I love lists.
I have an elaborate system of list-making that involves pretty file folders, colored paper, and 4×6 index cards. Each file folder contains a weekly list of action items for different areas of my life: Daily Living, Office Work, Volunteer Work, and (of course) Writing. Every Sunday night I sit down at my dining room table, turn on some quiet mood music, pour myself a glass of wine, fan out my lists and folders, and plan my week.
When I told one of my friends about this system, her reaction was modified horror. “It makes me crazy to think about being that organized,” she said.
Truth is, sometimes it makes me a little crazy too. I have a tendency to panic when I look at my lists on Thursday or Friday and not enough items have been crossed off. Then I move into frantic mode, and everybody better step back.
For the past several months, my Writing List has contained six items: Book reviews, Author Interview questions, blog posts, ideas to propose to my editor at All Things Girl, and The Novel Project. I’ve assigned myself a posting schedule for this blog and for contributions to All Things Girl and Medium, thinking I needed the structure of deadlines, even if they are self-imposed and arbitrary.
Having a schedule comforts me, because it gives me the illusion of being In Control.
Americans pride ourselves on productivity, and that very word has been at the top of my Goal List for several months. Be more productive, I admonish myself when I’m making that weekly writing list, chiding myself for essays left unwritten, research left undone. I’ve been equating getting things done with being happy. Yes, it makes me happy to cross things off the list, but I’m learning that sometimes it’s alright – desirable, even – to ease up on the need to structure and organize and control. It’s alright to let soft summer breezes seduce me into the garden, alright to take a morning off and visit the Farmer’s Market in town, alright to sprawl out in my lawn chair and read a magazine. The resulting sense of warmth and well-being brings me peace, and that’s more liable to make me happy and more creative than a mad dash through my to-do list.
Especially in summer (when, according to George Gershwin, the living is easy and the cotton is high) it’s alright to take it easy on myself.
How about you? Are you taking it easy on yourself this summer or going full steam ahead? Do you think that slowing down and savoring life boosts creativity or is counter-productive?