Lauren Martin, THE BOOK OF MOODS

Lauren Martin, THE BOOK OF MOODS

Zibby Owens: Welcome, Lauren. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.”

Lauren Martin: Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to be here.

Zibby: I literally cannot wait. I have been counting down for this interview because your book, which is called The Book of Moods: How I Turned My Worst Emotions Into My Best Life, has been the most helpful book I’ve read. It’s not self-help. It’s not memoir. It’s this perfect hybrid of, here’s what happened to you. Here’s how I can help you. Here’s what you need to know. It’s shifted my whole mindset on everything. Maybe you should jump in and just tell listeners what the book is really about, what inspired you to write this book. Then we’ll go from there. So much to talk about.

Lauren: I’m just so happy that you thought that because I was worried with the book being published during this crazy pandemic, oh, wait, is this going to seem trivial? Now I’m realizing more than ever, people are kind of locked in their emotions and locked in these places. I feel like we’re dealing with such monotony, but also, life has expanded. We need something to ground us. I’m hoping this book is that. Basically, the book started obviously before COVID hit, five years ago. I was living in New York. I was in my twenties. I had everything I wanted. I had a good job at a magazine. I had just moved in with my boyfriend. I was living in New York City. I kept, I don’t want to say breaking down, but just ruining my days. I would get in these bad moods. One day, I came home from a really bad day at work. I remember I was in a bad mood. It was a bad commute. I was irritable. My husband was there. He’s just always in a good mood. He was making dinner. He was excited to see me. I was just a bitch. I was cranky. I was mean. I was moody. I couldn’t get out of it. He poured me a glass of wine. He was trying to talk. Eventually, he just snapped. This was after probably six months of living together. He was like, “I can’t do this anymore. I really can’t live with someone who cannot control — it’s exhausting, these ups and these downs.”

I think when you live with someone, you’re forced to look at yourself in a different way. I realized my moods didn’t just affect me. They affected him. It’s one thing for me to have a bad day or a bad week, but that affects those who you live with. I talk about in the book, mood is energy. Energy’s transferable. It just is this snowball effect. That happened. We broke up for a little. I also met this amazing girl, which I talk about in the book, in this bar. She was like, “What’s wrong? Why are you drinking on a Monday night?” She said it so simply. She was like, “Oh, you just have moods. Me too.” She was one of those women who, I could tell, had a handle on them. I realized, maybe this is something for me to figure out for women. Maybe there’s so many more women like me who feel this way who can’t seem to get through a day without obsessing over a remark or looking in the mirror and not liking what they see and then just not being themselves and feeling bad. I was like, you know what, I want to explore this. I spent five years studying all my moods, anytime something put me in a bad mood, a comment from my mom, a subway delay. I tried to organize them and evaluate them. Then I started working on things to try and fix them, like things I would read from psychology or spirituality or science. The book is a whole distillation of the best things I learned and the things that worked for me.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh. First of all, I am so with you on having moods. I wish that when I was your age — I’m in my forties now. I wish that back then when I was having so many moods, I had taken five years to sort them all out. I pursued different tactics for trying to regulate myself. I think so many people have what you’re talking about, which is moods that feel like they take over you. They almost feel out of your control. They can run your life and hurt your relationships. You always feel bad afterwards. I didn’t mean to say that. I didn’t mean to do that. I didn’t even feel like myself. I feel like things like lack of sleep, all these things are triggering factors. Then what do you do? What do you do with this whole composition of characteristics? Your book answered the question in a way.

Lauren: Moods are very individualistic. I’m not going to be triggered by the same things that you are. It’s funny. When we hear our friends complaining about their bad moods, it seems so trivial. That’s because that’s their trigger. The book is broken up by my triggers: family, friendship, beauty. At the core of those is the underlying emotion, which is universal. It’s anxiety, depletion. Even though you’re seeing my triggers and my stories, I think most people will understand that feeling. What I hope they do is start looking out for their own triggers, which can be kind of fun in a way, and kind of like the love language, find your specific triggers.

