Tag Archives: lists

The List

19 Jan


I have a List. It would be nice if it had a cool name. “The Master List” maybe. Perhaps something like “Codex Apocryphus” would give it a nice, important feeling. For now, however, I simply call it the List. And it keeps me writing, every damn day. For a guy like me – with my mighty powers of procrastination – anything that gets me to write every day is a good thing.

Rather than throw myself into one writing project, I work off the things on the List. And I can work on anything that is on the List, in any order that I please. If I come up with a new thing to work on, I just put it on the List. Naturally, I am frequently nagged by doubts: Maybe I should have a ‘kick’ date, when I kick stuff off the List? Should I have an Old List and a New List? Ooh, or maybe several Lists, for different moods/months/seasons? No.

No. No. No.

I have a simple, single, beautiful List. I can work on anything I want to, on any given day. A novel, flash fiction, or a script all have the same urgency – depending on my situation. The only firm rule I have about the List is this: I have to write something, every damn day. I can’t think of a single day in the past few months that I have been physically unable to get work done. Work on something, anyway. And yet, without the List, I found myself struggling to be inspired by anything I worked on. I am as mercurial as a cat (I want in. No, I want out. Maybe I want in. Can I just sit in the door for a bit?). After planning and meticulous note-taking on a long project, my traitorous brain refuses to do any actual work on writing. Instead, I get inspired to do some fluff piece that takes up all of a page and a half. So I switch gears, start working on short fiction only to find myself sandbagged again. Now my brain starts working on long-form; grandiose, epic tales of blah blah blah. It drives me crazy.

the aftermath

the aftermath

So, this is my way of dealing with my own, inherent madness. All the Lego pieces are strewn across the floor. It is not the result of a single plan, but the ongoing aftermath of a continuous artistic atrocity. I don’t feel like I have a lot of choices. I’m just using whatever pieces are around me, to do whatever work I can. Sometimes I end up cannibalizing whole parts of one project, just to advance another one. It is weird, but oddly fulfilling. The door is no longer open or closed – I took the door off the hinges.

It is much better than a ‘To-Do’ list, which reminds me of all the things I have yet to do. My List reminds me of all the things I want to do.



Rules for Writers

10 May

My goodness, there are a lot of so-called rules, guidelines, and admonishments out there for writers. And just as many prescriptive parameters for artists. I couldn’t begin to do a thorough round-up of even just the good ones. So I’ll pick out my favorite: Robert A. Heinlein’s famous Rules For Writing.

Proposed Rule #0: Acquire a fountain pen this pretty

Proposed Rule #0: Acquire a fountain pen this pretty


  1. You must write.
  2. You must finish what you write.
  3. You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.
  4. You must put the work on the market.
  5. You must keep the work on the market until it is sold.

Well, it might be an antiquated list, first seeing print in 1946. But it contains several powerful ideas, some even more potent because of our technological marvels. Let me add some commentary.

Rules 1 & 2: There really is little to say, except that my take on #2 ends pretty much at the completion of the first draft. Just kick the idea out of your head and get it on the page – in whatever condition you can manage.

Rule 3: This doesn’t mean casual rewrites, or jiggering with a story’s bit and pieces. It means you can’t keep fiddling with it! Put down the pen and walk away – know when to stop.

Rule 4: In our world the ‘market’ is very strange, but the same rules apply. Find a place for that work to belong. Get your marketing hat on and find out where it should be.

Rule 5: This is the tough one, for me. I have no problem trying to find a home my works, but I give up easily. I would rather put my past work aside and move on – which may well be a wise move on my part. I don’t know.

What do you think? Is there anything for you to take away from this? Do these kinds of lists, or rules carry any helpful weight? I admit, it’s usually mixed results for me, but there are a few I always fall back on – like Heinlein’s rules, above. Sometimes, it is just a kick in the pants – a mental prod to the back of my conscience that reminds me: “This is your JOB.” And some days, that’s exactly what I need.

I’ll leave you with another favorite of mine, although it may seem unlikely to apply to writing:

“Is it hard? Not if you have the right attitude. It’s having the right attitude that’s hard.”
-Robert M. Pirsig