A list for life and college


Melanie Loggins

I don’t believe in magic. I feel like I should make that clear from the beginning. And, true story, I’m listening to Stevie Nicks sing about thunder happening when it’s raining, and if there was anyone who might actually be a “good witch,” it’s Stevie Nicks, right? So, she’s either the perfect soundtrack to think about magic or the worst? Anyway, I’m thinking about magic this morning. And, like I said, I don’t believe in magic, but if there is one thing that comes close, it’s writing something down.
Years ago, I was just out of college and not sure what to do with my life. Someone told me that the only way to make a plan for the future was to write down a list of everything I could not live without, the things I wouldn’t compromise on. And, look, I didn’t think I was performing a ritual, but I did it. I wrote a list of the things I absolutely need in my life and… eventually I got them. Let’s be clear, I don’t think it was the list that made it happen. If the actual paper got lost or destroyed, it wasn’t going to break the spell. No, it was the act of writing it. It made me focus and be selective and choose only the things that really mattered. I had to think about all the stuff I did and did not want and be honest about them. Later it was a record to keep me accountable, a souvenir of what I promised myself.
Now I write everything down. If handwriting something is the secret formula, then I’m its most ardent alchemist. I make lists. I make a budget on paper or the money doesn’t exist. I will write an idea down on a napkin, the back of a receipt, or a junk mail envelope. My desk is… ok, look, my desk is usually a wreck, but that’s mostly because of all my little notes. I bought this cool notebook thing where the pages are scannable and reusable. It satisfies my urge to write stuff down and my need to keep up with ideas. It’s an impressive parlor trick to erase a page. You should get one, your friends will be jealous. I write quotes I hear and words to look up. Gift ideas and RGB color codes. (WSC gold is 255, 204, 0. You’re welcome.) Even if I don’t exactly remember the thing I wrote down, I remember that I did, in fact, write it down, so I know I can find it again.
I read a while back that blue is the best color for writing things down. Blue ink is better for recall. I looked into that (compulsive Googling) and learned there is actually some controversy about it! Some studies show blue might be better for stirring up creativity, while red might actually be better for recall. I couldn’t help but notice that black ink doesn’t even have a rank or is mentioned, which makes sense, because black ink is awful. I prefer blue ink, so I’m going to tell myself that it’s the superior ink color even though I know that it doesn’t actually matter. The point is that you wrote it down, even if you used black ink.
Now I am a near fanatic about writing things down. I tell my students to write their notes, write schedules and write questions. Got an emotion you can’t pinpoint? Write a poem about it. Got something you need to say to someone? Write it out first. Trying to decide on a class or a major or a job or a boyfriend? Make a list of pros and cons. Make a list of the things you need to make lists of. If you think I’m exaggerating for the sake of this column, I assure you, I’m not. Ask anyone who knows me and odds are they’ve chuckled at how much I rely on paper and pen. (Or pencil! Pencil is good because you can erase, and we all make mistakes, but you know what’s even better? My erasable pen. Talk about a magic item! It’s an automatic +3 to wisdom.)
I will confess something to you though: I wish I did believe in magic. I wish I believed that there was a secret combination of words that could make me accomplish something at will or that the right talisman would protect me from ill or bring me fortune. I’ve tried it on, but it doesn’t suit me. I will stick with the writing and Stevie Nicks, though. If I can’t have magic, I can at least have to-do lists and something to sing along to.