Organizing lists

Several years ago, I fully accepted that I am a tangible person. I like having proof that I accomplished something during my day, instead of just saying that I showed up to my life and did the same things everyone else does. This became a bigger source of frustration as I realized more and more that I really do want to spend my time being involved in books. I enjoy reading and I have a lot of stories that I want to share with the world. But if your goal is to make a living at writing, how do you prove to yourself every day that you actually went to work and accomplished something? Sure, it’s super easy during the days when you’re just working to crank out that first draft because then it’s all about producing and not necessarily about the product itself. Once you have that first draft in your hand, that’s when the real trouble starts.

So I started making lists. Not just a random selection of lists that would be stored on whatever napkin or piece of paper I happened to have nearby when I thought of something I needed to do, but a genuine and dedicated list. I went out and found a great spiral notebook on clearance and now that notebook is home to the ongoing “To Do” list that helps me make progress in all aspects of my life. As a writer, I can add things that are tangible to me, especially during the revision phase. During the first draft phase of writing, all I have to do is jot down something I need to look at later so that I can see that it’s something I’ll need to take care of, but I won’t have to stop my forward momentum in order to stop and fix that one section, which could then turn into problems for a different section. Instead, I put a line on the list that says, “insert appropriate wounds into Chapter 10” or “research mythological legends closer for more authentic back story during the trial in Chapter 6.” I even put in what books I’m reading and that way, I can put a check next to something I read and wrote a review about, which helps me prove that I did something useful with my day.

The spiral notebook that lives on my desk has many pages of lines with check boxes, since I started this notebook back on 28 February 2009. It’s kind of gratifying to be able to flip back that far and see how much I’ve accomplished. Some of the check boxes have marks in the box and a completed date at the end, and some whole pages have been crossed through with a single diagonal line which indicates that I have completed every task on that one page. There are still pages that have just that one unmarked line left that shows that I still haven’t shredded my old and unneeded CDs from September of 2009 or made a backup of one of my laptops that I intended to create in February of 2010, but the things marked off far outweigh those things I have not checked off.

It seems a bit weird, I suppose, to keep such a dedicated and thorough log of my life, but I truly do find that it’s helping me to make tremendous progress with keeping track of my life, as well as with improving my word count, revision capabilities, motivation to keep moving forward on so many ongoing projects, and generally just making sure I feel like I can prove that I did something worthwhile at the end of my day. Which now means that I can cross off “update blog for week of 09-13 April.”

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About C.A. Jacobs

Just another crazy person, masquerading as a writer.
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