Zibby: It’s so true. The chapter that I think stayed with me the most — I shouldn’t say I think. One of the most compelling chapters was your chapter on beauty and when you got a zit on your face and you didn’t want to go to a party. To be honest, when I read it, I didn’t know what you looked like. I didn’t even know at first how old you were until you gave it away in the book, essentially how old you are. After I read that whole chapter — basically, it was you saying you felt so awful about how you looked and that you’ve always been comparing yourself to other people. You have to come to terms with the fact that you’re not a pretty person, and that’s okay. Everyone feels ugly from time to time and lets it get them down, but it’s okay. You can power through. You come to some state of, really, resolution on it and how to carry those feelings in the world and not let them get you down and whatever. Not to be totally superficial, but then I saw your picture. I’m like, oh, my gosh, what is she talking about? You are so pretty. Then my heart hurt for you even more. Not that it would’ve been okay for anybody to be beating themselves up over it, but you happen to be very pretty at the same time. For you to be feeling this ugly — you even talk about being with somebody else who made you feel that way, somebody you idolized. You were like, I can’t believe she felt that way. It’s almost like everyone’s feeling that way. Just tell me more about that whole section.

Lauren: First off, I so appreciate that. Since the book has come out — I never did Instagram Lives before because I don’t like to look at myself. I don’t. I talk about in the book, I don’t think women see themselves. I think we just look in the mirror and see this compilation of all the things we think are wrong with us. I look in the mirror and, to my husband, he sees something completely different. I’ve grown up being like, my cheekbones could be better. My lips could be plumper. My eyebrows could be better. I don’t see myself. That mood, it’s the second chapter because it was a big one for me. Especially living with a man who — he’s confident. He didn’t understand. I would have a zit and didn’t want to go out. He was like, “Who cares?” To me, it was like, but my beauty is my worth. I think it was coming to terms with my beauty is not my worth and also coming to terms with the fact that I am beautiful, but in my own way. I need to start appreciating that way.

There’s this mantra that I talk about in the book. It changed everything for me. It was the whole, you’re not pretty like her, you’re pretty like you. I found that a few years ago. I made a little sticker out of it. I put it on my phone. Every time I was walking somewhere and I saw a beautiful girl on the street or just was comparing myself, I would look at it. It started to change something in my brain a little bit and really rewire it. Now it’s like, I don’t know if it’s because I’m older or I’ve just practiced it so much, but I really do feel more confident. I feel like I have these amazing gifts to give. I have these unique things that make me beautiful. I’m going to stop comparing myself to women. Also, when that happens, I think you start appreciating women more. Rather than comparing yourself against them, you can start to be like, wow, this girl’s amazing, and I’m amazing. I swear, this book was like — I was writing through it as I was experiencing it. I let a few friends read it. She was like, “This is a love letter to yourself. This is really beautiful because you can tell you’re reckoning with something in each chapter.” I really did go through the chapters in real time and have to experience it, which is why I’m glad it resonated with you.

Zibby: Totally. Even when you challenge us, go back and look through photos from three or four years ago. Were you really as bad as you thought? Also, being around older people and having them see the beauty in you as the youth itself, that’s something just so intangible. Until you lose it, you didn’t even know you had it. You didn’t value it. It had no value to you at the time. It was only once you lost it that it takes on its own value.

Lauren: Exactly. There’s this amazing Nora Ephron quote that I put in the book. It’s like, if I could go back, I would put a bikini on until age thirty-five and never take it off. We just don’t appreciate ourselves in the moment. Then I always look back, I’m like, wow, I was so cute back then, but right now, I’m cute. Why can’t we just ever appreciate ourselves? I talk about in this chapter, a little bit of the spiritual aspects of washing dishes while washing dishes and appreciating the moment.

Zibby: Yes, I loved that.

Lauren: I’m glad it resonated.

