Sunday, October 7, 2018

Lists: A Tool in Writing and Life

Years ago I attended a presentation by children's author Claudia Mills on the art of keeping lists. From what I recall, Claudia is an ardent list maker and list keeper. She has journals of lists of all sorts. The fascinating thing is that she never throws a list away -- even when she has reached the end of a to-do list with each item neatly crossed off because she regards her lists like a journal, or a time capsule of things she has done or was planning to do.

Lists are not only a useful tool for navigating daily living. They are a useful tool for writers. There are so many ways that lists can be used. In an online conference yesterday, I learned that even author David Shannon makes lists to improve the books he is working on.

Although I am sure we all know what a list can be, here is a list of possible lists that you might find useful.

1. Character names and their traits
2. Things to fix in a manuscript as you read through a draft - this will keep you from slowing down when you want a general scope of how a story arc is shaping up.
3. Tasks to get done for the professional side of your work
4. Tasks for the personal side of your life
5. Brainstorm lists, like for titles of your next book that is ready to submit
6. Books you would like to read
7. Resolution lists that include healthy habits
8. Shopping lists that include chocolate (mine always include chocolate)
9. Favorite authors
10. Favorite artists
11. Motivational songs
12. Types of settings or places you come across that seem interesting
13. Favorite quotes
etc etc etc

Of course, as writer Lauren Laverne points out, lists may help keep our priorities in perspective and give us a sense of control, many of the best and most interesting things in life happen by accident and without any planning....

Happy unplanned things like:

sharing a smile with a stranger or a good laugh with a friend,
helping yourself to another slice of the perfect apple pie for dessert,
or taking a long awaited call out of the blue in the middle of the day in the middle of sentence you were just speaking....

Certainly none of these things were on anyone's list for their day. The unplanned pleasant surprises make life worth living.

So make your lists and remember to refer back to them, but keep your soul planted firmly in the present and the people you love keeping close.

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