Monday, October 5, 2009

The Beginning of the Week

Funny how, even though I have no regular job to keep track of the days of the week, when Monday comes around, I feel like I have to gear up.  So what does it mean to gear up?  Find the top of my desk again, go over my calendar, try to clear off my emails (even the ones that have been sitting there for weeks), and, of course, make my list.

Yes, fellow storytellers, I'm a very serious list-maker.  I am even one of those who puts things on the list after I've done them just to be able to check them off.  But one thing I have learned about making a good and satisfying list is to break activities down so I get full credit for every step.  

When it comes to writing a book, that means putting down research I have to do, trips to the library, reading other books, all of these things count.  Then I list the chapters as I'm about to write them.  So for one week I might list two or three chapters, depending on how quickly I'm cruising along.  On a daily list (I know, it's a bit obsessive with the monthly, weekly, daily routine) I will write how many pages. 

This is all about patting myself on the back and giving myself credit for every single task I perform in order to write.  Even running (that's where I think up my ideas). 

I try not to brutalize myself with these lists.  They were signposts, not beat-myself-over-the- head-if-I-don't-do-them duties.  I think my lists are often my companions, supportive.  When you work alone you have to find some ways to praise yourself and shout encouragement.  That red pen slashing through another job done feels mighty good.


  1. Thank you, Mary! I'm glad to know I'm not the only compulsive list-maker around.

    I'm grappling with the final three chapters of my novel. It feels very like the end of pregnancy: I'm excited to be so near childbirth, but also frightened at the same time. I'm second-guessing (and third- and fourth-) myself at every turn, and uncertain how to handle a million troubling little questions about details. My lists are of all the things I need to include and explain, and it feels quite overwhelming.

  2. Lists do keep one grounded and the older I get the more I need them. I find that if I write notes down, it frees my brain to fly in other ways. Thanks, Mary.

    Debra, that freefall time can be so frightening, but the deepest writing. Congratulations for getting this far. Claire Rudolf Murphy