List Making & The Creative Process

One of my Post-It lists

A list on my work monitor

I love making lists. Big-picture lists, daily lists, grocery lists, checklists … you name it, I list it.

I even make little list tools that sometimes other people enjoy. (For example, click here for my Weekly Goal SheetHere are specific instructions on how to use it.)

Lists are a personal thing—they speak to the ineffable in us—which is why it’s so enjoyable to look at how or what other people list. Once there was someone who found my lists so representative of me (or perhaps so neatly adorable) that he kept one as a memento.

This month’s Glimmer Train bulletin offers a thoughtful piece by Yelizaveta P. Renfro. She describes how lists play into her creative writing process. (My process is rather similar!)

My stories and essays begin with lists. On whatever is at hand—and often in the margins or endpapers of books I’m reading—I jot down fragments in the order that my mind offers them. This first step is a purging of these pieces, without structure. It’s notating in shorthand what will go in the container, whether the container is an essay or a story. 

Go read the full piece for excellent insights and inspiration.

For more celebration of lists (or voyeuristic peeks at others’ lists):

Also—I’m curious about other writers’ lists. Want to share a picture of yours, along with an explanation of how you use lists? If enough people are willing to share, I might start a feature on this blog. Drop me an e-mail or leave a comment if you’d be willing to participate.

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Posted in Creativity + Inspiration, Life Philosophy, Worksheets & Handouts.

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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