Tuesday, December 23, 2008


A friend of mine brought me a Hanukah gift today: a mostly blank book of prompts to make me start lists--lists of favorite activities, music, books; lists of valued experiences and intangible treasures; lists that can define who I am in a minimum number of words. What a great gift for a poet who values conciseness and meaningful word choices! I have written "list poems," as well as assigned them to my students. A list of groceries, or the contents of one's desk, has the power to reveal a personality. I have coached young writers to get to know their own characters by devising highly specific lists of their favorite activities or possessions, their passions, their most embarrassing and proudest moments, etc. Lists offer tools for learning about people and the worlds in which they reside. As a tool for introspection--which is what the book/journal gift aims to be--list-making provides insights for personal growth.

But the greatest growth potential posed by list-making lies in its ONGOING NATURE. Never finish a list, for it will always change as you age. Leave blank spaces to fill in, and contemplate the shifting values evidenced by the changes in your lists over the years. Likewise, as a writer, you may ask yourself how one of your character's lists might change over time, and in reaction to certain experiences. Characters, like their authors themselves, must evolve, and sometimes a great way to study their evolution is via list-making.

Thanks, Tina, for the gift. I like it because:
It will force me to put pen to paper (not fingers to keys) when I'm NOT teaching;
It will provide me with insights into myself at THIS age, later, when I'm an octogenarian;
It will remind me of you every time I write in it;
It will help me practice my specific word choices to show, not tell, who I am;
It will make me think about who I was, who I am, and who I plan to be.

How's that for a list?