Thursday, April 9, 2009

To Do List or To Be List?

Are you a list maker? I am. I write and rewrite lists on stickie notes, deposit slips, notebooks, and--on rare occasions, when I'm feeling organized--I sign up for a task list email thingy. It's the kind of task master system that sends you emails to remind you what to do everyday. Such ambition for compulsive organizing and prioritizing is [for me anyway] fleeting. Thank goodness. Now if I could get an email task list everymorning that said: drink coffee and listen to the birds, write half the day, garden, take a long walk with the dog, have a drink and a leisurley home-cooked meal with your man, read for hours, repeat next day....well, I'd sign up for that one.

In this frenzied hyper-connected digital world, it's easy to get caught up in the undertow of doing, doing, doing and forget being. I try to remind myself that it's the process that counts, not so much the end result. [Yeah, I know. I can hear you laughing. But notice I said, try to remind myself.] If you're just trying to get through something, or get it over with so the real fun begins, if you're just waiting for some point in the future, you're resisting the now of life. You're wishing away the minutes, hours, days, years. I've noticed too many of the "what's on your mind" statuses of my pals on Facebook say, "Can't wait until Friday." Usually that's on a Monday.

It never ends, you think. Paying bills, dentist appointments, taking the critter to the vet, job responsibilities or looking for a job, haircuts, groceries, volunteering, buying birthday presents, and on and on. But dig up an old list in your glove compartment or some dusty drawer, a list you made a year ago, or five or more years ago, and you see all the tedious stuff that's passed, floated on down the river, that debris that seemed so important at the time. "Life is what happens to you while your busy making other plans." John Lennon said that.

One approach I like is on the Zen Habit site last week about getting "amazing" things done. The key word--amazing. And I have to add another apt quote from a favorite: "To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else."--Emily Dickinson

And writers? You'll love this: Novelist Patry Francis [The Liars' Diary] has started a wonderful, inspiring blog called Toil, Solitude, Prayer: Writing as a Practice to "train for the marathon of writing a novel." Today she references this "Tales from the Slush Pile" comic strip about to-do lists, which is genius:

“Tales from the Slush Pile” is an original comic strip that follows the trials and tribulations of a children’s book writer. Its creator, Ed Briant, has written and illustrated a number of picture books, including Paper Parade (Atheneum, 2004), Seven Stories (Roaring Brook/Porter, 2005), A Day at the Beach (Greenwillow, 2006), and Don’t Look Now (Roaring Brook/Porter, 2009).


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