Lists by Misha Herwin

There are those people who make lists and those who don’t. I must admit that I find the latter very hard to understand. For me, lists are an integral part of my life and I am not sure how well I would function without them.
     I make lists of things to do, to buy, to take on holiday and what has to be done at the last minute before going away. That is good one as it saves that horrible feeling of panic as we are about to join the motorway and I wonder if I had indeed switched off the boiler, or locked the front door. If it’s been ticked off the list, which I have in my pocket, then I’ve done it.
     When planning a novel, I list every chapter and most of the key points in each one. It is not until I have this that I start writing. Of course, this is only a rough outline of what is going to happen and as the book progresses the list is amended, sometimes even torn up and started afresh. My latest WIP had so many lists, both on the computer and on paper, that I lost count.
     Having something of a butterfly mind, or rather being a very creative person who can rarely resist the temptation to follow an exciting new thread and move on from one project to the next without finishing the first, I find that lists keep me on track.
     Today, I am going to write my blog for Authors’ Electric, work on my novel, then send a number of writing related emails. When all this has been done, I’ll be free to get on with the rest of the things on my list.   
     Making a list of boring, everyday stuff means that it gets done. It also works for the jobs I find stressful, or intimidating as the pressure to cross them off tends to outweigh the fear and, once I start, I invariably find that what I was nervous about actually wasn’t that scary. 
     My list, therefore, keeps me efficient and focussed, plus a feeling of satisfaction; a metaphorical pat on the back.  
     The downside is, and there is a downside to this most favourite of activities, that lists can also prove limiting.
     After experimenting with various ways of working, I have found what works best is to allocate a set amount of time for my writing each day. Top of the list in my diary is to write for an hour. Which is great, except that some days I could write for a lot longer. I could, in fact, spend all morning working on the novel, or the short story, but, because it’s been marked as done, there is something in my brain that resists doing more.
     I think the answer is to schedule in a number of blocks of time and not cross the last one off until the end of the day.
     After I’ve posted this blog, I’ll go and put that top of my things to do tomorrow.


Wendy H. Jones said…
I too love lists. What a fab idea to list blocks of time. I might do a similar thing with number of words. I hope it works for you
Chris Longmuir said…
Apart from the list of things to put in my suitcase when I'm going away (it prevents me pulling things in and putting them back again to make sure) I don't do lists. As for chapters, if I made a list of chapters and what each one contained, I would never write the book. I find it restricts me. It stops my imagination taking off in its own direction. Of course, I always have a list of things to do in my mind, like, write a blog, update my website, (which I'm doing today). And, I wouldn't be without my diary which tells me when to go to the dentist or the hairdresser, and when I have events coming up. But what works for one person, doesn't necessarily work for another. Good luck with the lists and keep them coming.
Jan Edwards said…
I am awash with admiration! I only wish I were that organised. I make the lists and then promptly forget to look at them. Now notes... possibly stuck to my forehead - that might work.
Lynne Garner said…
I love a good list - it ensures those little boring things that keep slipping from my mind get done eventually.
Susan Price said…
Like Chris, I don't make detailed plans for my books. I'm very much a pantser - until things get desperated, towards the end. Then I resort to trying to map the book.

But in general day-to-day life, nothing would get done without my lists to remind and nudge me. And there's some things that still don't get done - they keep getting pushed further and further down the list. I suppose it's a bit like my brother-out-law's approach to memos - he keeps one for three days and if no one contacts him about it in that that time, he bins it and forgets it. - If it gets pushed to the forgotten depths of the bottom of my lists, it doesn't really need doing.
Fran B said…
I confess to being a lifelong lists addict! I even have master lists: camping equipment, holiday / overnight packing; supermarkets; my freezer contents; family/friends birthdays in calendar order; Christmas presents . . . And, of course, I have a daily lists jotter in which I plan how to fit ongoing, lengthy jobs (like getting better at self-publicising/marketing and researching for/writing my next novel) into those inescapable, routine daily/weekly/monthly tasks (cleaning, shopping, washing, entertaining, keeping in touch with the elderlies, etc)

I like to believe it leaves my ageing brain time to concentrate on creative things (and enjoying life generally). I dignify it with the grand name of 'Time and Stress Management' (TSM) because it is loosely based on a TSM course I did many years ago.

Of course, possibly I am just some kind of nerd/geek/OCD-ite. Oh, dear. This post feels like a coming-out confession . . .
Ann Evans said…
I write lots of lists, sitting here at my desk I can see 7 lists pinned to my board and I've just written another list of writing tasks that still need finishing - or starting! Not that they get done in any order. But it's so satisfying when you get a few ticked off. From my list of 17 things on tonight's list, I've managed 3, so feeling pleased. Best get on with my Authors Electric blog post for Monday which is next on my list.
I totally identify with this...the only way I get anything done!

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