Posts Tagged ‘lists’

A To Do List For 2013: Why, how, and what.

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

An earlier version of this post appeared at One Night Stanzas in December 2008.

OK, as regular readers might have noticed, I am an obsessive list-maker. I make time for a Love List and a Link Love List every week, and New Year is my favourite time — it’s all about wishing and hoping, planning and dreaming, as Dusty would’ve said (or rather, mimed hideously!). I’ve been reading a lot of articles recently rubbishing this kind of thing, but forget it — I am a typical dreamy Pisces, and I need to organise myself well in advance. So I will still be making New Year’s Resolutions (though only ones I know I can keep!), and I’ll also be writing a 2013 To Do List.

Why should I write a To Do List for the whole year?

Well, everyone writes To Do Lists from time to time, no matter how well organised they are… usually when they have a lot on, and it’s important that they get everything done. Well, apply that kind of thinking to a whole year — how much stuff will you have to deal with between now and December 31st next year? Surely it’s a good idea to have a bit of a plan before you start, in order to hit the ground running. You can never be too organised.
Also, a year might seem like a long time but as we all know, you get to Christmas every year and inevitably find yourself commenting on how it only seems like five minutes since it was January. This is why it’s not only important to write down all the achievements of the past year, but also to get ready for the next one, to make sure that the 365 fleeting days are well-spent. Here’s a fact for you: if you write down your goals, you are more likely to achieve them, so To Do Lists are NOT a waste of time. If there’s something you really want to achieve in the next 12 months, write it down now… it could make the difference between success and failure.

How should I do it?

Prioritise: Maybe you have some goals that you’re desperate to achieve — getting really good exam results, for example. Maybe there are others that aren’t so vital — you’d really like to get your poetry published in a certain place, for example, but if it doesn’t happen you won’t be totally devasted. And maybe you just have some odd little whims that you can take or leave but might try out at some point…
A good idea might be to write three separate lists, or divide your list into three ’sections’ according to your priorities. Don’t sweat the small stuff — but at the same time, don’t forget it either. Put the biggest want for 2013 at the very top of the list in big letters, and keep the airy whims for the end.

Be realistic: Don’t clutter up your To Do List with things that you know aren’t achieveable in the next year. If you start too big you’ll end up disappointed with yourself at the end of the year when you find you haven’t reached you goal — remember, as I said, a year isn’t as long as it seems! If you have a big goal like saving up for a house or writing and publishing an epic six-part novel, you might want to make a separate list for the next five years, ten years or whatever. You can also put slightly silly goals like “note to self: win the lottery” on a fantasy To Do List if you like… just keep them off the serious list!

Expand: If you have a goal but aren’t sure how you’re going to achieve it, you can turn your list into more of a plan. If your goal is to travel for six months, for example, you can note down the steps you think you’ll need to take to get there… “get job / open savings account / save up and stop buying notebooks obsessively (confession!) / book flights in advance” etc. A great big goal can seem a bit scary and unrealistic, but break it down into smaller steps and it will seem less intimidating and easier to achieve.

Share: You might not want to let other people in on your cunning plan for world domination, but showing your To Do List to someone else can make you more likely to get where you want to be. Proving to someone else that you can do it gives you added incentive, and having someone to talk to if the going gets rough is always useful. If you’re feeling shy, just show your best friend or a family member who won’t snigger at the fact that your ambition for the year is to become a professional Cliff Richard impersonator or whatever… or if you’re more confident, get thee to your blog, or better still, spread the To Do List idea around your friends. If they also draw one up you can compare notes and keep one another going!

Display: Once you’ve written your To Do List, don’t just stuff it in a drawer or squirrel it away in a dusty old file on your computer desktop. Put it somewhere you’ll see it often, and make sure you check back every so often to see how you’re doing. It may sound daft, but crossing another thing off your list brings a real sense of achievement, AND if you get to the end of the year with everything crossed off, how awesome is it going to feel?? If your To Do List is out in the open you can also update it as more ideas and ambitions hit you during the year… and this humble piece of paper will serve as a cool memento of the fabulous 12 months you’ve finally put behind you once you get to New Year 2010!

What should I put on my To Do List?

Anything you want. The important thing is that, if you think you can achieve it in a year, you should put it down, regardless of how daft it might seem. If you’re worried about other people thinking you’re nuts, you don’t have to show the list to anyone… and if you end up not achieving the big goal for the year, you can transfer it to next year’s list instead. Nothing is too small for the list, and nothing is too vague. “Finish reading the last Harry Potter” is just as acceptable as “Conquer Finnegan’s Wake,” and “be more confident,” might seem very general, but putting it down on paper is the first step towards getting it done.

Note! The To Do List you make is there to be scribbled all over, torn to bits and stuck together again or chucked on the fire if you so wish. Don’t write it and then assume it’s set in stone. You can add things at a later date, remove things if you change your mind, and tear it up and start again in August if you find your priorities shifting massively. You’re not writing a personal Bible or anything, you’re just visualising goals, which is the first step on the road to achieving them. If, halfway down that road, those goals don’t seem as appealing anymore, no worries. The whole point of the To Do List is that it can — and probably should — evolve. Happy listing!

What’s on YOUR To Do List for 2013?


You can also visit Read This Press for more poetry (and typewriter paraphernalia!). Alternatively, check out Edinburgh Vintage, our sister site. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at] I reply as swiftly as I can!

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My All-Time, Top Ten Movies of 2012

Monday, December 24th, 2012

…in chronological order, are as follows:

The Magic Trip: Ken Kesey’s Search for a Kool Place
Actually a 2011 movie, but it didn’t get to the Filmhouse til January 2012. It was amazing to see so much film footage of the mystical Neal Cassady who stars in so much of my most beloved Beat Literature.

