At some point, every writer makes The List.
The List is comprised of all the stories that you haven’t quite gotten around to writing. Entires may also include stories half written, sketched, completed but not “edited”, and “completed” but not sent. A writer may also choose to include appendices for concepts or fragments, lists of character names and/or places of interest, plot schemes, and bit of clever dialogue. Letters declaring grand plans are allowed but only when accompanied by their companion letters of dejected resignation to the hellfire of eternal procrastination.
We’ve all done it. Many have done it several times. Most have made the mistake of sending The List to other writerly friends who in turn respond with their own lists, which sometimes turns into a competition known as the Demolition Derby of Dead Tales.
After writing a list like this, you may feel elated. You may feel that you’re making progress as a writer because you have The List. Then, after careful consideration, you’ll probably feel like crap and come to the conclusion that you are a talentless hack without the magic dust that other writers have come to possess through fantastic and no doubt scandalous ways.
At this point, you will:
A. Fling yourself face first into a series of daring affairs with ice creams of all flavors.
B. Investigate the potential of attracting a supernatural muse, and failing that conjuring demons and/or contacting a race of extra-dimensional literary scribes whose sole desire is to help writers in this dimension actually finish their work and become stars of their respective genres.
C. Stare at the screen and ask yourself what’s next.
Of the three, A and B probably have the greatest potential as actual pathways to writing stories. B probably more than A, especially if you happen to have a particle accelerator at your disposal. C, on the other hand, is where you probably began the exercise anyway which means you’ve undoubtedly realized that you’ve once more come full circle and failed to write anything at all.
In any case, there’s no doubt you will find the whole process rather frustrating. Yet, rather than bind your soul in contract with an obliging entity, I have a better suggestion…
Take the list firmly in hand and tape it to the wall. Put it somewhere where you’ll be sure to see it. Even better if it’s somewhere near your favorite writing spot.
If you feel ashamed, use those feelings as fuel to write something better. If you feel intimidated, remember that you’re the one who wrote all that stuff in the first place. If you feel a sense of self-loathing (how can you not?), know that there is only one way to quell the rage: writing.
Ultimately, the list is a source of power. To be more specific, the list is your power. You are a writer and the list is the permanent reminder of this fact.
Oh, and if you’re heading to the store, please pick up a pint of Mint Chocolate Chip. It’s my favorite.