Mind clutter is something I try hard to avoid. It’s like an illness which just won’t go. Headaches occur, sleep refuses to come, neurosis sets in. The solution? List making. With my google calendar open, I add things to do at the top of each day. The very act of transferring a single thought about something that needs to be attended to onto virtual paper (or real paper for that matter!) helps to lighten the mental and ultimately physical and emotional burden that would otherwise ensue.
The calendar helps me to prioritise what is required of me. Sometimes I ask ‘Does this need to be done at all?’ The liberation sensed by hitting the ‘delete’ button is pure magic. Lists of things get placed on different days, in order of urgency. At the end of a day, if not everything has been done on that list, then these items get moved to the next day and so on. Procrastination? Yes, possibly. But not entirely. Sometimes, I feel, we try to do too much at once. After all I got to the end of the day, achieved most, or at least some of the things listed, and maybe I’d have been running around like a headless chicken if I’d attempted them all. Seeing this in writing makes sense of it. Lightens the load still further.
The pursuit of my dream
During especially busy times: pupil exams and concerts, or getting ready to go away on holiday, the lists become longer. On these occasions the word ‘done’ gets added. Lists on real paper using a real pen are used as well, which are often easier to tick off. Yet these are what I consider to be the ephemera of my life, even though without these tasks taking place, things would grind to a pretty sticky halt. But really they are support tasks: updating accounts; paying bills; putting the bins out; ordering the weekly food delivery; packing; booking the taxi. If not attended to properly, these matters would otherwise get in the way of the big picture: the pursuit of my dream.
That’s where lists come in
I love my ‘day job’, but it isn’t part of my ultimate dream. Once upon a time it was, and I’ve achieved what I set out to do. These days I do it because it is, in its own way, uplifting, helps produce good human beings, and also helps to pay the bills. The ‘day job’ for the most part takes place in evenings, when children come from school to piano lessons. So it’s how I organise my day which is important. It’s how I deal with the ephemera, ensuring less exciting or downright dull but necessary matters are addressed, leaving me time to write my novellas. Although sometimes, I just have to accept that this piece of excitement has to be put on hold. Mainly though, the aim, each day, is to do something towards that dream, and that’s where lists come in.
Make the journey that much easier
To type the word ‘writing’ on the calendar is the first step. But it can lead to something more specific: what kind of task. ‘Add structural points’ in the margin; ‘reread first pages of chapter in progress’; ‘continue current chapter; ‘begin first edit’. Specifics can help to concentrate the mind, sharpen the intent and make the journey that much easier.
Much more fun
And then there are the lists I keep in google docs. Plot points; character bios; ideas for the next act; the cast. Without these I’d be lost. Being the panser writer I am, lists are indispensable. They produce order where there might be chaos, determination to continue when it would be tempting to give up. Easily accessible, easy to appraise, and satisfying to delete or complete, according to prevailing conditions. Life is much more fun that way.