TODO

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November 18, 2011 by agooddaytoyou

Exquisite Corpse by PSST PASS IT ON

Exquisite Corpse by PSST PASS IT ON

I’m writing this on my iPad while I drink a beer at Rumpus Room in West End. I’ve knocked off work early after working through lunch. Now I’m here and I can fully enjoy my Friday afternoon.

I love Friday. For me Friday is the best day of the weekend. All the anticipation of the weekend and none of the disappointment. Consequently I hate Sunday. That feeling of the working week looming over the day and as the hours tick down, the sun sets and tomorrow sets in. The be honest I always figured that encroaching dread of Monday and the week ahead would go away after school. It doesn’t, but at least you can drink.

Which is what I’m doing now.

Drinking and writing are closely associated for me. Well – writing and drinking. Drinking a beer in a cafe or pub is a good excuse to occupy a table. And the alcohol tends to have a positive effect on my ability to flow ideas from my brain into my pencil*. The ideas, thoughts and plans usually start flowing about half way through my second pint.

The thing is – more recently when I have actually found the time and space to do this, instead of creating content I’ve created lists. Lists of projects I plan on one day completing. Websites. Applications. Animations. Blog posts. I write lists of things to write. I write down my ideas and seem chuffed with this achievement itself. As if the act of even getting the title of a blog post or an instruction for an animation is enough to satisfy my desire to produce it.

The same has been true when I sit down at the computer and set out to create something. I lack the follow through to be able to create anything that takes more than half an hour. Mostly I just make animated gifs and upload them to Tumblr.

But now – here – with a goal in mind I am able to create more than just a TODO list. Still I guess I’m just writing about lists anyway. But It feels right to do so, as if I’m starting at this point, and I need to write my way out of it – like that blind monster drawing circle-game we played in school, that the surrealists played, where you start with a bunch of disconnected lines and continue the picture without an idea of what came before or what will come. And only after it’s complete can you unfold it, step back and see what you’ve created.

This is how I write most of my stuff, to be honest. It’s how I used to write my short stories for English exams in high school, it’s how I write my poems now. Start writing, and often a constant thread or recurring idea will appear, like a line down the middle of your monster. Rereading these things after the fact it often looks planned – but it rarely is. I could never write essays because I found the format too restrictive – too much planning. Likewise I could probably never write a novel – because this style of ‘train of consciousness’ ideation only really holds up to short bursts of thought. So I write poems. And lists.

Lists are easy to create.

It’s not creation, really. Todo lists are proof of the absence of creation. I often create lists for work, while I’m at work, instead of working. The next time I create a list I’ll refer to the previous list, and transfer all the incomplete items over onto it. The thing is – often things don’t need to be ‘done’ – they just expire or other people do them. It’s not the same feeling of success as actually having completed an activity – but it keeps the lists at about 7 items.

My theory, which I haven’t put into action (but I wrote it down once, so it counts): You should only ever have ONE thing to do. All of your lists should only ever have ONE todo item – otherwise it’s too easy to skip the first and move onto the next thing. And before long you’re back at the top of the list, and nothing has been achieved.

Lists are easy to read.

Lists are lazy content. The Internet is full of lists. It’s an easy sell to people who are busy at their computers. I can’t be bothered reading this lengthy well written article about the failed war on drugs in Mexico. But I’ll read this top ten lists of ways hip hop video clips predicted the future.

Rereading your list of todo items you can reassure yourself that, yes, you’re busy and productive and, yes, you’ll soon be achieving some important things.

Lists are easier than doing work, and they make you feel busy.

I am a professional procrastinator. For me ‘I’ll get it done tomorrow’ isn’t a little plan or lie I tell myself – it’s a state of being.

That’s why I like Friday.

I like Friday because it’s the best day of the weekend. Because while I’m living Friday I’m already focused on the weekend. Because I’m living in the future. Because in the future I’ve completed my todo list. I’ve enacted my ideas, produced my projects. And I can finally stop thinking about them. Stop carrying them with me. Start thinking about new things – creating new things, unburdened by my incomplete plans.

Tomorrow tomorrow tomorrow.

I used onto have a post it note stuck to my monitor at work with a pencil written note to myself: “FOLLOW THROUGH”. I was finding myself too easy to distract, too ready to ditch whatever I was doing to push one of the other walls of work away from myself – forward an inch – move to the next, repeat. Suffocating because I was still trapped, surrounded by work. I needed to focus on one task, push it over – then move on to the next. Systematically. Methodically. Like a fucking robot. Fuck that, what’s going on on Tumblr? This shit can wait.

 

I still have the note, somewhere.

 

*This is my first attempt at using my iPad for this rather than my notebook – it’s great for inserting ideas into other thoughts (I often use a complex series of vertical margin writing and arrows) but I’m fighting Evernote. I need a better app.

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