USEFUL WRITING DISTRACTIONS - NUMBER THREE - TO-DO LISTS
If I tell you that I'm staring at a to-do list which contains, randomly: Wash Socks, Find trim for tiles, finish phd, commas - you'll probably be able to guage the chaos I'm currently living in! I need a certain space and order in which to write - mentally as well as physically, and writing to-do lists is something I turn to with a passion when I find my mind crammed with little voices telling me about all the important things I SHOULD be doing. Please note this is USEFUL writing distractions, not USELESS. I couldn't live without my lists!
One of my favourite teaching stories is Michele Roberts's Lists, which consists structurally of a woman's to-do lists in the run up to Christmas. From the expected - Order Turkey - we move to - Poison Husband - in that completely logical, although illogical, mix of great and small things that most of us put on our lists. This is something she captures perfectly, and adds another layer to the story as we are shown the movement in her heroine's mind. Plus the pleasure of ticking off the points. Oh, yes, that pleasure!
Another use of Christmas lists is in Maxine Hong Kingston's poem, which again catches the attempt to make order out of chaos. In the interview, she talks about the need 'not to get lost amongst the general uproar' in a way that resonates mightily. But as I'm writing this, one thing strikes me. I can't remember any such domestic list-making device in a male writer's work. Now, I wonder why that should be ....