The Joy of Small Things
+ a writing prompt, a new way to connect on Notes, and Writing for the Soul
Sometimes I like small things.
Like our tiny barebones A-frame camper which we dubbed “the Clubhouse.” She was an early pandemic purchase and has provided us with just the right push to keep getting outside. We are prepping for our first trip this season, which will be something like our 24th trip in total. So far, we aren’t hardcore wilderness survivalists. I like to describe our style as “take-out camping.” We’ll cook a big breakfast on the camp stove, then go out for dinner, so our favorite camping spots are in state parks near good restaurants. Our tiny Clubhouse is a small thing that helps us live large.
More small things I like—just about anything in miniature.
As a child, I was captivated by The Borrowers—the book series by Mary Norton about tiny people who lived inside the walls of a big house, borrowing items in order to survive. I used to create little Borrower-esque scenes inside my school desk when I should have been learning my multiplication tables. A whole family of pencils lived in there.
My daughter and I have, at different times, been enraptured by miniature settings like fairy gardens, bonsai landscapes, and the Thorne Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago. I also follow a few small-scale but large-talent artists like Andrea Love and Tatsuya Tanaka who create in miniature.
The best small things enlarge our imagination. They provide an opening—tiny though it may be—into a wide new world or idea.
Writing can do this too. I’m dipping in and out of Ross Gay’s The Book of Delights, where he celebrates small joys and delights like a tomato plant carried on a plane, a high-five from a child, a “cup of coffee from a well-shaped cup,” or a friend’s enthusiastic use of air quotes. He says about his project—which involved him writing a short essay every day for a year:
It didn’t take me long to learn that the discipline or practice of writing these essays occasioned a kind of delight radar. Or maybe it was more like the development of a delight muscle. Something that implies that the more you study delight, the more delight there is to study.
Noticing and writing about small things can hone our delight radar and strengthen our joy muscles.
a writing prompt
What’s something small that you enjoy? Maybe it’s actually small in size. Or maybe it’s just small on the world’s scale of importance. Write about it. If you need a place to begin, start by describing it and then let your pen lead you somewhere larger.
about Substack Notes
My newest small thing that is opening doors to larger insights: Substack Notes
Notes is a new space on Substack to share links, short posts, quotes, photos, and more. While I have a love-hate thing with most social media, this feels slightly (maybe? hopefully?) different. So far it has a friendlyish old-school tweet-like vibe with other writers and creators. If I follow my usual social media habits, I won’t post much. I may use it for small things that don’t fit in the newsletter, like photos, recommendations, quick thoughts, or questions. Right now it’s an experiment and a way to discover more good content on Substack without ads or an algorithm. You can ignore it altogether or you can join in and read/respond to me and many others there. My main writing and the prompts will all stay here in the weekly newsletter.
To join Notes, head to substack.com/notes or find the “Notes” tab in the Substack app. As a subscriber to Writing in Company, you’ll automatically see my notes there. Feel free to like, reply, or share them around!
You can also share notes of your own. I hope this becomes a space where readers of Writing in Company can share both small and large ideas from what we're learning on Substack and beyond.
If you encounter any issues, you can always refer to the Notes FAQ for assistance. Maybe I’ll see you there.
Last Week to Register for Writing for the Soul
Join me for an upcoming workshop where we will write about small and large things. Writing for the Soul will meet for four Monday evenings in May on Zoom.
May 8, 15, 22, 29 | 7-8:30 pm Eastern (US)
(I’m also floating a possible Monday AM workshop. Reply and let me know if you are interested!)
Join a small group for a 4-week workshop using writing as a healing practice. We’ll start with poetry, images, objects, and more as prompts to get our writing going. We'll pay attention to our words, explore our memories and imagination, and give ourselves permission to experiment on the page. We'll listen generously to one another's words when we choose to share. No writing experience is necessary, and all are welcome.
You can read more about this—and all my workshops—and register here.
Want to join this and future workshops at a discounted rate, enjoy a monthly online writing hour with others, and support my work? You can upgrade to a paid subscription.
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Thank you for “delight radar” and “joy muscle.” These concepts might make it into a piece I’m working on.
I adore your camper!
Thinking about joining the workshop, but hard to know how my May will pan out. I will make a decision soon!
Such a gorgeous post, Julie! And your camper is the cutest!