Does list making bring out the best or worst in you? It’s great when you complete your list, but then there’s always another one the next day, right? So each day you gather the undone items from the day before, add them to the current day list, plus the new items. And it goes on and on.
Well I challenge you to take a deep dive into how you feel about the whole list thing. I know it’s one more thing to add to your to-do list, but you may get a glimpse into some unanticipated emotions that a list can bring up. Best case it will improve your list making, or it could take an unusual turn–maybe you’ll quit your job and start doing something your really love, or maybe you’ll meet your soul mate, move to Paris–the possibilities are boundless. Looking closer at your to list could bring out the best or worst in you. In my case, it brought out a little of both.
List for Being a Successful writer
- Writing practice per Natalie Goldberg’s book Writing Down the Bones
- Remember composting from the book—you have to write a lot of trash to get to the good stuff.
- Change the name of my website to reflect my writing journey.
- Read one book a week on writing and write two blogs about the book (like Brain-picking’s—the blog).
- Always take writing classes – forever be honing your skills.
- Read, read, read what you love, challenge yourself to read things you don’t love sometimes too.
- Go easy on yourself—you’re not the only writer to feel like you’re a failure.
- Don’t let anyone else discourage you.
- You don’t need anyone’s approval to keep writing.
- Don’t stop writing ever.
- Don’t give up on the dream—many people fail because they stop when the going gets tough.
- Remember how writing uncovers more and more of your authentic self.
I quit my secure state job
When I quit my state job a year ago to pursue a career in writing, I didn’t realize what a challenge it would be. That I would feel like a failure, a terrible writer, and that everyone would make fun of me. I thought they’d jeer at me and say: “you never should have left your secure state job, you’ll never be a writer. We may not be living our dream, but we’re all set for life. All we have to do is work here for 20 or 30 years and we’ll get our pension and full medical. We’ll love it when you fail.”
The most popular topic at the state was retirement
The most popular topic at the state was retirement. My co-workers talked about it every day. When I first started working there, a woman in my area was retiring in two years (after 28). Every day she gave us her retirement countdown, mentioned it in every meeting, and every class she taught ad nauseam. Other people would frequently say, “Well I have 10 years or 15 years, or 5 or 7.” Why would anyone just live for retirement? What about living and enjoying life now? How is walking into this ugly orange brick “compound” every day, trudging down the government green painted hallways, and “just getting through the day” any kind of a life? It’s more like doing time.
I hated how everyone put retirement as their life-long goal. How they would gloat when they retired (I’m sure they were ecstatic to get the hell out of there). All the dullness of getting through the day and waiting for retirement really tore at my tired soul and made me scream inside. I had to get out. Living my life waiting for retirement was not an option.
Is what I do now better than a state job? Hell yes!
Is what I do now better than that? Hell yes! Writing is challenging, but this is who I am. I get to take a good hard look at all the richness of life; the dark, the bright and all that’s in-between parts of life. I feel alive—not just surviving, but thriving. I had breast cancer five years ago and I hated the term “survivor.” I was shopping in Ulta Beauty once and they had posters of bald-headed beautiful woman on the walls and they used the word “breast cancer thriver.” That’s how I see it.
Writing gives me energy, and helps me stand up for who I am. My decision to quit the state got me away from pompous bureaucrats who couldn’t stand to see my aliveness and creativity. For five years I asked, applied, and had meetings with the powers that be about promoting me, but all I got was excuses – no promotions. Their world was black and white. My life was in living color and that was a threat to them because they didn’t have the courage to leave their secure soul-sucking jobs.
Ok – I did enjoy somethings
Ok – I did enjoy some things. I got to train classes in personal growth and it was fun. Teaching was fun and I loved connecting with students, using powerful material to help them discover new parts of themselves, or uncover those parts they’d stored away. I went to our Los Angeles office to teach The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People workshop one time and in Habit 2, the class writes a personal mission statement. I had to hand it to these auditors because they had some very creative aspirations. One person wanted to be a backup dancer for J-Lo, another wanted to play the oboe in a concert at Disney, and someone else wanted to do cartoon voice-overs (they were in the right place that’s for sure).
How could you quit?
When I told the powers that be I was quitting, they were astonished. The lights shone brightly on their underwhelming lives. They thought they could keep me under their stranglehold, their mediocre worlds but they couldn’t. I knew I had it in me, I knew I could do it and so I did. And here I am. On the journey, living the dream, not just going through the motions for a paycheck and a pension, but being a writer.
Does list making bring out the best or worst in you?
Well, I sure took a dark turn with my list. But, I took another turn and it shone brightly. And my list was more like a “Life List” — like how I’m going to be a successful writer? But I challenge you to spend some time with your own lists and see where they might take you.
If you happen to be the market for a great book on how to get started as a writer checkout: Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg. She gives so many practical tips and inspiration to keep writing, that it will really, as I like to say Get (you) Inspired.
Leave a comment below or email me about any potential life changing lists you’ve made.
See you next week–Kathy