Creativity, Writing

The POWER of LISTS: Getting Your Creative Juices Flowing

IMG_0336I am a list maker and have been all my life. As a child I wrote lists of what I wanted for Christmas and birthdays. I also kept lists of the books I read. I was a proud member member of the “Newbery Award Club” – group of kids dedicated to reading every Newbery to date.

My mother was a list maker too. And so was her mother. I know this because my mother insisted that I make packing lists before traveling and showed me how to do it. And my grandmother kept lists on index cards documenting every single dinner party she ever hosted, who came, what time they arrived, and what she served. I have those index cards and I’ve actually been contemplating resurrecting one of her dinner menus just for fun.

But I digress. Back to lists. Now that I’m in my mid-forties, and somewhat forgetful at times, I keep daily lists to help me remember the things I need to do. I have a list of all the places I have lived. For awhile, I kept a list of every new word I learned.  And I still keep lists of the books I have read and the books I want to read. This post actually is becoming a list of all the kinds of lists I like to make.

The point is – I couldn’t survive without lists. Neither could my writing. Flip through any journal of mine and you will see lists. Lists of potential story ideas. Lists of potential character names. Lists of favorite memories. Lists of craft ideas and poem ideas. You name it, I’ve listed it. Indeed, lists have become one of  my go-to strategies for combatting writer’s block. But even after I have an idea and the creative juices are flowing, lists play a crucial role in developing that idea. As I wrote GOODNIGHT, ARK,  for instance, I paused many times to make lists. I wrote lists of fun rhyming pairs and vivid animal sounds. I made lists of cozy bedtime words and fiercesome storm words. And, as I point out to students at school visits, those lists helped immensely! Indeed, many of the words and ideas generated in those lists appear in the final version.

Are you a list maker too? If not, why not give list-making a try this week as a way to get those creative juices flowing! Have fun!

15 thoughts on “The POWER of LISTS: Getting Your Creative Juices Flowing”

  1. I love how organized your lists are! I do keep an idea list in my phone. But NOT an organized one. Names, sounds, themes, problems, rhymes, and whatnot are all in the same list. It’s random, but useful.

  2. My mother and I are both list makers as well. Her most intriguing lists when I was a child were the ones she wrote in secretarial shorthand. I STILL cannot decipher some of her notes when it comes to Christmas shopping!

      1. I doubt it! I think transcription has come a long way with portable recording devices, and the days of calling your secretary in to “take a letter” are long gone. My mother worked in banking for many years. 🙂

  3. List making must be passed down from generation to generation. My mom makes lists, and so that must be where I’ve gotten it, too. I have a list in front of me that I’ve been checking off today, actually! I like your lists for characters and verbs used in your pb.

    1. Yes, I’m gathering from these comments that it must be handed down from generation to generation. Come to think of it, DD is currently making a list of all the games/favors/snacks etc she has in mind for her next birthday party. Mind you her birthday is still MONTHS away =

  4. I began making daily-task lists when I became a mom, because checking these off until the last was done was the only way I felt I had accomplished something, not having a boss or colleagues to say “well done.” I still make them, and I also make checklists for revisions of my writing. I imagine that for an expert rhymer like yourself it is immensely helpful.

  5. Another listmaker here … couldn’t live without it. And like you, it comes in handy for those small poems 🙂

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