Monday, August 30, 2010

"Live Free or Die" and Ta-Da Lists

Since I'm still trying to recover from an 11.5-hour drive back home from DC last night, I'm delighted to have my writing friend Jessie Crockett paying a visit today to talk about the joys of "Ta-Da" instead of "To-Do" lists.

Jessie's debut novel "Live Free or Die" has just been published (and available at Amazon by clicking the title link) and although I haven't yet had the opportunity to read it, I adore the title because it's also New Hampshire's motto -- and one we all very much take to heart, though not always in a good way: no mandatory motorcycle helmets, no seatbelt law over 18, and local government splintered among 234 fiefdoms, er, municipalities. But I digress.

Here's what Jessie has to say about making lists:
Are you a list maker? You either are or you aren’t. I adore lists, from Grocery to Christmas to Bucket. Every time I throw a party I revel in them: to cook, to buy, to make, to clean.

In keeping with a theme of New Beginnings, I decided to share an approach I use to list making. A lot of beginnings get started with a list and most of those seem to be the classic To Do variety. Despite my life-long love of lists there is one type that comes out on top for me every time. And even if you aren’t typically a fan of lists perhaps you will consider giving this sort a try. It’s a Ta-Da list.

Each morning I make a two column list. In the left column I make a list of emotions I would like to experience that day. In the right column I mark down activities that will help me to reach that goal. For example, a few days ago my list looked like this:

Joyful--------- read new fiction novel I picked up at the library
Creative-------reach daily word count quota for my work-in-progress
Productive------respond to unanswered emails and phone messages
Organized------conquer laundry backlog
Healthy--------drink 8 glasses of water; get to bed at a decent time

Ta-Da lists consider the journey rather than simply the destination. They help me to enjoy the things I’ve included on the list because the activities help me to reach for things I really want to experience in my life.

For me, this approach also works for my writing. When I am working on a project I ask which feelings I would like the reader to experience as he or she reads my work. Then I add dialogue, action and settings that I hope will produce the kind of emotional journey for the reader I had in mind. If I want the book to make people experience surprise I had better include some unexpected twists. If sorrow is what I am after, I need to add some kind of loss or disappointment. My manuscript Ta-Da list helps me to evaluate ideas from the perspective of the emotional journey and I think they have improved my writing.

Here’s hoping all of your back-to-school beginnings are more Ta-Da than To Do!

And here's some info about Jessie's book -- and about her:

Life in tiny Winslow Falls, New Hampshire is pretty darn good until an arsonist
decides to ruin everyone’s Christmas.

The way volunteer Fire Chief Gwen Fifield sees it, her life in rural New Hampshire is as good as it can be. Sure, she’s gained 20 pounds and her property taxes have skyrocketed, but her basement didn’t flood this year and the general store started delivering pizza.

All things considered, Gwen’s got no complaints….that is until she finds a body sizzled like a sausage in the smoldering remains of the Winslow Falls museum. When an artifact from the museum is traced to an immigrant family, most local residents are quick to blame the outsiders. But clues from the past convince Gwen that the town she’s always trusted is harboring a home-grown murderer.

About Jessie Crockett: A nearly life-long resident of the Granite State, Jessie naturally adores black flies, 98% humidity, killing frosts in August and snow banks taller than the average grandmother. When not working on her next murderous adventure she enthusiastically putters in her greenhouse, designs bento lunches and throws parties. She delights in mentoring young writers at the local elementary school. Jessie lives with her dark and mysterious husband and exuberant children in a village so small most other New Hampshire residents have never heard of it. Hearing from readers makes her day so please drop by for a visit at

Anyone want to guess the name of Jessie's village?

1 comment:

MaxWriter said...

I love the idea of ta-da lists, Jessie! Thanks for visiting Pat's blog.