Does anyone else write endless lists? I spend my life writing the damn things. I can’t help it. I’ve even just bought myself a new Moleskin notepad for jotting notes down on my next book, and instead of exciting plot ideas and cool character names, it’s already filling up with ‘To Do’ lists.
The thing with obsessive list-writing is that I don’t find it particularly satisfying, even though on each list I always include something I’ve already achieved, just for the satisfaction of crossing it off.
I’ve been writing ‘To Do’ lists all my life. I found a list in my parent’s attic which I wrote when I was nine. It said: Grow up. Live in London. Get married. Be a writer.
How simple! I should be thrilled there’s a list I’ve finally completed. Even if it took me 30 years.
I think the problem is that my lists these days, is that they are so panoramic in their vision and not at all specific in their time limit, although it’s always my outlandish assumption that each list is a day’s worth of tasks.
Take today. At one end of the spectrum are the small things I need to do. These include: wrap present. Send text about a play date. Both list-worthy entries and not to be forgotten. So far, so good.
However, in the middle of the list, is the whole bunch of every day tasks that are permanently repeated on every single list I write: load washing machine, make kids’ beds, take out compost, unload dishy, go to supermarket, school run etc etc. This stuff runs to a page. I don’t know about you, but when I start committing the machine of life to paper, it seems absurd that I ever get anything done at all. But the list isn’t finished there. Oh no…
Because now comes the occasional jobs section of the list. This section can get a bit out of control and can make me feel a bit panicky. Today’s pressing tasks include: mow lawn, clean cooker, sort car insurance, put landing pile of clobber in loft, take jumble to charity shop, dry-cleaning, hire carpet cleaner….Stop! STOP! See what I mean?
Then at the end of the spectrum there’s the big stuff. A hang-over from my nine-year-old self, perhaps: Get a new computer. Learn to speak Spanish. Put solar panels on the roof.
I think list-writing is an entirely female affliction. Emlyn never writes lists. Or if he does, it’s because I’m dictating the shopping list and he goes to the shop and buys exactly what’s written down. No more, no less.
See, I don’t get it. How can he do that?
Because I go to the supermarket and obviously I have a list, but I never look at it. Why would I consult it? I wrote it, so I know what’s on it, right? Wrong. I always forget the one thing I went to the shops for.
Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that secretly I’m an off-list kind of girl. I write lists and then do a fraction of the tasks on them. So for example, the washing is still in the washing machine, the kids’ beds are unmade, I haven’t wrapped the present, mowed the lawn, or organized solar panels for the roof, but I AM off for lunch instead.
All of which leaves me wondering, why do I write these list at all? Are they a job advert for a magic fairy, perhaps? Or is it because I can control my world on a piece of paper and not in real life? Or is it just that I’m a writer and writing lists is a justifiable literary procrastination? Maybe I’ll put that on my list of things to find out.