How to Write a List

 

* start with obvious items first

* jot down the first thing that comes to mind

* no second-guessing

* probably

* remind yourself of the popularity of lists in online content

* cite reputable sources

* assemble the top ten theories about what happened during a recent celebrity post-gala public relations debacle, where the NRA closed-door board meeting is being held or why a mass extinction-level event is pending because of something you did

* don’t reject any ideas no matter how far-fetched

* don’t number unless you want the reader to skip to the end

* don’t capitalize

* nor worry about fragments

* you should employ the second person

* let the transitions take care of themselves

* let this be a lesson

* let this be a boat that takes you to a gentle cognac waterfall at the end of a stretched-thin prose horizon

* let this be the last thing you ever write so you’d better get it all out now while its fresh and writhing and the Internet still exists in this unrestricted open carnival free-for-all you’ve come to hate with such irradiated infatuation

* it’s also possible you just need groceries

* cite a better list

* attempt to remember where you once came across this video

* throw caution to the cliché

* throw erasers into the fog

* careful when indulging tangents of word association

* ask yourself whatever happened to the late eighties/early nineties college radio band Throwing Muses

* bear the title in mind on each line

* don’t knock down the fourth wall so early in the game

* don’t procrastinate in getting to your point

* because you begin and end your day drifting through listicles, roundups, hot tips, must-sees, hidden gems, most and best of’s, 5 facts, 6 reasons, 7 photos, 8 do’s, 9 don’t’s, 10 ways, 11 things and 12 step-by-step how to’s

* because a list is meant to be a memory aid but you’re having trouble recalling any single item you’ve come across in the past year

* because words are elided

* because words spill out this way

* because there are few places where you can get away with cognitive dissonance

* because you just finished writing a novel and a list may help clear your head

* because an expository essay uses an argument and some semblance of logic

* because creative nonfiction uses a trauma

* because an interview uses manners and protocol

* because a binary code might abhor something as woolly as a fiction

* because poetry

* because you won’t need to stop finger-swiping if you missed something

* think about authority

* think about decentering

* think about a digital sieve that catches forgotten events and makes them news again

* vary the length of each line item of your list to create a graphic interruption for the reader and snaps him or her or you back into active consumption, making the content easier to process and the experience more satisfying

* scroll like the wind

* break more rules

* please don’t lose the momentum halfway through like an a-hole

* wonder why Throwing Muses never found more cultural traction and dropped off the face of the Earth

* discover, thanks to a streaming music service, that Throwing Muses released a new album last year and it’s decent, though likely not worthy of a full essay or even some pick-of-the-month starred review or a retweet once you think about it

Throwing_Muses_bw_promo

* hit replay on the Danny Brown, Heems and Despot remix of Vampire Weekend’s ‘Step’

* read Boris Vian’s L’Écume des Jours before the Michel Gondry film version is released in the US as Mood Indigo, a title that has nothing to do with the original French perhaps because the word for l’écume doesn’t exist in English

* see the movie before it gets reduced to a forwarded clip of the ice skating scene

* bookmark the clip before it gets reduced to a still and an unrelated superimposed text

* l’écume could be the sea foam or the froth, but it’s more precisely the white churn at the crest of something crashing

* maybe it’s best if the language of your list doesn’t have a word for this specific lovely fleeting thing

* return to reading Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

* hope that somewhere, someone is still tearing through D.R. Haney’s Banned for Life

* renew yourself on each line

* stress that this singular catalog, by its very nature, is insufficient and inadequate

* try to replicate a train of thought

* try to replicate a feed

* consider the cop friend who updates that the evening light through the trees was beautiful

* take the overachiever from high school who’s moved to make another new start, another new city

* marvel at the hedonist from college who’s settled down and renovated the kitchen she wanted

* note that Sean Beaudoin listened to ‘Peace Piece’ by Bill Evans

* regard the video explaining why a previous forwarded video of someone on fire was, in fact, a hoax

* endorse the toddler in the gossamer butterfly wings who, given all she’s had to deal with lately, is such a little trooper

* affirm the selfie that slipped into camp

* hail the sex that slipped into a selfie

* salute the surfer who counterbalanced against the record-breaking wave

* enjoy what’s happening to our brains

* appreciate that no one knows why the animals are gathering that way

* extol the full recovery

* don’t exhaust yourself drumming up fancy synonyms for ‘like’

* or drafting the ways you plan on promoting your list

* I’ve always loved writing lists even (especially) when they unravel on me like this…

* your list should have hijacked your initial intentions by now

* your list will never be complete and never reach a conclusion

* your list is dumbed down and a fast food amuse-bouche

* your list is ascending

* your language is changing

* again

* recognize that if a prehistoric cave dweller sitting around a campfire started to recite a list to the group, he would be summarily run through with a spear

* recognize that, by now, we stay up later

* and still light fires

* leave comments

* leave our flies open

* leave lines out

* play up the mystery

* write slower

* read faster

* measure the tide

* never bother to look to the shore

* attempt a new way to describe what’s coming again

* make-believe it’s effortless

* whatever you do, pick up some flour and the eggs at the store tonight

* and lemons

* light bulbs

* fall short

* dislocate something

* skip ahead

* run along

About Nathaniel Missildine

Nathaniel Missildine lives in Dijon, France with his wife and two daughters. His travel memoir, Save for Fireflies, chronicles his family road trip across the U.S. as a kind of native tourist. For more, visit nathanielmissildine.com.
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