Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ta-Da Lists

Today we welcome guest blogger Jessie Crockett, who hails from Working Stiff Pat Remick's home state of New Hampshire and whose recently published debut novel is "Live Free or Die" (which also happens to be the Granite State's official motto)!


Are you a list maker? You either are or you aren’t. I adore lists, from Grocery to Christmas to Bucket. Every time I throw a party I revel in them: to cook, to buy, to make, to clean.


In keeping with the Working Stiffs New Beginnings theme this month I decided to share an approach I use to list making. A lot of beginnings get started with a list and most of those seem to be the classic To Do variety. Despite my life-long love of lists there is one type that comes out on top for me every time. And even if you aren’t typically a fan of lists perhaps you will consider giving this sort a try. It’s a Ta-Da list.

Each morning I make a two-column list. In the left column I make a list of emotions I would like to experience that day. In the right column I mark down activities that will help me to reach that goal. For example, a few days ago my list looked like this:

Joyful--------- read new fiction novel I picked up at the library

Creative-------reach daily word count quota for my work-in-progress

Productive------respond to unanswered emails and phone messages

Organized------conquer laundry backlog

Healthy--------drink 8 glasses of water; get to bed at a decent time

Ta-Da lists consider the journey rather than simply the destination. They help me to enjoy the things I’ve included on the list because the activities help me to reach for things I really want to experience in my life.

For me, this approach also works for my writing. When I am working on a project I ask which feelings I would like the reader to experience as he or she reads my work. Then I add dialogue, action and settings that I hope will produce the kind of emotional journey for the reader I had in mind. If I want the book to make people experience surprise I had better include some unexpected twists. If sorrow is what I am after, I need to add some kind of loss or disappointment. My manuscript Ta-Da list helps me to evaluate ideas from the perspective of the emotional journey and I think they have improved my writing.

Here’s hoping all of your back-to-school beginnings are more Ta-Da than To Do!

A nearly life-long resident of the Granite State, Jessie naturally adores black flies, 98% humidity, killing frosts in August and snow banks taller than the average grandmother. When not working on her next murderous adventure she enthusiastically putters in her greenhouse, designs bento lunches and throws parties. She delights in mentoring young writers at the local elementary school. Jessie lives with her dark and mysterious husband and exuberant children in a village so small most other New Hampshire residents have never heard of it. Hearing from readers makes her day so please drop by for a visit at jessiecrockett.com.

11 comments:

PatRemick said...

Welcome Jessie! I love this idea... for writing and for life. Thanks for visiting Working Stiffs today!

Gina said...

Yes, welcome! Ta-Da Lists are definitely a novel idea (no pun intended). I usually make lists of tasks that need to be done (laundry, vacuuming, etc., etc.), then lose them before completion. I've avoided adding writing to my lists because, knowing my personality, if I feel I have to do something I'll shift into avoidance mode. I prefer to tell myself I get to write if I do some less pleasant task - in other words, I let the writing be the reward. I may try a ta-da list though. It sounds intriguing.

Laurissa said...

Welcome Jessie! I love the idea of a "Ta-Da" list; very interesting. Right now I keep a to-do list for practically everything. I've kept lists for years. I don't think I'd ever get anything accomplished without them because I'm so forgetful.

Ramona said...

Best of luck with the book, Jessie. The list idea is a good one.

May I just add--your bio is fantastic.

E. B. Davis said...

First-What's a bento lunch?
Second-Your "Ta Da" list seems like a sound technique when fit into the pacing of manuscripts. It also reminds me of my own emotions. When I first started to write, aiming for publication, I wanted it to be a fun experience. There are days when I'm working on my WIP and it is fun. Promotion, blogging and interviewing can bog down that fun, but are necessary. Perhaps my next list should focus on what I don't want to feel the majority of the day, limiting promotional activities. I'll call it my "To-Don't" list.

Annette said...

While I have lists for just about everything, I've never kept a Ta-Da List. I'll have to give it a try...especially since today's to-do list is becoming a bit overwhelming.

Oh, and welcome to Working Stiffs, Jessie!

Patti said...

Love this idea Jessie! Very innovative as well as creative!

Jennie Bentley said...

Welcome to the Stiffs, Jessie! I'm not a list maker, really, but maybe I'll give the Ta-Da list a try.

Good luck with the book!

Julie Hennrikus said...

I love this idea! What a great way to reframe your day, and your work.

Jan Brogan said...

Even though I am a reluctant listmaker, and sometimes a rebel list follower (i write list then gnore it) I love this concept. Both for the day and for the book.

Jessie Crockett said...

Thanks so much for the warm welcome! I'm glad others are interested in giving ta-da lists a try; I hope they work for all of you as well as they have for me.

To answer E.B.'s question, bento is a Japanese form of brown bag lunch only much more appealing. www.justbento.com is a fantastic resource for bento ideas and information if you are interested in learning more.