Zibby: That was so great. I’m sorry I’m cutting you off. I’m so excited. I’m not even going to let you talk. I used that the next day. Last night or the night before last, I had this going on. There were so many dishes. Even when my husband was cooking, I was like, “Are you sure you want to make eight things and heat up four things in other pots? That’s going to be a lot of dishes after.” He’s like, “It’s great. Everybody’s going to want this. It’s going to go bad if we don’t use it.” I’m like, “Okay, fine.” Then of course, there were a thousand dishes. Everybody left to go watch TV. That’s not true. I had some helpers. Anyway, there I am with my hands in the wet, soapy water. I was like, wait, this is what Lauren was talking about in her book. My kids were around me. Everybody was sort of happy. I was like, you know what, this might be the best moment even though I would normally be annoyed and in a bad mood that I had all these dishes. Is it worth it? Instead, that was like, wow, this is a moment in time. There are actually a lot of great things going on. I was thanking you for that as I got that mindfulness boost from the book.

Lauren: That is the most amazing thing to hear because that’s really all I think any author wants from a book, is just someone — especially with a book like this that’s more self-help, even if just one thing sticks with you and that changes the way that you perceive something or live your life, that’s a huge feat. That’s amazing to hear. I do the same thing when I wash the dishes now. I’m like, Lauren, appreciate this right now. This is a great moment. Stop thinking about the future. Stop thinking about what you’d rather be doing. This is a good thing to be doing right now. Your husband’s in the other room. You’re washing dishes for the food that you just had. Life is good.

Zibby: You even said something like maybe you’re washing dishes and eventually you won’t be washing dishes for two. You’ll be washing dishes for one. That made me want to cry. The whole thing is such a great reminder of making the best of life, is really what it is.

Lauren: I just felt like my bad moods, I was wasting my life. I was wasting my life in these bad moods. Why can’t I be in a good mood more often? I know when I’m in a good mood, I’m my best self. I’m happy and cheerful. My husband said something to me the other day. He’s like, “Oh, my god, you’re so cute today.” I was like, “Why? I’m wearing sweatpants.” He’s like, “You’re just happier. You’re happy.” Most women, we get so in our heads. We just get so distracted. Then we’re not ourselves.

Zibby: It’s so true. What is your stand on medication? A lot of people might come back from this conversation and say, maybe she just needs a higher dose of Zoloft or something like that.

Lauren: I think everyone kind of wonders once in a while, do I have depression? My grandmother was bipolar. I think everyone wonders a little bit. I have been prescribed Xanax when I couldn’t sleep. I talk about that in the book. I think there’s a fine line when you know this is a bigger issue than something I can handle myself. In high school, a doctor did put me on Zoloft. I didn’t stay on it. I think I was on it a week. I was like, you know what, this is ridiculous. I want to see if I can work this out. I’ve always had that. I think some people are just born with a little bit more sadness than others, especially artists. I find myself more introspective. I think a lot of women have this amazing quality for empathy and this amazing quality for emotions. We have so many emotions within us. I didn’t want to lose that. This book has been my source of help and medication. I do think you know when there is a time and place for you to seek actual help. There’s a fine line. I think you’ll know when you should speak to your doctor if you are feeling those ways. I hope this helps those who aren’t sure, really. Then maybe this could be the last try.

Zibby: Totally. How did you find the actual writing of the book? You loved it?

Lauren: No.

Zibby: No?

Lauren: It’s not that I don’t love it. I talk about it in the book. I think it’s the first chapter.

Zibby: How you did not want to do it at all and looked at it like hell.

Lauren: I had a breakdown. I was freaking out. I do come from a writing background, but when you’re doing it for — you probably know this. When you’re doing it for a publication, you have a deadline. You just get it done. I was writing an article a day. It’s just like, whatever. You care, but it wasn’t this, wow, this has been my whole life leading up to this book. This is a publishing company looking — you also understand because I know you’re working on a book, not to be creepy.

Zibby: It’s not creepy. Buy my book, everybody. I’m kidding.

Lauren: Just throw that in there. It was so anxiety-inducing because I started worrying so much about, is it going to sell? Is it well-written? I started going to what I always did, which was Words of Women, looking at how other women approached it, and especially writers. I love writing advice. I just love it. I was finding a lot of solace in how other women faced the blank page. I took the best ones and I put them in the book. I feel like writing advice is really life advice. Focus on one word at a time. Just pay attention to what you’re working on. Stop getting ahead of yourself. The process started as very chaotic. Then as I was getting into and finding this writing advice, it got much calmer. Then I loved it. I loved every bit of it.

