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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Book Review: List Yourself

Recently I received a book called List Yourself: Listmaking as the Way to Self-Discovery, by Ilene Segalove and Paul Bob Velick, courtesy of Andrews McMeel Publishing. Now before I write this review, I want you to know that I am never paid in any way to review books or products, and I only choose to review products that I think you, the readers, will be interested in.

I chose to review this particular book because many of you are bloggers, and I know that you probably get writer's block from time to time. (At least, you do if you're anything like me.)

This book is just what you need to get some ideas going. It starts out with a thoughtfully written introduction - a fact I mention because it is the rare book that can hold my attention through introductions and prologues. I almost always skim over them, but since I had agreed to review this, I thought it would be important to read the whole thing.

After the introduction, the book is broken into ten segments, each filled with list prompts. The sections include "Yourself," "Change," Business," "Growing Up" and "Health," as well as other categories, and each contains several different writing prompts.

Each page contains one prompt and is left blank for you to write in if you choose. I personally do not use this book in that manner. I like to pick a prompt, then sit at the computer and type about it, because I have terrible handwriting and I'm an unabashed perfectionist, and the computer gives me instant editing gratification.

If you're like me, your lists won't stay that way for long. You'll write a list, and something you write will remind you of a funny or tragic or surprising or touching thing that happened to you, and you'll spin off into that. There are over 175 different list ideas, but the ideas you spin off will probably be tenfold. Be sure to write down what you come up with, especially if you have ADD, because they'll start coming in fast and furious.

Here is a sample prompt and what I wrote.


List how you'd like to change your inner life right now.

I am not a religious person. I used to be, kind of, but as I've gotten older, I've realized that for me, God and Christianity were something I embraced because I feared what would happen to me if I didn't believe - not because it was particularly important to me.

I feel that deep down, I am agnostic. I think Jesus was a real man, and a very important historical figure. I am too scared by my upbringing to say that he isn't the savior, and that's what I'd like to change in my inner life. I'd like to find a place where I can say what I believe, even to myself, without fear. For me, spirituality is just absolutely not important. I feel most spiritual in nature, and I like being among trees and grass and living things because I like feeling their energy, but I am not spiritual in any way. I don't think I believe in an afterlife, and I don't think I believe in miracles, and I'm pretty sure that if there is a God, he isn't a fire and brimstone asshole like many religions paint him to be. And if he does exist, I also bet he has a great sense of humor. (Don't believe me? Look at this. Or this.)

I think the reason I feel this way is because of my crazy Aunt Nora. She's my grandma's sister, and she's harmless and quite sweet and would probably cry real tears if she heard me call her crazy. When I was a child, Aunt Nora spent all of her time trying to get me to accept Jesus into my heart. I didn't see her that much, maybe five times a year, but every time I did, there she was a with a little New Testament, praying with me. I think this gave me the impression that asking Jesus once wasn't good enough. I had to keep asking him to accept me, because I wasn't acceptable with all my sins. (Because you know how absolutely horrid an eight year old is. I was kind of a bad kid, but I never stole or set fires. I did swear a lot though.)

This reminds me of a story about Aunt Nora that I have to write about. My mom told me about it.

In the sixties, Aunt Nora was very stylish. She made frankfurter casserole and wore polyester pantsuits and had a large, teased beehive hairstyle.
For some reason, Aunt Nora would spray her hair into a perfect beehive at night, and then wrap it in toilet paper. I don't know what the point of this was, but I think it's because she didn't want to get hairspray all over her nice poly/cotton sheets.

So my mom was a little girl and she went to spend the night at Aunt Nora's house. My mom was scared, sleeping in the bottom bunk all alone, so Aunt Nora laid down with her until she went to sleep. They both started to doze off, and then my mom had a little dream or something and startled awake. This, in turn, startled Aunt Nora, who sat up straight in bed and got her giant, toilet-paper covered beehive stuck in the springs of the top bunk.

See what I mean? You start writing about one thing and so much more comes out. It's fun, and it's a great exercise for a writer.
List Yourself has been an unbelievably valuable resource for me as a writer, and I think you'll like it too. You can buy it directly from the publisher, or at a local bookstore. I won't get paid if you choose to purchase this book, so I have no vested interest in it, but if you're a blogger or journalist or writer of any type, you need to own this book.


Anonymous said...

I am a self proclaimed list maker and they really are great for overcoming writer's block. I'm so checking it out.

zonapellucida said...

Lists are a centrifical part of my life. I would disinigrate without them. Maybe if I were better at it, I would have witten the book.