The Shortest To-do List Ever

I’m finding it hard to write during the summer. There are projects to complete and ice cream cones to eat and things to paint and I’m supposed to be in the “marketing phase” of my recently released novel (which, I’m finding, isn’t like writing and not my favorite cup of tea) and the kids are home and now that my oldest is nearing fourteen, I’m mentally counting down the remaining summers with him. And I just don’t want to miss summer.

So. On his first day of vacation, my very sweet husband took the kids out for the day so I could get in some writing. When my daughter realized I was being left behind she asked, “What are you going to do Mom?” to which I said, “Write. Not wash dishes, not do laundry, not grocery shop, not send emails, not plan upcoming classes. I’m going to write.” (Little did she realize I was making a vow to myself more than answering her question).

So before she left, my very sweet, list-loving daughter said, “Here’s your to-do list” and handed me this note card:


Brilliant, isn’t she? Even at eight she knows the shortcomings of the human (particularly female?) mind. More times than I care to count, I have turned into the If You Give a Mouse a Cookie mouse… soon I’ll want some milk… and then to sweep the floor… and then to clean the bathroom…

True confession? And one I’m trusting some of you can relate to this: I almost always feel behind on just about everything. From bills to kid time to husband time to staying connected with friends to cleaning to writing to spending time with God to everything… I have to constantly pray for my soul to be still. To enjoy the moments because this is life. And I don’t want to miss it because I’m scrambling around like that harebrained mouse. So what if the laundry will never actually be done. I want to be fully engaged in whatever it is I’m engaging in at the moment (unless it’s doing dishes, although Ann Voskcamp would urge me otherwise). To say it more succinctly, I want to be present.

So when I set aside time to write, I want to switch my intermittently ADD brain to write and nothing else. Because writing isn’t brainstorming. Writing isn’t outlining or observing or researching or talking about writing or thinking about writing. Writing is writing. That’s it. It’s freeing the mess in our heads by using a series of letters and punctuation. Only what is transferred to the page—or the computer screen—only that is writing. Yes, all the aforementioned are critical to the process of writing and I could tout the benefits of each, but they don’t constitute writing.

So I’m hanging on to my brilliantly short to do list. And when I’ve designated time to write and I feel myself morphing into that little manic mouse, I’m going to stick to my one item list: Write.

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