The Two Lists acknowledge that everything has a cost. Even junk like a free t-shirt takes up real estate in your drawer, saps mental energy as you actively decide whether to wear it each day, incites guilt as you throw it out, or wastes time as you bring it to Goodwill. It’s an easy concept to overlook, but not creating a List B could come at the cost of List A.
and maybe prosper. Writing is scary because it’s unstructured: A writer has a sheet of paper and twenty-six letters to craft anything she wants. With so much gray area, freedom mutates into uncertainty, uncertainty leads to scariness, scariness leads to avoidance, avoidance leads to procrastination, and procrastination is the death of creativity.
This summer, my dad and I visited Carlsbad Caverns. That place is the physical manifestation of cavernous: Cathedral-like ceilings, “bottomless” pits, and rooms the size of city parks. Stalactites and stalagmites decorate these caverns like statues in a museum. Stalagmites (the ones on the ground) are towers that formed one calcium droplet at a time. The plunk, plunk, plunk of the droplets echoed through the caverns—slowly sculpting stalagmites for thousands of years. This commitment was nothing short of awesome. It inspired me: If little droplets could create giant sculptures, why can’t a person write a book?
A Machiavellian businesswoman answers her own question: “How do you eat a whale? One bite at a time.” A middle-school teacher smiles at a poster beside the whiteboard: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” An old writer pens the advice of her deceased father: “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.” A book is written one word at a time—nothing novel there. And writing one word isn’t hard at all, yet it’s easy to go days or weeks without penning a damn thing.
thought those plants might eat me after I printed all 276 pages at Office Depot. Months of typing into my computer now manifest in the physical world. Lots of paper, ink, and words. I didn’t know if they were good but holding them gave me a sort of validation. My effort produced something.