I love lists. I feel comforted when I keep lists, and inspired, motivated, relaxed, and galvanized into action.
As Maria Popova says, lists can be "a remarkably potent tool for jostling the muse into manifesting." I've always used lists in my creative work, and to help keep my life organized. Lists of words I like, and want to use in a poem. Words that my intuitive mind calls forth when I pull a particular tarot card. A to-do list to settle my thoughts at the beginning and end of the day. One of my favorite lists comes from Esme Weijun Wang, a "Things I've Done Today" list, that helps my guilt and internalized ableism quiet down on days when chronic pain keep me from being as productive as I'd like to be.
Lists are a tool for self-discovery. A generative task for the creative person.
Get a list down and then word associate around it.
Jot down your to-dos before you go to bed so you can rest easy, having dumped your brain of nagging ideas.
All of these are reasons why the Bullet Journal is an important part of my regular planning system. It lets me journal, track various things, record favorite quotes, and, most of all, make lists. Organizing my life this way helps me to be more mindful in my daily life, which is a necessity as I juggle teaching college English, writing poetry, editing a literary journal, and running a tarot business. The bullet journal and its list-making not only keeps me organized and my mind refreshed, but also allows me to track my progress, remember my goals, and look back to keep my goals in mind. I love, for example, being able to look back at older tarot readings and see how I've progressed through my challenges.
If you're not familiar with the bullet journal, here are the basics:
My current book project is about disability and everyday life. I like to describe it as a cross between Dorothy Wordsworth's diaries and Riot Grrl. It examines the difficulties, joys, and microaggressions of daily life as a queer disabled person, so it helps me to have a system to record my days and look back at them. My bullet journal, my list-making, is a vital part of my creative work.
My bullet journal isn't pretty or decorated like those you'd find on Pinterest. It's purely functional, and that's what works for me. Updating it is a part of my morning and evening routines, and I carry it with me wherever I go. One of its primary functions is to keep track of things I want to write about, whether it's a word, a fragment of dialogue, and image, a theme, a color. Albert Einstein famously said, you should never remember something that you can look up. I don't adhere to this completely, but with my fibro brain fog, I struggle with my memory sometimes, so keeping a bullet journal helps ease my anxiety over forgetting something important; I can just look it up.
When I do a tarot reading, the first step for me is to make a list of key words that come to mind when I see the cards laid out. I then expand upon those words and weave together the querent's story in the cards, but it all begins with a list, as do so many of my poems.
How do you use list-making in your artistic practice?