Braving Storms: Deborah Glenn on Learning from Your Lists

Now that we’re all defrosting from the 2014 Arctic Vortex, it struck us as fitting to give April the theme of “Braving Storms.” Here are some great stories from people weathering the worst that life can rain down at the worst moments–and how they lived to see the sun come out again.


This, of course, assumes that you’re making lists at all. I highly recommend them when you’re feeling stuck on a project.

I’m not talking about to-do lists here, although use them by all means if they help you. (In that vein, I recently made myself an editable checklist of groceries, organized by supermarket aisle, so that now I just check a box when I run out of an item instead of writing the name of each item down. When I get to the store I can easily swing through and collect what I need. Dreaded weekly task = 80% done in advance. Imagine a geek-dance GIF right here. Let me know if you want a copy.)

Notebooks_and_journalsLists help you organize your thoughts, set priorities, remember beloved events or people, or jog loose an idea that, while seemingly unrelated, might solve a problem. For instance, I love to travel and keep a list of favorite places I’ve visited to remind myself that I won’t be stuck with a frustrating piece of writing forever. Last month, I looked at this list as I slogged through was writing a design review and saw “Arches National Park.” This made me think of hiking, which led me to a visual metaphor for the house’s front yard. It worked.

Here are a few lists you could create if you don’t know where to start. (Lists of lists to make = meta-awesome):

  • stuff that bugs you about a piece you’re working on
  • things you love about where you live
  • stuff you were obsessed with as a kid (my guess is it’s worked its way into your adult life somehow)
  • places you want to visit
  • things you’d like for your next birthday
  • people you loved meeting and why
  • why you hate making lists

If nothing else, writing or reading a list will give you a bit of a break, which can’t be a bad thing.

unnamedA recent transplant from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, Deborah Snoonian Glenn is a former senior editor of This Old House and Architectural Record and was the executive editor of the eco-lifestyle magazine Plenty. Her freelance writing has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, New York Magazine, Dwell and other publications, and she’s made dozens of guest appearances on The Today Show and other national programs.

Posted in Braving Storms, Good Ideas, Inspiration, Organizing Ideas, Writing, Writing Education and tagged , , , .

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