Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The List Keeper

I know everyone is posting previous blogs, but I haven't been around here that long and don't have anything very memorable. So I thought I'd do a quick new entry.*
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I think I'm like a lot of people; I make lists all the time. I was just doing a new list of summer goals when it struck me that these are a record of my failures, but also a hopeful sight that things will get better. The pesky past meets the optimistic future.*
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My lists are a combination of personal and family goals, plus work and writing goals. For instance, on this list is: "Lose 20 lbs." And I'm happy to say that since I began this diet, I've dropped 9 plus pounds. Will I make it? So far, so good...but whenver my son comes home with a giant, delicious smelling pizza, whenever I pass the bread section at Whole Foods, whenever I'm within a mile of something being deep fried...well, tempation is all around me and I have a real desire to surrender. But I'll try to be strong.*
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The first work-related item is: CLEAN OFFICE. Every list I've ever done has this on it and my last list even included several !!!!! to signify its importance and my deperation. This time around, I've added subdivisions. They are:*
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Clean and organize desk*
Clean bookshelves*
Get rid of unwanted/unneeded books*
Get rid of old mss., first pass pages, etc*
Answer correspondence*
Paint rm*
Vacuum*
Check rug and maybe replace?*
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When I make some headway with anything on a list, I put a check next to it to indicate how many attempts I've made. If I actually accomplish something, I draw a big, thick line through it, a bit like a knight striking a pose while putting his armored foot on the head of a dead dragon. Unfortunately, for these particular items, I only have a smattering of checks to show some forward movement. And with that last item, I have penciled in: "have to see rug to decide this."*
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Below this, there are two similar entries. One says "write massacre bk," while the other says "write heart bk." The latter already has several reassuring checks next to it (it will be about the 'blue baby' heart operation from the 1940s and I'm having a weird amount of fun trying to figure out how to do a very complicated, but very dramatic science story and keep kids interested). But here I feel the tug in my brain every morning to open the file and dig into it. Almost 1/3 of the book is done already and I haven't even seen the first half of the advance (not only does it take longer to push contracts through, etc., but I just felt compelled to get this one in gear).*
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The former is about the Boston Massacre and I have to admit I've been stalled on this for several years (and my publisher isn't happy and neither am I). The problem? Well, I began with certain themes in mind, but every time I started writing they begin to morph after a chapter or two. And then I have to go back and rethink everything, start to finish. It's very weird; the material keeps 'talking' to me, insisting that it needs to be presented in another way (though that voice rarely gives me detailed directions). I may have these things puzzled out now (I hope I do anyway), but the key is to make real headway before September. Wish me luck on this*
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There are more items on this list, of course. Many more. But the little checks are also multiplying, which is reassuring, especially since a hot, humid summer can be a real work killer for me. But I'm hopeful, just as a "to do" list is hopeful; I want to put solid lines through every goal so I can start my fall list with fewer familiar items. We'll see what has happened come the fall.*
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I hope you all have a safe and happy summer. Oh, and if you have a list, too, I hope you can knock off a lot of those pesky items as well.

2 comments:

Jim Murphy said...

Another work related item: Check spelling more carefully!

Steve Sheinkin said...

Jim,
I'm a bit maker of lists too, and some of them have had the same book ideas on them for ten years. You're right, there's a certain amount of optimism in the whole process. Anyway, best of luck with the books. I'm looking forward to hearing more about the Massacre project...