Changing the List

Posted on 19 February 2013

I have a writing deadline edging dangerously close for a project that is not quite ready yet, and I’m also trying to squeak out a draft of a new essay to submit to a writing group. Monday was a work holiday, and I theoretically had all day to do whatever I chose. I of course envisioned spending the day writing, but it didn’t exactly work out that way.

Instead, I scrawled a to-do list on the back of a grocery store receipt and set about checking off each item. The list was the stuff domestic nightmares are made of: mailing packages, returning shoes, buying paint stripper, cleaning the long-neglected kitchen floor, vacuuming cat hair, doing laundry, washing the car, shopping for an area rug…I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Things got even better when my (only) car key snapped in half in the trunk lock, leaving me stranded in the parking lot of the natural foods market.

When I finally made it home that night and stepped into my (clean) kitchen, I found the list I’d written that morning. Nearly every item could be crossed off. But you know what I noticed when I looked at my list? Writing was nowhere to be found on it. It was already 10pm and I hadn’t written a word. Maybe if I’d put “writing” on the top of the list and made sure to check it off before getting out the vacuum or the fabric softener, I would have felt a bit better about my day.

It is so easy to fill our days with everything other than writing. What is more challenging, and what will separate the writers from the I-wish-I-could writers, is changing that list and moving writing as far to the top as possible.

I hope to do it better next time. Even if I am relieved that some of those chores are done.

What’s on your to-do list today?

Photo: Urban Woodswalker


6 responses to Changing the List

  • Catherine says:

    No writing for me either today. An email to a young soprano re auditions in London for my daughter, confirmation email to review editor regarding permission to use three lines (8 words!) from a major play/film in a short story, blog trafficking, email to another editor about a story first submitted in April 2010 now coming out in autumn, going over cover designs, driving kids… Oh and I still have to shop, clean my kitchen floor and piano practice. My current story sits alone in my computer downstairs, waiting for me. But I need an entire uninterrupted day with it!

  • Sarah W says:

    Find a poem for tomorrow’s blog post, do an outline for a chapter, edit two chapters of a project, work on my synopsis (ugh), and maybe say hello to my family in there somewhere–all after I get home from the day job.


  • Teri says:

    A dog trainer is coming this afternoon to train me. I’ve always taken group classes with my puppies and dogs, and it seems really strange to have someone come privately to my house, but the reality is that I have 3 dogs here and I can’t even answer my own door for all of them running at it when someone arrives. I need HELP!

  • I’m a List Nazi. I make one every night in bed, and then rewrite it the next morning, just in case I wasn’t totally anal enough the night before. It’s the only way I accomplish anything.

    And like you, I always add writing tasks to the list. Sometimes I accomplish those; often times, I don’t.

    But I figure any day we can cross off “clean the litter boxes” is a good one.

  • Recent Posts

    Tag Cloud

    5 random things acceptance American Literary Review AWP AWP 2012 book reviews books Bread Loaf 2012 cat lady cats Cirrus Cleveland Cleveland writers contests failure Fiction Writers Review first drafts Huda Al-Marashi literary magazines living arrangements Mac's Backs Mid-American Review NaNoWriMo novel revisions Opal Poets & Writers publishing reading rejection revision rust belt chic Saucy Sophie Kerr Prize Stories on Stage The Writing Life this is what the publishing process looks like tricia springstubb Washington College writing advice writing buddies writing frustrations writing goals writing groups writing retreat writing workshops


    Laura Maylene Walter is proudly powered by WordPress and the SubtleFlux theme.

    Copyright © Laura Maylene Walter