Zibby: People think my podcast is about books, but really, it’s about life because that’s all writing is. It’s all stories and moments. That’s what a good book is. It’s a way into somebody else’s life and into their heads and into their advice and all the rest.

Lauren: Writers are these vessels. We’re just trying to explain our life experience and the things that we see in life and interpret out of life. I feel like the two coincide really well.

Zibby: Tell me more, also, about Words of Women. You had all the quotes. That’s grown into this huge thing now. Tell me about that.

Lauren: Five years ago, I was obviously in this dark place. My boyfriend and I had kind of broken up. I met this girl. I was really lonely too. I talk about friendship in the book. I was in New York, but I didn’t have the college friends anymore, and the high school friends. I had some coworkers, but I felt really lonely. I was seeking, at the time, women with moods and trying to understand it better. I started finding all these amazing quotes that these women were saying. They really made me feel better. I think a lot of pain has to do with the loneliness as pain and how we feel so alienated by it. We must be the only one feeling this way. When I found these other women saying, “I feel this way. I feel anxious. I feel insecure,” it would be, like, Isabella Rossellini. I was like, oh, my god, these amazing, successful, powerful women feel the same way I do. I feel not only less alone, I feel really empowered by this. I started putting the quotes onto an Instagram account. At the same time, I was like, I’m going to — I couldn’t get a publisher at this point. I was an unknown writer. It’s really hard to get a publishing deal. It’s hard to get an agent. I was like, you know what, I’ll self-publish one day. I was like, I’ll build this account. I’ll bleed in what I’m learning from the book and my own words and these amazing quotes. In five years, I’ll self-publish. Five years goes by.

I also have a newsletter. This woman reached out to me on the newsletter who worked in publishing. She was like, “I love your newsletter. I love your account. Do you have an agent?” It kind of went full circle. I really believe if you invest in yourself and really — these quotes that I was putting were things that were driving me to keep going and keep following my dreams. It just grew organically. I think a lot of women like knowing that they’re not alone and also like hearing these amazing stories of women. I talk about it in the book. I also wanted to kind of disrupt the feed. I think a lot of our moods and our insecurities come from just scrolling through perfected lives of others, these fake lives. We see, oh, it looks like a beautiful girl on a yacht, beautiful girl, friends hanging out without me. In between that, I really wanted there to be an amazing quote that wasn’t cheesy or inspirational, but a really profound quote about life or friendship or just the female condition that made you really stop and forget about the rest and think about something different.

Zibby: Would you do, or maybe you already have this in the works or something, just a quote book, like a beautiful coffee table book with all your quotes?

Lauren: I would love to do that. I had one publisher — I think my agent’s mad at me — reach out to me about doing it. I’m so particular because I’ve been doing it for five years. I basically did a pitch to her with all of these quotes I would use and this idea. She was like, “No, I just would rather have it be –” She wanted a Beyoncé lyric for the name of it. I was just like, that’s not the vibe of Words of Women. If I’m going to do it, I want it to be done right. I passed on it. I’m waiting for the right opportunity to really do it and do it right, but I would love to do that.

Zibby: Don’t wait. You should just send it out now.

Lauren: Yeah, I know. Now it’s like, stop waiting.

Zibby: Now’s a really good time.

Lauren: You’re right. Okay, I’m going to definitely work on that.

Zibby: If you just maybe get your agent on that this afternoon, I bet you could. Call me in two weeks and let me know if you haven’t sold it.

Lauren: I love that idea. It definitely is on my radar.

Zibby: I was just saying on another podcast, I have this secret, maybe I should have a publishing house myself or something like that because every time — not every time. A lot of times I talk to authors like you, I’m like, I want Lauren Martin’s coffee table book on my coffee table now. Who’s going to do it? If I could just make it happen, that would be so cool. I’m not at that point. If I were, I would be doing it myself.

