LIST #1 APPRECIATIONS
This is a list of things things that you like, things that you appreciate, things that you think about, know about, want to know about. This is a list of things you can write or speak about as an author. I once had a teacher assign an AUTHORity list. This was a list full of things you knew about and could write about. You can call it that if you want. I’ve made hundreds of young scholars do the same.
I think the best lists are the most diverse and varied. This is an activity that I do often in my journal to start writing. It’s a quick way to mind dump, or focus on positive things. In a way, it mirrors the activity of a gratitude journal or the suggestion in Phil 4:8. I’ve written hundreds of these, and often they serve as a way of getting started on a project.
Here’s an example of a LIST #1:
1.This sentence by Johnny Cash that was used to introduce Sarah Vowell’s book Take the Cannoli :
I love songs about horses, railroads, land, judgment day, family, hard times, whiskey,
courtship, marriage, adultery, separation, murder, war, prison, rambling, damnation,
home, salvation, death, pride, humor, piety, rebellion, patriotism, larceny, determination,
tragedy, rowdiness, heartbreak and love. And Mother. And God.
– Johnny Cash
2. Books by Sarah Vowell, particularly The Partly Cloudy Patriot
4. Curious people
5. Used book stores
6. Jimmy Carter
7. Vinyl records
8. The Beatles
9. Trying new things
10. TED Talks
12. the Chuck Klosterman essay “Me, On Shuffle” from Esquire
You get the idea. Every time you sit down to this, your list would start with something new. I am being influenced now by things on my desk. I am listening to Abbey Road on a record player while Jimmy Carter looks at me from the cover of his memoir A Full Life and I have a copy of that Klosterman essay under a mug because we just read it in our music class.
Don’t worry about ranking your items. Sarah Vowell is not my favorite writer but she is the only one on the list right now. Notice how when you start this, one idea will lead to another or remind you of another. Watch. And watch how it can vary from broad to specific.
13. Mark Twain
14. the Author’s Note to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain and the book
15. Author’s Notes
16. E.B. White’s One Man’s Meat, Second Tree from the Corner, etc.
17. James Thurber’s drawings of seals
18. The last lines of Ernest Hemingway’s stories and novels, particularly “Yes, isn’t it pretty to think so.” (and others that I am not going to stand up and find at the moment)
19. Walking around ghost towns
21. Playing indoor soccer
22. Watching the sun go down after a 12 hour day on a tractor
24. The SNL skits involving “The Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With At a Party”
25. Late Night Hosts: Stewart, Colbert, Oliver, Letterman, Leno, Fallon, Carson, Meyers, etc.
27. Waking up refreshed
28. Imitating sentences
30. Eye contact with someone after it is clear that you both understand what is going on
31. Lists (as prewriting, as a genre, as stories, as juxtaposition canvas)
32. John Cage’s song 4’33”
33. Frozen blueberries in cereal
35. Laughing with my kids
36. Dancing with my 3 year old daughter
37. Secretly taking my son somewhere with a slingshot
38. Oddly translated phrases or sayings
39. SNL skit “Taco Town” – but more particularly the tears in my wife’s eyes when she watches it.
40. Walking around antique malls
41. Good advice
42. Getting stuff done before school
43. Feeling comfortable in the clothes you are wearing
44. Art museums
45. The School of Life videos
46. This American Life
47. Paper newspapers
48. Pine cones
49. Pilot G-2 pens
50. Gravel: the object, the word, and the sound of both
There’s 50. I could keep going. As could you. I recommend it. I have assigned this list during the school year, and the last few school years. What I don’t understand is young scholars who so adamantly claim “I’ve already done that.” Or “We did that last year.” So? It makes as much sense to me as someone doing one push up and calling that exercise. Or doing one push up some time in the distant past and saying “yeah, I already did that.”
Read a book? I did that in 5th grade. Blah blah.
Write your List #1. Keep adding to it. Or write a new one every day.
Note: I am progressively explaining each list, giving examples, and then I am going to show you how to use these lists.
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