Lists, Love and Epiphanies

An list from a few years ago...I'm exhausted looking at it.

There’s nothing like a Wednesday morning epiphany to get my juices flowing.  I’m still obsessed with the advantage and disadvantages of keeping detailed lists and goals and objectives.  The merits of having a game plan.  (I’m also wondering how we determine what is instinct and what is illusion but that’s for another post).

Yesterday I walked Rose the Labradoodle without my ever-present iPod and discovered that not having my brain bombarded with Green Day, downloads of Michael Krasny (I have a huge crush on his voice) and the occasional Miles Davis opened my brain up to the possibility of – yeegads – random, spontaneous, creative thought.  Who knew?  Unplugging the external cacophony gives us a chance to listen to what’s going on deep inside.

And here’s what I came up with on Rose’s walk yesterday:  Most writers create a story arc – an outline of who their characters are, where they’re going and how they’re going to get there.  A beginning, middle and an end.  The story arc is roughly hewn list that chronicles the events that move the plot forward, the set backs the protagonist may endure, and the big payoff – why the heroine began the journey in the first place.

But a story arc is simply a road map.  It’s malleable.  It’s possible to turn left and venture down an unmarked avenue.

Cue big flash of insight.

When I think of my life as a series of lists, goals and objectives I set myself up for failure and disappointment.  The list is too long, the goals are too high. All I can see in my mind’s eye is that white piece of paper and one bulleted 10-point Helvetica command after another. My self-esteem is fragile enough already.  Why would I do that to myself?

But – if I create a story arc for my life then I acknowledge that there has to be room for uncertainty, moments when I decide to turn left instead of right, unexpected opportunity.  It doesn’t eliminate a game plan – I still want everything I want with all my heart and I know that I have to work for it.  But in my mind’s eye I can see my arc play out like a stunningly framed Ang Lee movie.

So, good-bye dry, boring lists.  Hello, The Story of Mimm.

Take a moment.  If you’re a chronic list maker like me, how does it feel to release those rote set of goals for a moment and instead see your life as an amazing story?