Lauren: Maybe I will wait for that. That’s what I mean. I’m happy to just wait for the right opportunity. I’ll keep an eye out.

Zibby: Okay, great. I have four books slated ahead of you. No, I’m kidding. I’m totally kidding.

Lauren: Fine with me. It’ll give me time.

Zibby: No, I’m kidding. What are you doing now? You must have all this press coming up for the book and all of that. Are you still writing? Are you doing it just on the side to keep yourself sane, or what?

Lauren: It’s so hard because I’m kind of superstitious. I’m like, I don’t want to start working on another book until I feel like I’ve sold enough of this one and I’m out of the woods. I’m very overly cautious. I do still work full time. I work in marketing. I so want to be a full-time writer. That’s my dream. This is my first book. I don’t want to jinx it. God forbid I quit my job and — I know how life works. I know that it can take time. You look at someone like Elizabeth Gilbert and you’re like, I’m going to be a best seller like her. Eat Pray Love was her fourth book. It takes time. I’m working. I’m writing on the side. I still write my newsletter. I still run the account, which I love doing. It’s an obsession. I have a few ideas for — I would really love to do a book on female friendship. I think it’s not really talked about enough. I think women have a little bit of a warped view of these friendships we should have in our thirties and forties that’s not realistic. I feel like it would be helpful to have someone say, look, I struggle with sometimes feeling lonely or maintaining a friendship that I wish I could maintain. That might be something I’m working on next.

Zibby: That would be great. I’m sure you could put some of the quotes in there too.

Lauren: Of course, I’ll put the quotes. I’m a quote queen.

Zibby: You could do The Book of Friends. You could have a whole series of The Book of

Lauren: I love that. My husband and I are currently working on getting pregnant. We had a previous little thing, but it didn’t work out. I was thinking when I was pregnant for a little, the emotions —

Zibby: — I’m sorry.

Lauren: It’s okay. I’m so happy more people are talking about it, like Chrissy Teigen and all these amazing women. In the few months I was pregnant, I was like, this is so extreme, these emotions and being a woman and having to just keep going through life but also being pregnant and being tired and being nauseous and having your hormones change. Then I was so excited because I was like, when motherhood comes, that’s going to be a whole range of moods that I’m sure I haven’t experienced yet, and triggers.

Zibby: Yeah. Hold onto your seat for that one.

Lauren: Exactly. That’s kind of also in the works, as in getting pregnant hopefully one day. Motherhood would definitely be an interesting subject.

Zibby: You could even call it The Book of Trying.

Lauren: I feel like there’s definitely not enough literature out there for women who experience miscarriages or lost babies. You do feel very isolated when it happens.

Zibby: Especially because people say don’t talk about it until after twelve weeks. People are much more open. I have thirteen-year-old twins and also a seven-year-old and almost six-year-old. When I was trying to have my twins, nobody was talking about anything. All of a sudden, it’s like, don’t tell anybody even if you are pregnant for twelve — I’m like, how could I not tell anybody for three months when I’m vomiting on the street? This is the time that I would want to tell everybody every little detail because it’s the wildest ride ever.

Lauren: It’s so true. You’re kind of damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I didn’t tell anyone except my parents. I was twelve weeks. Then when I experienced the miscarriage, I had to go out with my friends. I’d been avoiding them for three months because I didn’t want to tell them. Then I went out for drinks with them. I had just experienced this intense traumatic experience. I didn’t want to tell them because I hadn’t told them I was pregnant. I wasn’t going to be like, guys, I’m really sad today. so much that’s internalized. You’re going on with normal life. You’re just like, this incredible thing happened to me. This also terrible thing happened to me. I just have to act normal. I’m happy to see more women are speaking about it. I do think we definitely could talk about it more.

Zibby: Especially as you’re going through it, even if you’re not ready to write a whole book about it, you should be journaling and taking notes on all the feelings and moods. I think that a book like this on that would be really interesting too.

Lauren: Definitely. I’ve been trying to write about it. I will say, it’s been harder. I’ll write about it. Then I’ll have a drink and start crying later. I’ll be like, clearly, that was a very — I need some time. When I was pregnant, first of all, I just can’t get over how tired you are all the time. I was way too tired to even write. I was like, I’ll write when I start feeling better and normal. It’s an intense experience.

