Why I Love Lists

Not too long ago I wrote Why I Fear List Posts, and now I’m going to guitar strum a different tune, just for the sake of being difficult. Nah, actually, I’m starting a great jam session, thanks to Sandra, and Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys for his link to An Evening with Ray Bradbury.

In last week’s writing workshop, Sandra introduced writing “Random Things About Me” via Tim Thomlinson via Matias Viegener. (Everybody gets credit, okay?) After reading some examples from Viegener, we women quickly scribbled. I was a little concerned about what to write as my About pages are numbered lists. But here’s what came out that day:

1. I record my dreams, but of course, I forget them too.
2. I have been given many nicknames, such as Lanilicious.
3. One of my favorite things to do, a mark of happiness, is when I dance to music alone in my apartment.
4. I like making people comfortable – and uncomfortable.
5. Being helpful is a nice feeling too.
6. I can eat a lot.
7. I cry easily and far too often.
8. I loathe clocks. I challenge you to find the time in my house.
9. When I was a child I took fire safety very seriously.
10. Although I almost burned the house down cooking pizza.

Then I started thinking about how lists can be a valuable writing tool. Now I know this is not an original idea, but I just never saw lists this way – at least, consciously. Lists are probably something I did intuitively or for exercises in wistful dreaming.

So, what kinds of lists do people write lists for?

  • To Do
  • Shopping
  • Packing
  • Moving
  • Contacts
  • Movies to Watch
  • Books to Read
  • Playlists
  • Invitations
  • Christmas
  • Pros/Cons
  • Wish

But what if we went beyond this and started to write lists for:

  • Character development (fiction or non)
  • Stories you want to write (theme development)
  • Nice things to remember about you (or for someone else!)
  • New words you like/learned/want to use
  • The way something makes/made you feel
  • What you remember about _____
  • Rants/Advice = most lists posts
  • Things you’d like to tell your boss, ex, mother, etc.
  • Influences
  • Childhood memories
  • (or any memory)
  • Shifts/Coming of age moments

Bradbury recommends writing down 10 things you love and 10 things you hate. I think even if you suffer from writers blockhead you can at least write a lists of loves and hates.

I suppose if you wanted to have more structure, you could write 10 line stories or poems and see what you come up with.

Recently, I’ve been arm wrestling with the stupid query letter, not my first carnival ride around. I decided to scrap what I wrote when I realized the letter didn’t sound like me, it sounded like what I thought it should be. So I wrote in third person (even though I never do, and was told it wasn’t my strong point) and then started to write a list of the points I wanted to get across.

I feel this letter is truer to me, my writing and the list forced me to think about what I wanted to say. I also think there is something informal about the format of lists that perhaps tricks your monkey mind into thinking, “I’m not really writing. I’m just jotting down notes.”

Anyway, there is still so much I want to do with this. One of which is to share this with my ESL students in the hopes they will be better writers. Or at the very least, better list writers 😛

i-like-beer
I like beer. The darker the beer, the better. Why is this pic here? Because we’re supposed to put images with our writing cause this is the world we live in now.

12 thoughts on “Why I Love Lists

  1. Lani, a great essay about lists. You made lists beyond lists. And thanks for the thanks.

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  2. I’m with you on the creating a list of points I want to get across when constructing a letter, synopsis, or even a simple email. Bullet points help organize my thoughts and prevent them from skipping off into madness.

    I’m a bit of a hypocrite when it comes to list posts. I hate them because they make short attention-spanned readers even lazier. Not to mention the fact that they’re springing up like daisies on the internet and you can’t swing a dead index without hitting an ordered list about things that should probably never be included on any list other than a list of things not to list about. And while I’m no fan of LPA (List Post Attraction) I’m no stranger to tossing up a quick list in lieu of crafting a well-written article or sharing unique insights on an experience, mainly because it’s great to connect with readers (yes, even those of the short attention span persuasion) over a bullet point or two (nothing like the feeling that we’re not alone in our quirkiness).

    Wow, that was a bit of a detour, when all I meant to say was your “if we went beyond” list is a great idea, but it just got away from me. It’s what I get for not making a list of the points I wanted to get across, first.

    I’m no good before my morning Guinness.

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    1. Before your morning Guinness! Egats. How do you do it? How do you function?

      Agreed. List posts cater to the lazy. It’s almost like saying, “Hey, I know you aren’t going to read this anyway, but I want you to get something out of this.”

      But I’m having fun w/ lists. At least, right now. Ask me in a few minutes, I might change my mind.

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  3. Thank you for another insightful post. I love the idea of going beyond generic lists. I will be referring back to this post often so I can fan the sparks you have given me. We will be in CM December and January and would really like to find some great dark beer. Can you suggest a place? I always look forward to what pops out of your lovely brain! You are the BEST!

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    1. There’s actually a German brewery near Payap University (the one across the Superhighway), and this picture was taken at O’Malley’s in the Night Bizaar area. There’s also a place off of Niminhaemin, but I haven’t been over there. Imported beer is expensive in Thailand but you probably won’t notice any difference.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.

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  4. I don’t like list posts or pages where you have to click on “next” to get to the next thing on the list. For example, let’s say, “The World’s Ugliest Cars”, and to see the next one you have to load a new page. I also think the lisp post formula is a cliche that does away with having to come up with transitions or being able to write.

    However, making lists is a damned good idea when going on a trip. The first time I came to Thailand I forgot to bring underwear. I’ve gone on a short trip and forgot my passport only to be rejected from a hotel. So, I make quality lists when I have to do something that could be sabotaged by forgetting, and also where I need to think of and keep track of a range of things to do.

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    1. Good points. Lists are wonderful but in their most ubiquitous form, they become trite, overused and annoying. Then again, there are websites based exclusively on lists. Listverse, for example.

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