The best-selling author who created the Quiet Movement talks soft side rituals, the power of reading, and the secret to a connected world.
Author Susan Cain is no stranger to her soft side. In fact, one may say she’s more comfortable in quiet, silent moments. The uninterrupted space where intentional thinking and unfiltered emotion really meet. The writer (and avid reader) created the Quiet Movement and reshaped how the world sees introverts. Now, her upcoming book, Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Makes Us Whole, masterfully reveals the power of a bittersweet, observant state of mind, and how it brings us back to ourselves and to others. Think of it as a nod (or more like one warm, validating hug) to the feelers, thinkers, artists, and anybody who pays deep attention. Turns out sensitivity can be a superpower, after all.
Here, we learn about Susan’s soft side rituals, the secret to a connected world, and the power of reading.
What inspired you to write your latest book, Bittersweet?
I was that person who was obsessed with sad, minor key music. Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” was like my personal anthem. I wanted to understand the paradox of how sad music could make us so happy, and how it’s possible to feel these two emotions at the same time. This led to a five- year quest in which I talked to film directors, neuroscientists, artists, theologians, and philosophers, as well as traveling back in time to explore my own family history…and what I found is that bittersweetness is a secret gateway to connection, creativity, love, and joy. Sorrow and longing have the power to make us whole. It’s our tears – not our laughs – that lead us to a better, more connected world.
Can't wait to read it. Growing up, what role did reading play in your childhood?
Reading was one of my greatest joys. I read ALL THE TIME: at the kitchen table, in bed before school, over the weekends. One college application asked us to list all the books we’d ever read. My list stretched into the thousands, and I was afraid they wouldn’t believe me.
How has it impacted or inspired who you are today?
I think we all want to be like the people who most inspire us, especially when we’re children. If you’re inspired by a firefighter as a kid, you probably aspire to physical heroism as an adult. I was inspired by authors, so I grew up wanting to write books that would touch other people, the way they’d touched me.
Your bestseller Quiet was adapted into a young adult book. Why was that important for you?
When Quiet came out, I heard from thousands of people who said: “If only I’d had this book when I was a kid, my whole life would’ve turned out differently.” I feel a sense of urgency to teach quiet kids about the power of quiet – so they can live their best lives possible.
Follow your longing where it's telling you to go. It's pointing you to the sacred. – Susan Cain
What’s your favorite children’s book?
“Autumn Term” by Antonia Forest. It’s a classic English boarding school story, written with the wit and observatory powers of Jane Austen. Never in my life have I encountered characters as well drawn as the ones I met (and still think of ALL THE TIME) in that book.
How do you know it's time to create? What does that look like for you?
I’m happiest when I’m engaged in a creative project. So, I engage in one, every single day – even on vacation. I feel deprived without it. For me, this looks like sitting down at my laptop, with a latte and candle nearby, and visiting a place deep inside my own mind. It’s like a journey that I get to take every day.
How do you tap into your soft side?
Ha! I pretty much live on my soft side. I tap into it in a thousand ways. Here are a few recent ones: Lighting a candle every morning as I start my workday. Sharing a work of art, every morning, on social media. Listening to Leonard Cohen.
When I'm not writing, you can find me...
Walking in the woods. Watching “Oversimplified” with my kids. Doing HIIT or yoga.