On the importance of unwritten lists


Each day I promise myself I’ll sit down to write something — something that has nothing to do with food — and each day, I fail.  This dooms me to an endless procession of imagined writings that weave in and out of each day, sparked by the smallest things I may not realize have had an impact on me.  The words begin, constructing themselves into phrases, sentences, and whole passages that take on a life of their own.

Sometimes, the writing catches my attention, somewhat like a voice finally loud enough to hear in a busy room, its owner choosing an insistent tone, annoyed to catch you not paying attention and absorbed in all sorts of unimportant things.

It’s unfortunate because without the fingers currently pecking away on the screen of this iPad, none of it ever becomes anything.  It’s the perfect excuse to be distracted by the sun now just barely showing itself above the wall through the kitchen window.  Or a promise made to oneself that the most mundane tasks will be completed each day before anything creative might be done.  At least the brilliance of the sunrise allows thought to grow, and an inclination to write to develop.

Of course, it also makes me want to get my camera to snap 10 or 15 shots of the reflection on the counter I did take the time to wipe this morning, as well as consider which setting might best capture the streams of light shooting from the sun.  After a few attempts, my curiosity begins to generate questions about how that’s actually done and quiet, thoughtfulness is pushed easily aside  for more practical things — like mental list making.

Yes, a pattern is surfacing.  If everything goes on in my head, then I don’t actually have to commit to any of it — at least not commit to the particular order it’s in or on any particular day.  And why should I?  The sheer enormity of my “list” can be either a pleasure, or burden depending on when and how I approach it, so not having to look at it is important.

Here’s a small dose as it comes to mind:

Make fondant to try a new recipe
Decide whether to experiment with a sheet cake which can be cut, or pour the shapes
Call the association to paint fence ?
Call nursery about 10-12 Iceberg Floribundas
Call masonry store about flagstone wall caps ?
Make curtains for the office and install rod
Demo the boy’s bathroom
Finish selecting photos of England for book ?
Replace knobs on old dresser
Reupholster two bedroom chairs
Locate additional handle for back door
Order bedside lamps
Clean closet (again)
Figure out how to put thumbnails in archived posts on blog
Update 365 page
Redo “about” page
Keep reading about custom background CSS and experiment
Exercise & ice knee ?
Go through office boxes
Replace closet doors
Catch up with a year of Daring Baker challenges
Think about getting back in the habit of planning meals by the week (right)
Scan old photos
Send old slides out for scanning/printing
Order blinds for bedroom
Refinish that ugly table
Figure out what to do with that canvas
Process a photo to go in the big black frame
DIY garden lighting and irrigation for back of house
Fireplace mantle for living room
Organize separate libraries in Aperture
Schedule one-on-one project appointments
Plan monthly photo shoots out and about San Diego
Start thinking about New England road trip for next Fall

I could keep going.  And going.  And going.

I made a list of home improvements to work on as a motivating factor after returning to work for a year, but after staring at the bedraggled salmon-colored sheet it was written on and only crossing one item off in that year’s time, I tossed it, annoyed far more than I’d ever been motivated.

There’s no point in making a list, but I have noticed since I drafted this yesterday morning, I have checked off a few things.  On the other hand, I’ve completed far more tasks not on this list in the same time, and have detected others that have grown in the night.

Each morning when I wake long before I’d like to, my list plays.  If it doesn’t put me to sleep with its endlessness, then it does eventually encourage me to get up to start my day thinking that because I’ve had some constructive think time, perhaps I can dupe myself into quiet writing time before the sun rises.

I may no longer live my life in the organized, meticulously planned way as I once did, but I will alway have something to be interested in doing.

And routine household chores will never be a deterrent for ignoring what sustains me.






3 responses to “On the importance of unwritten lists”

  1. Im an avid list maker. I make one every single morning, and go through my day checking things off. And I do this because if I didn’t NOTHING would ever get done/finished.

  2. Mary Earlene Olsen

    I like making a list of 6 things to “try” to complete each day. Nice list, but it will drive you crazy if you dwell on it. Flip a coin and get busy.

  3. Meleah, I know you’re a great list maker. I try, but it just doesn’t work for me.

    ME, I don’t dwell on that list, it dwells IN me. It runs whether I want it to or not. Makes me crazy.

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