Here's just what a writer doesn't need: Seasonal Affective Disorder – that gloomy, depressive, lethargic feeling that overcomes many people (like me) in northern climates during winter months. Couple it up with the typical isolation of working at home alone and it's a wallop for writers.
Some winters I sail through only slightly scathed; other years I scramble to employ tricks involving sunlight and special lamps. This year I've see-sawed, and on the icky days I've resorted to My Lists. Not my to-do lists (though I have plenty of those), but the lists of good things which I may ordinarily overlook in my writing, career, and family. (A class is fully enrolled, an essay sells, a son performs confidently in a school presentation, my husband cooks two nights in a row, Mom sends just enough folding rectangular green paper in a Thinking of You card to cover the book store bill.)
This positive list-making grew out of a suggestion years ago when a therapist I saw during the "winter of 17 snowstorms," when I was dealing with postpartum depression, SAD, and a high maintenance baby, had me write a daily "good" list each night -- five things which had gone pretty well that day and/or that I was grateful for. Of course, true to my internal pragmatist (some say pessimist), I also kept a "bad" list of all the things I had screwed up that day, and stuff I wasn't grateful for (caused an infection while clipping the baby's nails, colic, burnt cookies).
I still keep both sets of lists, though not daily, and not always on paper. The good lists help me make it through the SAD (or other dismal) days and remind me I'll live to write another day. I've learned to (mostly) think of my bad lists in terms of lessons learned or stuff-I-can't-control-that's-life-shrug-it-off.
But I've also noticed that the "bad" list, especially the one I keep in my head, sometimes suggests interesting and often fun personal essay topics, which I address through humor -- such as when my big mouth got me in trouble with another mom, or when I procrastinated about holiday preparations, and my hatred of television sets in public places boiled over.
I also find other kinds of lists helpful during the writing and revision process, especially when I'm stuck in a piece of writing. I'm going to post about those lists later this week.
Are you a list maker in your writing life?