Five Loves and a Dud

Recipe Image for Blog Post.png

Serves: One or Many

Cook Time: 13 minutes, 8 seconds

Perfect for

  • Inspiring a great conversation with friends and family.

  • Creating a list that makes you think about things you love and things you don’t.

  • Learning how to use details effectively.

  • For teachers, making a fast and easy bulletin board reflecting what’s important to your students.

  • A New Year’s reflection tool, revisiting this one over and over again to see how your likes and dislikes change over time.

  • This can also be tweaked to make a fun Valentine for your sweethearts. (See sample in the BONUS section at the end of this post.)


Writing Prep

  1. Read Samples.

  2. Make a list of things you like and things you don’t like.

  3. Do this fast and don’t think too hard. Let ideas come to you freely.

  4. Here are categories for possible loves: personal care items, artists, writers, athletes, performers, writers, books, movies, songs, TV shows, forces of nature, things that are essential, food/drinks, places, habits, kinds of feelings, trends in popular culture/fashion, sports, hobbies, holidays, objects, kinds of weather, seasons, times of day, discoveries, and many more…these can also be duds!

  5. Here’s my potential list of loves: over easy eggs on toast, skiing in Snowmass, the hill behind our house, the crook of my husband’s neck, snuggling with our golden retriever and my daughter on her tiny bed.

  6. Here’s my potential list of duds: when knicknacks are moved from their perfect spots on my shelves, people who text while driving, cold eggs, the “free” breakfasts at Hilton Express Hotels.

  7. If you have more than five loves and one dud, put a start next to the items that interest you most.

Time to Get Cooking

  1. Get a piece of paper.

  2. Put this title at the top of your paper: 5 Loves and a Dud

  3. Write a list titled 5 LOVES…and just list your top five.

  4. Below that, write…and one BIG OLE DUD. Write your dud in one sentence below the DUD title. My sample shows you how this looks on the page.

  5. Then, pick one of your loves, or the DUD, and write about it with lots more detail. I wrote about the hill behind our house, and eggs over easy.

  6. This piece is all about writing with small details that show us a bigger picture. For example, writing that my grandma loves cooking Italian food is fine, but giving us details like this are even better: She hums while kneading her bread dough. Over the years, she’s cut so much garlic that the smell is forever soaked into her warped cutting board. (Thank you to Ralph Fletcher for these detail examples!)

Maybe the single most important lesson you can learn as a writer is to write small. A single detail can sometimes give you a window into a whole person’s life.
— Ralph Fletcher

7. Use the Quick Write Method.

  • Quick Write means: Write for 13 minutes, 8 seconds without stopping or talking. (Studies show that 13 minutes, 8 seconds is the perfect amount of time for this piece.) 

  • Quick Writes grow writing love because:

    a. Writing fast for a short period of time helps you outrun the inner voice that says, “You can’t write.  You are bad at this!” 

    b. Tell yourself, “I don’t have time to listen to that critical voice.  I’m gonna go for it!”

  • Keep pen/pencil/keyboard moving the entire time.

  • If you get stuck, write I’m stuck I’m stuck I’m stuck until you aren’t anymore.  Cross that part out later.

  • Don’t worry about spelling.

Share Your Words

1. When you are done, read your piece aloud – to a real live human, your dog, or your bathroom mirror.  It’s essential to hear your writing aloud.  You’ll hear what works. You’ll hear what doesn’t work. 

2. If you do read this to a real live human, ask them to tell you a word, phrase, or sentence that stands out to them (this is called SAYBACK ).  Don’t ask for or receive advice about revision or editing.  Just absorb what someone likes about your writing and say, “Thank you very much.”

3.  Select one line you like the best – or one that moves you the most - or one that stands out the most.  I call these golden lines. It’s good to notice what you are already doing well as a writer.  Often, if you get response from a human, your golden lines might be the same! That’s fun and tells you a lot about what readers think is good writing. 


  • If you’re a teacher, have each kid write one of their loves on a nice piece of paper and slap it up on that good ole bulletin board. If you want to make it look super fab and colorful, check out this quick way to display golden lines.

  • If you’re a human with folks gathered around your table, this piece is a great conversation starter. No writing needed - just start talking about 5 loves and a dud.

  • If you’d like to make a Valentine out of this, I’d do it as a quick list with specific things you love about someone special. I am going to attach it to a box of wrapped Milk Duds so it’s sweet because I just don’t want to do a real DUD (Like why don’t you pick up the dog poop without me asking you every single time?) on Valentine’s Day. I think that might kill the love vibe just a wee bit, right? Here’s a sample, written for my sweetheart of a daughter.

5 Loves and a Dud for My Sweet Anna

  1. Listening to you scream with fearless joy on our rafting trip down the Grand Canyon.

  2. Savoring your soulful tone when you practice your trumpet.

  3. How you stay true to yourself, and don’t follow the crowd.

  4. The way you help your friends when they need favors and support, even if it’s not convenient or easy.

  5. Your constant hugs and snuggles.

    …and for your DUD…well, it could only be one thing because you are so sweet.

    Open the box to find out!

    Love and kisses,


I’d love to hear what you love…and even what you don’t.

Always writing,


P.S. Writing Feasts are coming every Tuesday in March. On February 12th, I’m doing a post all about it. On February 14th, I’m doing a Live with Lorrie with even more details. Since that’s Valentine’s Day, I will share some of my all-time favorite LOVE poems to get us in the mood for romance. xoxoxo