The Best Rules, The Perfect List

Rules come first, and then we follow them, right? Well, according to an intelligent dialogue with the talented cast of "The Importance of Being Earnest" at Portland Center Stage, the Victorians were fond of making up rules on the spot to suit their whims. The deed came first, and the rule followed.

Rules of Etiquette from Portland Center Stage on Vimeo.

Yes, the rules were silly. And those Victorians were always so fussy about how they held their pinkies when drinking tea. But there's something to this that I like: the rule should follow the act, not vise versa.

I've been thinking a lot about To Do lists lately, and I've come to the conclusion they are fundamentally backward. The other day I mentioned to a friend that I had a long To Do list, and yet I found myself baking scones - which wasn't on my list. Glenda said, "Oh, but it was on your list, you just didn't write it down."

Since then, I've noticed that some of my most productive days have nothing to do with what I wrote down. I accomplish all kinds of things that I thought of after making my To Do List, and virtually nothing on that original list was checked. As a result, I have emerged with the philosophy that the perfect To Do list is created only after you've done the things you wanted and/or needed to do. (Okay, wanted.) I call them Done Lists. They are wonderful for instilling a terrific sense of accomplishment.

I'm looking at my Done List, and saying, "A-ha! So this is what was important, after all, this Tuesday evening. Now I know the truth." And with that, I toss the old forgotten To Do list in the recycling bin. I don't know. I may never make another.

Looking at your creating/writing life, you may not realize there's an undercurrent of sense to everything you have managed to do. You may not feel this way. We tend to rage and fret over all the things atop that To Do List. But the creator within has her own agenda. If we could trust, and step back, we'd see that we really are doing cool stuff. We should be fast-forwarding to the future, to observe our Done List.

Review the creative things you've already done in the past six months, whether attending a class, reading a book, starting a journal. Start a Done List. Go ahead, write down every little thing you've actually done, and don't worry about the things you didn't do.

Evidently those undone things weren't so important. We know. We are an authority on the subject. We have close ancestors who were Victorians.


  1. I love the idea of writing Done Lists! Thank you.

  2. Andria, you're welcome! And you have one very huge Done List! I'm dying to hear all about it.


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