I make lists for everything. I have to. Or my days fly away like birds startled by rustling leaves and snapping twigs, signals of danger.

Without lists, procrastination and plain old forgetfulness rule. On listless days, I go to bed at night feeling unfulfilled, incomplete. The mythical mañana never comes, for it’s always going to be mañana, without a list.

A few weeks ago, alarmed at my declining reliance on lists, I bought a planner. A paper-based planner with an embossed Panda face on the cover.  Well-organized pages allow me to scribble and color inside the black lines. And outside as well. I have not yet begun to mar its pristine white pages with the black ink of my favorite Paper Mate smooth-ball pens.

Making lists helps me a lot in steering the course of my days. That much I know. At the same time, listing everything I must do rips away a lot of the spontaneity of life. Lists imprison me in the world of “shoulds” and “should nots.”

Yet with writing, and especially with the writing of books, lists become very crucial tools.

  • An outline of chapters is a list.
  • Chapter topics arranged in order comprises a list.
  • A bibliography is a list.
  • A character chart is a list by another name.
  • Listing daily tasks obviously falls in with the discussion here.
  • Copyediting requires a list of things to be on the lookout for.
  • Deadlines take well to the list format.

Making a list and checking it twice doesn’t mean I’ll be judged either naughty or nice.* It just means that the trend toward entropy, or chaos, in my life, or anyone’s life for that matter, lessens. Like a fine wine with dinner, or a beer on a hot day, a well-crafted list can relieve stress. Life becomes rosier, more pleasant and tolerable.

So, let’s see. Where should I start?

  1. Post this …

*From the song, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”


  1. I love lists. I think everyone in my family makes them. Sometimes I never even look at my “to-do” list, but other days, it gives me great satisfaction to cross things off. 🙂

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