Question of the Month: 5 Things

by Susan Henderson on November 7, 2011

Tell me 5 things you can see or touch at this very moment that make you happy.

I was having lunch at Panera the other day and found myself seated next to a whole table full of cancer survivors. They were clearly rallying around a woman who was just at the start of her treatment, sharing tears, laughter, practical tips, and a meal. It was an incredibly moving experience—a reminder of what we can and can’t control, a reminder of the role of friends and balance in our lives, a reminder to regard the moment we’re in rather than looking too far beyond it.

It’s a lesson that applies to our writing, as well—staying in the moment and keeping the support system close by—because it’s overwhelming to look too far ahead. There are so many chapters to write, so many hoops to jump through, so many people to please, so many opportunities for failure or disappointment. I recently got caught up in this mindset and all it created was a sense that I needed to hurry my writing and seek too-early feedback. A number of things brought me back to my senses, including the women in Panera.

When I forget all that’s down the road and remember where I am and what’s right in front of me, the joy is there. I am at a stage of writing that I love—time alone in my office with my grandmother’s typewriter, scented candles, heart-shaped rocks, rattlesnake tails, creepy research books, and a cat in my lap. I love the privacy of the first draft, the discovery of a new set of characters, the dance of figuring out where I want to take them and where they want to take me. I won’t rush this process.


So, back to our 5 things. Why not bring them into our writing spaces, or if they’re already there, display them more prominently? And maybe it’s time to upgrade our 5 things—buy  ourselves flowers, bring the Halloween pumpkins inside, replace the lights with colored bulbs. Who knows? But let’s do something that reminds us to honor and find joy in whatever phase of our writing we’re in right now.


Before I go, I’d like to say thank you to Graeme Daniels and Wayetu Moore for the thoughtful discussions of my book. I hope folks here take some time to check out these fascinating blogs.

One last thing: I’m doing a reading at The Huntington Book Revue, my favorite indie bookstore on Long Island. Wednesday, Dec. 7th, 7pm. Would love to see you there!