Monday, April 23, 2007

Making a List, Checking it Twice

I’ve never been a list maker. I’m more of a “leave it out where you can see it” person. To the untrained eye, my desk appears to be an application in chaos theory, but I know why all those papers are where they are (and heaven help me if a stray current from an open window upsets my organization).
However, since I’ve started writing, I’ve found I have lists everywhere. There’s a list of research questions that require answers. There’s a numerical accounting of pages written day-by-day and an editing progress list. I have a character inventory list of physical characteristics, quirks, and qualities – just in case I’m asked to do a series or maybe even a sequel to a book previously published. I’m told those things happen – but I suppose it helps if one has a book on the shelves . I have a list of writing goals which is important in that if I don’t meet my goals in a three-week timeframe, I have to cough up five dollars. If you realize how incredibly cheap I am, you’d understand that this is an important list indeed. Still, it’s not the most important list.
That honor belongs to my dream list. About five years ago, I typed up a list of all the things I wanted to do in my life. Many are writing related – teach a workshop at the RWA conference, give an acceptance speech for the Golden Heart (or RITA). Many are not writing related – go on a cruise, spend the night in a bona fide castle, go up in a hot air balloon, fly first class. Anyway, I listed about twenty “dreams” on that first list. I figured one had to recognize one’s dreams to accomplish them. I keep the list posted by my computer.
Every year I add a few new dreams to my list and I’m proud to say I’ve had occasion to scratch some off as having been accomplished. In this crazy industry where so many things are out of our control, a dream list is a necessity to remind one that even if the manuscript didn’t sell this year, dreams are still realized. Or if not the dream itself, progress toward the dream. Believe me when I created the list, I thought the possibility of ever scratching out a single line bordered on the impossible.
So tell me – what would be on your dream list., both writing-related and non-writing. (Perhaps if I like yours, they’ll suddenly share an appearance on my list as well) :)


Joan said...

I'm not a big "list" person the exception being when I'm packing to go on a trip....don't want to forget things like PLANE TICKETS LOL.

Here are a few things I'd have to include on my list:

Writing: 1. To be involved in opening up the historical market for new time periods.

2. To be able to make a working wage with my least reduce down to part time with my day job. (I know, I know....we all want to but it could happen)

3.To return to RWA some small bit of what it has given to me either through a presentation at National and/or participation on a committee etc.

Non-writing: 1. To meet my hero.

2. To travel to Rome

3. Buy a house in Ireland.

There are probably dozens more, but these are a good start.

Anna Campbell said...

Donna, I live and die by lists these days. Not because I'm organized but because my memory has turned from a steel trap to a sieve. Why is this so?

I don't however keep a dream list and after reading your post I think I should. A few stray ideas. Hit the NYT list (I know, every writer has that one). See the northern lights. Go to Iceland. Go to the ballet in Russia. Live somewhere that has a sea view. Learn to speak fluent French. Oh, dear, once you start this, it's addictive, isn't it? I'd better stop or I'll be here all day! Great post. Thank you.

DMacMeans said...

Joan -

Giving a workshop at National is on my list. One of these years, I'll do it. Being invited to speak on that Maui Writers Cruise - now that one might be a bit tough :).

DMacMeans said...

Anna -

You should definitely keep a list of dream goals on the side. I think it's part of that positive energy attraction thing. Once you've committed your dream goals to paper, opportunities to experience the dream appear - and you might have passed them by if you hadn't acknowledged how important they are. Weird, I know. But it works...

Inara said...

Oh goodness, I LOVE lists!! I can't imagine how I could possibly remember to do half the things I need to do without a list. I have three sets of to do lists: work, writing, and home. I have resolution lists (my husband and I do both personal and couple resolutions, like, "go out on date once every six weeks"--we like to aim high!--and take 5 family adventures to places we've never been.

But anyway, keeping a dream list sounds like great fun. Here are a few of mine-to someday own a house with land and a horse to go with it--to travel to Australia and meet Anna and Christine--to get rid of my migraines forever.

But for me there's some danger in putting something on the dream list. Because by calling it a dream, I worry that I will stop striving to make it happen. I think of dreams as something I don't have control over--goals I do.

Which raises an interesting question. Where does writing fall? Dream or goal? In some ways, we have control over our writing--our attention to detail, our pursuit of excellence in craft--but in many ways we do not. We do not create our voice and we may simply not have the "gift" of writing that takes us to the top of the heap. Our stories may not be marketable, or we may simply be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

For now, publication is on my goal list, while a six-figure advance and the NYT bestseller sits squarely on the dream list. But maybe that changes over time...I don't know.

Great question, Donna--definitely got me thinking.


Caren Crane said...

I'm with Joan, in that I don't consider myself a list person but find them necessary more often than I care to admit. Matter of fact, my brain falls in Anna's "sieve" category. I blame it on a life that is far too full and busy. Of course, I keep volunteering for things, so that is probably my fault!

Wishes/goals (in no particular order): 1. Work part-time or support myself through writing.

2. Find the agent and editor who adore my writing (an ongoing search, believe me).

3. Write marketable stories that are true to my voice and vision.

4. Visit the British Isles and explore extensively.

5. Visit Australia and New Zealand (and hopefully see Anna, Christine and Abby Gaines!).

6. Visit Italy and France - oh, heck, throw the rest of Europe in there, too.

7. Retire to the Appalachian mountains.

8. Maintain close relationships with my family, especially my siblings, kids and, someday, grandkids.

9. Volunteer my time and energy to make a difference in the lives of others until I die.

That's a start, anyway!

Anna Campbell said...

These lists have been so inspiring. I'd love to see some more. Inara and Caren, you're most welcome any time!