The Joys of List-Making, Outlined and Enumerated

to-do listLongtime MCC readers are surely aware of my addiction to writing lists. I confess before you now that my lifelong listaholism extends beyond what you’ve seen here in the past. In our household I appointed myself Chief Grocery List Officer. I keep track of all the comic books I own on Excel sheets. From 2000 to the present I’ve kept Notepad files of every single movie I’ve seen in theaters. Many a Post-It has died in service to my never-ending attempts to remember what chores and repairs need to be done around the house. All the odd sights we see on vacation each year have been made possible by lists, though those are always collaborative efforts with my wife the list-enabler.

It’s no surprise to myself that my list fixation is a frequent motif in my writing. At one point several months ago, I wondered if perhaps the MCC blog concept should have been built upon a rigid list-based foundation from the get-go. Fortunately for the sake of format flexibility, I bypassed that option and instead dreamed up a premise more convoluted and impossible to justify in a single sentence.

Why are lists my thing? The reasons are many and varied:

1. Brainstorming is a pure, simple exercise, more fun for the neurons than the average word search puzzle.

2. Each line is the answer to the exact same writing prompt, as if I’m opening windows into alternate realities so readers can compare results among the alt-mes from several different Earths.

3. Listing saves valuable writing minutes by eliminating the need for constructing cumbersome segues between thoughts.

4. One of the few highlights of my college years was the occasional episode of Late Night with David Letterman and his nigh-revolutionary Top Ten Lists.

5. Casey Kasem’s “American Top 40” also had a profound impact on my childhood.

6. There is no number six.

7. Constant line breaks and indentations remind me of older Bible translations.

8. Lists are an excellent tool for organizing reality into a sensible, streamlined order. They’re like an existential super-power against which all reality is helpless. If it exists, it can be stuck into a list. If it doesn’t exist, it goes on a different list.

9. I dig that crazy staccato writing rhythm.

10. Lists tend to be shorter than fully realized articles. Informal studies conducted on several million members of Generation TL;DR have confirmed too many readers prefer brevity to elaboration. Bullet points fit more snugly onto iPhone screens than entire paragraphs do.

11. The phrase “bullet points” sounds manlier than “essay”.

12. Lists sometimes aren’t easy writing filler. Those few difficult examples that somehow wound up at an egregious 1,000+ words long each allow me to fend off allegations of corner-cutting laziness.

13. Sometimes I need a break from my regularly scheduled overwriting, and it’s better than skipping a day.

14. God gave me a gift. I list well.

15. Lists facilitate opportunities to toss out random references at will, such as the nod to Mystery Men in the preceding bullet point.

16. Just because I can.

17. Really, though, no one ever told me to stop. One of the joys of owning your own blog is not having a stuffy killjoy of an editor who might tell you to knock off the list-making. Professional journalists probably have editors and other bosses always telling them to cease listing or else. As long as I’m a free agent, I can list or not-list to my heart’s content.

18. It’s a living. Well, okay, not really, unless someone out there is hiring experienced listers to work full-time at a list factory. I expect they’ll be mightily impressed with my resumé made entirely of lists.


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