An Ode to the Lovely List

By February 28, 2012Writing about Writing

I have a confession to make: I absolutely love lists.  Writing them, reading them, going over them in my head – call it a compulsion, or a hobby, or just a way of life, but lists are essential to my daily functioning.  They may be the simplest form of writing, but they’re probably my favorite.  If you were to make a list of my favorite types of writing, you might even say they’d be #1.  Whether it’s prioritizing my homework for the weekend, or reading top 10’s online, there’s just something about lists that always gets my attention.

Usually when I write lists, it’s because I don’t want to skip over an assignment by accident or forget a deadline.  So I make a list of what I need to do, organizing by due date, or what I’m most likely to actually do first, or by type of assignment.  Sometimes I’ll make a list and just discard it, because the act of writing it down has cemented it in my head.  Other times, I’ll make the same list a few times in different notebooks – that’s when I know I’m worried about something.  If I had to guess, I’d say I’ve been doing this since middle school, and it always brings me back to sanity in the worst of finals season, or when I have a really annoyingly tough assignment to work on.  I find myself making lists in the assignments themselves, too; an outline is a kind of list, right?  Once I have a list made up for a paper, I can start taking notes for each item on the list, and build from there.  The list imposes order on my writing, and on my life.

Lists can be social as well.  I often make lists for sharing purposes.  Several of my friends and I have traded lists of book recommendations – and compared each others choices while rediscovering old favorites just through the act of list-making.  Other times it’s been a Spotify playlist, or a discussion of Netflix queues.  In fact, listing favorites (or making a wish list) is probably my second most common form of list-making.  Putting something down on paper (or a screen) has a way of reminding me of why it’s important to me, and usually helps me to think about what I liked about that item, or that movie, or that book.

If anything, blogs have shown me that I’m not the only one who likes lists.  Lists are one of the easiest and most common forms of Internet posting (though you’ll notice I refrained from structuring this one as a list).  No matter where you go on the Internet, you’re likely to find “best of this” or “top 10 of that.”  Maybe it’s just tempting to read something so obviously brief and shallow, but I like to think that there’s something in us as humans that’s hard-wired to enjoy writing and reading lists.  We seek order, and we’re constantly seeking new forms of communication and information – and lists combine both of those in the best way.  Making lists is, for me, the most natural form of writing imaginable, and I bet a lot of people would agree.  What about you, readers?  Are you all list-makers too?