi Ballas offer an olive branch? Suddenly I realized: Heidi has been offering olive branches for months with none in return. Heidi cannot resolve this situation AND care for herself, so it’s just not going to be resolved, because Heidi has priorities. Heidi does not have time for grown-ass people who can’t be civil in the workplace and try to bully their coworkers into NOT following policy. Heidi is being paid to KILL IT at her job, not to hold a 45 year old’s hand through his inexplicably hurt feelings. Heidi is handling herself graciously and professionally and deserves a high five. You go, Heidi.

  • Ana Maria Fernandez Pujals

    I absolutely love, love, love, loved Rosanne Cash’s strategy for the inner critic voice that she called “The Committee” (and told them to come back at the end of the creative project when she may or may not listen to their suggestions). She drew them, got them out of her head and on to paper and then put them on a t-shirt, which is a stroke of comedic genius AS WELL and I, for one, would absolutely love to buy that t-shirt to wear under hoodies and blazers. I think Rosanne Cash should put her design on either her website or on a zazzle or cafepress page. I may even make my own Committee t-shirt design. Absolutely brilliant idea: it is exactly what is needed in those moments and it even has a dash of humor which just elevates the entire exercise to another level. I love it. And, now, to go listen to her most recent album. Gorgeous voice, heartfelt music. Since this is my first time posting on here, I also just have to take this moment to say that I love Gretchen & Elizabeth and all of their sincerity & pragmatism. It’s why I listen to the podcast as soon as it is posted weekly and many times re-listen to previous ones. Can’t get enough! Also, there is SO MUCH GOODNESS IN THIS EPISODE. Still have to check out the drift talk Gretchen gave, and Elizabeth’s recommended Woody Allen article on how his creative process works. I’m so inspired to continue doing things that I’ve always done (collect things that inspire me) and this week’s episode has definitely given me a little creative boost to fuel me for a long time to come. Thank you so much!

  • Laura Jolna

    Trello is an amazing tool for creativity, storyboarding and productivity. I’ve been using it for a couple of years for both personal projects and for my business. My partner and I do all of our brainstorming on it and it’s great – we can comment on each other’s ideas, etc. It’s based on the Japanese method of kanban for productivity, but I find it’s an amazing creative tool. It’s a visual as well as text tool that you can access on all your devices.
    Check it out at http://www.trello.com – they even have a fun mascot that just makes me even happier using it!
    Another great episode – thanks Gretchen & Elizabeth!

  • Cindy Cogswell

    2 comments– I’ve collected quotes for years and switched from hand written to google drive documents, organized by year and then month, so that I can search them (control + F).

    Second, when listening to this episode I thought of emails I receive to motivate my academic writing, from Kerry
    Ann Rockquemore, on behalf of National Center for Faculty
    Development & Diversity. It would be really interesting to hear the podcast discuss with her– habits, motivation, and overcoming resistance.

  • Carol

    It’s funny you mentioned quilters in your podcast, because I am a quilter.

    I have the usual things like pieces of paper with notes on them. I have organizer boxes that I put in the fabric and the pattern. I also have a lot of things sketched out on graph paper. I tried programs like Electric Quilt, but do better with graph paper and Crayons.

    I did a workshop with a quilter named Thomas Knauer and we walked around the Denver Art Museum taking pictures of things and art that inspired us. I have continued that and have a folder of pictures on my computer labeled “Quilt Inspiration”

  • Katy

    I watched your video about Drift and found it really interesting. But you make it sound like it was really easy for you to figure out the one thing you should have been doing.

    My partner ‘drifted’ into being a software engineer, after studying computation at university. He realised it wasn’t for him and after some years left that career path, however, he hasn’t yet found his ideal job and is desperate to find it. So I’d love to know more about this – and any tips you may have for finding the perfect job for you. I’m also curious to know whether it really is such a bad thing, as you said yourself, found your husband that way.

  • Heather

    I keep “strings” on a private blog- but only for one thing. I have a secret desire to write a book. But it comes and goes, every now and then I’ll catch myself thinking about the book and I hurry and blog about it. For the day when it all comes together.

  • Sue Bonucchi

    Gretchen after listening to this podcast I went to YouTube to hear your talk on drift. I am 57 years old and working as a Teacher Assustant in a Preschool. I got my degree years ago but let my certification lapse when I stayed home to raise my kids. I’ve been at the preschool 5 years and so often feel I’m not doing what I am supposed to be doing. I’m overqualified, but don’t have the desire to get my certification back and be a teacher–too much work. I should be doing something to encourage women, but am not sure what that would be. How do I get out of drift, and find my passion, even at my age, which I have to tell myself is not old?

  • suzanne brown

    A while back Queen Latifah made a film where she kept a possibilities book. It seems like a different version of the string concept. I started my own book and it actually helped me stay on track with my goals. Kind of a cross between a goal poster and wouldn’t-this-be-fun-to-have. I have pictures of everything from jewelry to vacations to feelings/relationships I want to have, and quotes from people that inspire me. Also pictures of the reasons I do what I do…ie. my daughters and me. This podcast has inspired me to revisit that book. It’s been awhile since I looked at it. Curious to see how close I’m getting…

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