Friday, October 3, 2008

Nutty & Shelled: List Maker Extraordinaire

I am a list maker. I craft the boldest of lists, the tiniest of lists, the most audacious of lists, the truly mundane. When cleaning house, I'll even make a list of the things I've already finished just so that I can cross them off my life. I make wish lists, goal lists, and "Dream Big" lists. Oddly, whenever I happen to run across an old one, I find that I've actually accomplished quite a few.

Case in Point: Sometime earlier this year I had created a list entitled "Summer Goals." I ran across it yesterday afternoon while cleaning (instead of writing, of course). The odd thing is that when I had created the list, most of these goals seemed out of reach. We certainly didn't have the money or the know-how to do most of them. Like magnetized puzzle pieces, things started fitting into place -- but that's another story for another day. The point is this: lists are powerful.

My List:
  1. Sell 1967 Jeepster Commando Possible buyer interested as of last week
  2. Sell Subaru (?) Decided to keep and replace transmission
  3. Insulate Attic Didn't need to do after all
  4. Install 200 Amp Service
  5. Put in wood stove: in process
  6. Install heat pump: in process
  7. Find shell canopy for pickup Father-in-law gave us old fixer-upper instead.
  8. Sell 300 Weatherby Mag NIB un-fired, NRA edition; I'd won it in a raffle but didn't want it

So, what does this have to do with writing? More than you can imagine. When I look at the aspiring writers who have their ducks in a row, the ones who are pumping out word counts like bodybuilders on creatine, I see that they are also the ones who have specific goals listed on their blogs. Either word count goals or time limit goals or number of queries in the mail this week, they are the ones who are not only focused but producing. Take Ken Kiser or Anthony Pacheco, Gavin of Mechanical Hampster, or any of a myriad of others: peruse their blogs, ogle their gritty determination, and throw your own shoulders back with a new sense of purpose. Sure, there's preparation and hard work and distractions and revisions. But if you don't envision the end result -- the place you want to be at the end of this week, month, year -- the trail is a great deal steeper and rockier and treacherous, replete with detours galore. Set the goal. Keep your eye on the prize. Go forth and conquer.

What does this have to do with my writing? Well, as I was looking back over an email that I had sent a friend yesterday, I noticed that I -- List Maker Extraordinaire -- was failing miserably at my own self-proclaimed talent. Here's an excerpt:

"i'm avoiding writing as usual, but i have begun an editing process with book #2, so that's at least better than normal. lately i've begun having serious vocab shortages: i know the word i want exists, i've used the dang-blasted thing a million times, it's a perfectly beautifully crafted word that's hugely better than "hugely" or "normal" or "thing" or "get" or whatever...but it eludes me. it's not even on the tip of my tongue or the precipice of my's lurking in deep depths, far beyond my scanty influence or gravitational pull. and it's annoying. worrisome. irritating. laughable."

I noticed two things: one, this is not where I want to be as a writer. I have better focus than this. I know better than this. I am better than this. And two, as I began to focus on my vocabulary crisis, I started pulling out more vivid language.

My point? Simple reflection of where you're at and where you want to be can serve as a wake-up call. Even I -- fanatical list maker -- need to remember to review the goals I've made regarding my life as writer. Few things are more powerful than goals carved out in stone, scribbled on a sticky note, or scrawled on the back of a coffee house napkin. I glance up at the sage green sticky above my computer: Nulla dies sine linea. Oops! Excuse me as I scuttle back into my writing cubby.


Inland Empire Girl said...

okay... so if you make a list to help you organize the other many lists, does that mean you are procrastinating or just unorganized?

Alex Moore said...

@iep: LOL. Actually, it depends upon the motivation of the master list. If it allows you to mark things off and feel accomplished about it all, then by all means keep it:)