Monday, December 16, 2013

The Joy of Lists

Christmas is the time for Lists.  I have so many lists that I'm now making a List List.  When there's a lot on my mind it's the only way I actually get things done instead of spending all my time worrying about all the things I have to do.

It's the reward factor, of course - being able to put a 'done' tick beside the task and feel virtuous, just the way  I did when I was six and my teacher marked my sums right.  Sometimes, if the job listed was one I had found difficult, I put a triumphant score through it instead.

The secret to getting started is writing down something you've already done, so you can cross it off.  A friend of mine suggested the first item should be 'Make a List' since that would be something to cross off almost immediately.  More controversially, he suggested that the last item should be 'Destroy List': we got in a philosophical argument about how this could work since surely you could only strike off' 'Destroy List' once you had actually done it, but by then the list would have been destroyed, so you couldn't.  This one could run and run.

I'm a complete sucker for lists.  When I see 'Ian Rankin's 10 writing rules', '12 things every  publisher is looking for, ' 30 things every writer should know' I'm hooked.  Many of them are very helpful and talk good sound sense, but I think I feel compelled to read them because I still hope that somewhere among the thousands of lists that I come across, surely, there is one list that will make the whole business of writing an novel easy, like a recipe for making a cake.

I haven't found it yet, and I'm sadly beginning to come to the conclusion that William Somerset Maugham was right; 'There are three rules for writing a novel,  The trouble is no one knows what they are.'

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