Zibby: I didn’t mean to put pressure on you to do it. Not that you need more ideas. You already had a fantastic book. I want to keep reading what you’re writing, so that’s why I’m throwing out all these —

Lauren: — I love it. Trust me, multiple people have been like, you should be journaling. You should be writing about this. I know as well. I’m just excited. My first book, it’s definitely anxiety-inducing. I’m trying to, as I speak about in the book, change that verbiage from, I’m so nervous and anxious, to, I’m excited. Otherwise, I’ll have a heart attack.

Zibby: Even what you said about — what did you say? It’s not stressful, it’s a challenge, or something. It’s not hard, it’s just a challenge.

Lauren: It’s been five years, and .

Zibby: I know. I’m sorry. I should’ve had the quote at the ready. I’m like, can you please quote this back to me?

Lauren: I was actually talking about this the other day with someone.

Zibby: And accepting the inevitability of pain and then keeping going, all of that too, so you don’t have to worry so much.

Lauren: Stoicism, yeah. I’m trying to find it as well. Of course, you can never find things when you need to.

Zibby: No. Sorry, this is my job, and I’m not doing it. Anyway, you said something great as if — it’s basically just reframing. You just have to reframe the hard times and see them all as —

Lauren: — Exactly. Oh, here it is. It’s to replace “Calm down” with “I’m excited;” “I don’t want to” with “I get to;” “I’m scared,” “I’m pumped.” It’s switching that. That’s called anxiety reappraisal, which is obviously a cognitive trick. It really does work because the feeling of nervousness and anxiety is the same as excitement, but the way we label it is the way that we then experience it.

Zibby: It’s so true. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Lauren: Yes. One, I just wrote about this in my newsletter, there’s always a back door. I think the hardest part about writing, especially if you’re kind of unknown and you don’t have a large following of anything, you’re like, what’s the point? I’ll never get published. If there’s a will, there’s a way. This is coming from me. I literally moved to New York when I was twenty-two. I didn’t even major in English. My parents wanted me to major in marketing. They’re like, “You’ll make more money.” I just decided, I’m going to go to New York. I’m going to just walk door to door until someone gives me a job. If I’m an intern, that’s fine, which I was, worked my way up. Then I couldn’t get an agent the traditional way, so I built a social platform. It took five years. If you love to do something, it will come. Have faith in yourself. Have faith in the process. Even if you need to self-publish, I think there’s no shame in that. Fifty Shades of Grey was self-published. Even if you go towards your goal that way, don’t be daunted by it. Once you start writing, I think the biggest thing is to just have faith in what you’re doing.

I literally have a Google Doc which I also might one day publish. I think it’s two hundred pages of quotes from writers giving advice. So much of the advice is just get it all out. Get it all down. That’s what the first draft is for. Then the second draft, just rework it. I think it’s so daunting when you see the blank page. You need to just get it out even if it’s not good. Then you can rework it later. The other is Dani Shapiro. I love her. I know you’ve met her and interviewed her. Her book, Still Writing, is my bible. She has so many good quotes. I just love her “build a corner.” That’s what people good at puzzles do. They do one piece at a time. They focus on the corner. I think it’s just staying calm and staying passionate and not getting discouraged by the process and not getting discouraged by when your friends are getting published and you’re not and feeling like it’s impossible. Anything worth doing is hard. If you have that burning desire, that’s enough proof that you deserve to be a writer.

Zibby: I love it. Lauren, thank you so much. Thanks for this chat. Thanks for your book. Thanks for indulging all my random ideas for you which you don’t even need. I’m sorry.

Lauren: No, I loved — they were all the ideas I’ve ever had, and someone was just validating them. Thank you.

Zibby: Okay, great. Stay in touch. Congratulations.

Lauren: Thank you for having me. Talk soon.

Zibby: My pleasure. Bye.

Lauren: Bye.

Lauren Martin, THE BOOK OF MOODS