My To-Don’t List

Thea Devine here, back from my refreshing electronics-free week

My Maine View

(my husband’s challenge) in Maine where we wandered into a local gift shop and in the course of my browsing I found a pad on which to keep a To-Don’t List.

Now you may think that after more than 25 years, I’ve got my writing act pretty much together, and I’m chugging along daily full steam ahead, productive, goal-oriented, and everything running smoothly under my strict managerial thumb..

You would be wrong.  I am a world-class procrastinator. I am scattered, easily distracted by bright shiny things, always behind and ever scrambling. Which is why, when I discovered the To- Don’t List pad, I immediately thought it could solve all my problems.

Don’t get me wrong. I do try to list things and get them done. Especially in my writing life, and you know how hard that can be.

I even know people, who when they get things done that they haven’t put on their list, write them down just for the satisfaction of crossing them off.  But me, I’ll make my list, and maybe accomplish the tasks three days later.  If I remember.  If I look at the list.  If I feel like it.  Or maybe not.

But the To-Don’t List, which is divided into four categories of Don’t-ness (avoid, delay, pawn off and sabotage) frees me from all that:

Write 20 pages                            Check (avoided) (wrote 5pp)

Work on other mss                      Check (delayed) (no due date, no rush)

That heroine’s name??                Check (delayed) (research needed)

Prep for upcoming workshop        Check (delayed) (still time to do that)

Rethink goals                             Check (sabotage) (what goals?)

It’s amazing what I didn’t accomplish today. How much I managed to delay and avoid. (I’m also good at sabotaging.)  I didn’t have to remember or give up anything or make a decision.  And I don’t feel guilty,


Hey, I made a list, people.  And everything I meant to do is crossed off.  I feel good.  It’s been a really successful day.

(Um — you do know this is tongue-in-cheek, right?)

(Or is it …?)

Writing Secret:  forget lists;  keep writing, writing, writing.

Do you procrastinate?  Do you make lists?  For  writing chores:  plot lists?  Timelines?  Story arcs?  Character traits?   Do they work?

Thea Devine is working on Beyond the Night, the sequel to The Darkest Heart, which will be an April 2013 release from Pocket Star.  And look for the reissue of His Little Black Book from Pocket/Gallery in September.


10 thoughts on “My To-Don’t List”

  1. Lots of food for thought here. You are so right about procrastinating,Thea. We all do it. The worse time losers are those X@#$%$@#% addictive computer games. I am a list maker, though, and I do cross off things on my list. But the writing…it’s so easy to get sidetracked, especially if it is not going great guns.

  2. Thea, I think you’re onto something here. As a matter of fact, I’m certain of it…so certain that I think we should not write a book about it. I will shift my responsibility for doing the outline to you if you would consider putting the research off indefinitely. Maybe we could both then fail to write, say 10 pages a day 🙂 Let me know what you think. In the meantime, I’ll be floundering around with my existing to-do list. For some reason, I just can’t seem to get things done 🙂

    1. Tim, that’s hysterical. I’ll be happy to put off collaborating with you and we can talk more about it sometime in the future.


  3. Hilarious, Thea. I’m one of those obnoxious “To-Do” listers who believes that all will be right with the world if I can get at least three things a day checked off my list…which is down from my previous level of perfectionistic insanity of ten a day. Most days, I have ten to-do’s listed and I make it through about five. I now put writing at the top and even if I don’t tackle it first, it keeps me mentally aware that none of the rest of it matters if I don’t find time for writing:-) Thanks for the smile this morning.

    1. My to-do lists actually are all over the place (read many pieces of paper, pads, my head). So you can see how the to-don’t list is perfect for me.


  4. Ha Ha, Thea! I already do (don’t) most of these things — but writing them down is sheer brilliance! . I make lists – sometimes they work for me, sometimes they don’t. Looks like you had a lovely time in Maine.

  5. I tried keeping list but they didn’t work. I wake-up knowing I want to write a chapter or certain word count and achieve it. My procasitination comes when I need to research. I can always find a million other things to do. Then I reign me back in and get it done. I hate having things hanging over my head. It’s less stress to complete an item.

  6. Hysterical . . . the only thing i don’t put on my list is “write.” I do not have a hard time forgetting to write, nor do I have a hard time remembering to write. It’s smeared on my brain, in gold, of course, my favorite color, to quote Serena Williams, a favorite tennis champ. So, I will write in spite of my flaws of doing and don’t. And hopefully the word count will climb enough for me to submit to my editor.

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