reasons i like lists

In celebration of The New Quarterly’s upcoming “list issue“—edited by the Queen of Lists and Many Other Things Too—Diane Schoemperlen—I offer a few thoughts on the almost-koan: why list?

1. Well, one very big reason for me is because it Hoovers my brain so I can walk around in it comfortably without tiny bits of debris sticking to my feet, distracting and annoying me.

2. And I can see a list. Not so with the inside of my head. And even if I could, it would be all kaleidoscopey; things changing and morphing every second, in patterns impossible to follow, much less recall, days, or even hours, later.

3. Then there’s the tacit reassurance of having committed things to paper; a kind of wink wink communication that says: go on, you can do something else now, I’ll be right here when you get back—honest.

4. A list gives me things to cross out, which in itself is a very satisfying and cleansing act.

5. A crossed out list is no longer a list of where I need to go but a chronicle, a meditation even, if the mood is right, of where I’ve been. And I think it’s important, possibly useful, and mildly entertaining at the very least, to know when you’ve been somewhere.

6. Finally, it’s never really finished; it can be as long or as short, as complex or simple, as you, the lister, likes. There’s no right or wrong way of making a list and if in the middle of making one you decide to stop

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