Margin Call
Incredible cast, incredible script, incredible everything. Watch this trailer and see if you don’t instantly want to go and buy the DVD.

Apart Together
I saw this amazing movie as part of the Take One Action Festival at Filmhouse. Unfortunately I can’t find a trailer with English subtitles, but hopefully you can get an idea of how beautiful and poignant the film is from this video. The story follows an exiled nationalist soldier who fled mainland China in 1949. He returns an old man to see if he can find his then-girlfriend, who was pregnant when he left. It was made with support from the Chinese government, which is really quite something given its strong political message. I loved it.

The Muppets
Again, a 2011 movie that didn’t get to The Cameo til 2012. Do I need to go into why I loved this, really? Jim Parsons’ cameo was my favourite moment, for sure.

The Artist
Another 2011 movie, but I put off seeing it for such a long time because I was so afraid it would disappoint me. It didn’t. All the hype is totally deserved. I’m now just kicking myself for not allowing more time to see it over and over on the big screen!

The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists
I’d have enjoyed this film much more had I not been sitting with my odd sister, who kept squealing throughout about how much the little dodo totally looked like me. THANKS.

Moonrise Kingdom
This is the first Wes Anderson movie I’ve seen, and this, I’m told, is a very important moment in a young girl’s life. It has so much stuff in it I love. Bruce Willis! Frances McDormand! SWINTON! A cute dog! Whimsy! And so I loved it very much indeed.

Leave It On The Track
Easily the BEST MOVIE EXPERIENCE I have ever had. I was at the world premiere of this movie at the Edinburgh International Film Festival and the audience was about 90% derby girls. The film was hilarious, poignant and super, super empowering, and being in such a passionate, loopy audience was just fantastic! This is a low budget movie about roller derby made by one guy for his Film Studies thesis. See this instead of Whip It… or if you loved Whip It.

Before I went to see this I made the mistake of reading a comment thread on a blog I normally like, where folks were talking about all the various ways this movie was “problematic.” These were mostly “Scots-American” commenters (as in, my great-great-great-great aunty Mavis lived in Galashiels for a bit and I went there once for half an hour on a coach trip), who were taking umbrage about the film’s portrayal of Scotland and Scottish people. They’d all seen it, so I was led to believe that Brave was an hour and a half of mocking stereotypes and Celtic twilight twee-ness. Turns out, that was bullshit. It was actually GREAT to see a huge Hollywood film that starred so many Scottish actors, actually speaking with their actual accents. As a proud Scot, I loved it, and so did all the Scots I know who saw it.
PS: Er yes, I go and see a lot of kid movies.

My favourite movie of the year. I love Rian Johnson’s work, especially Brick, and I love Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis and Paul Dano, so I was extra-super-excited to see this. It was the only movie I saw twice and I’ll fight anyone who thinks it’s anything less than freaking excellent. Top class sci-fi actiontastic fiery explosive goodness.

What were your favourite movies of 2012?


You can also visit Read This Press for more poetry (and typewriter paraphernalia!). Alternatively, check out Edinburgh Vintage, our sister site. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at] I reply as swiftly as I can!

Things I Love Thursday #55

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

love, love, love

TiLT = I love stuff, therefore I blog.

OK, so… my promise to blog much more often through 2012 has been somewhat redacted these past few weeks, as I have been so busy my feet haven’t touched the ground. Having promised myself I’d reduce my academic stress, I’ve been up against (and, er, still am up against) some big deadlines for my PhD thesis. Having promised myself I’d have a quieter gigging year this year, I’ve been innundated with invitations to read my stuff all over the place (and you guys know how truly rubbish I am at saying “no”!). And having assumed that I’d have tonnes of free time after reducing my work hours… well, naturally I’ve just found loads of mystery Stuff to fill that time. C’est la vie. However, I finally have a few spare moments to catch up and let you know what, amongst the chaos, I have been loving lately.

Sharon Olds
OK, so my PhD supervisor doesn’t know this yet, and I’m not sure how he’s going to take it. BUT I’ve decided to veer off course a little bit with my thesis plan in order to be able to write about the poetry of Sharon Olds.
Over the past week or so I’ve been reading her newest collection, One Secret Thing, which deals with the death of her mother. Hers are the kind of poems that grab you by the throat and shake you til you see patterns… in other words, the kind of poems I love. And this collection is particularly brutal, heartfelt and moving. As always, Olds pulls absolutely no punches — every feeling is explored, every moment included. You literally live every moment of her mother’s last months, weeks, days and seconds with her. I cried in public reading this book. IT’S ONE OF THOSE.
As a result, I am defiantly putting Sharon Olds into my thesis, and have already written 4,000 joyous words (seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever written anything that’s come this easily) about her. I’ve discussed the her poetry’s fiercely autobiographical bent, but also her ability to take the most mundane moment from her life, a moment you’d think could only be interesting to her, and make it universally fascinating. I’ve talked about her love-hate relationship with the confessional mode — her great respect for Plath and Sexton and their definite influence on her own work, in spite of her determination to move off their well-trodden path. And I’ve talked about her as a “domestic” poet — writing about married love, childbirth, parenting and the nursing of her own ailing parents — how she makes poems that are most definitely about acts of love and nurturing almost violent in their honesty about how hard it can be, sometimes, to be a wife, mother, daughter, care-giver. Her poems are spectacular, in my opinion: she really is one of the greatest poetic talents America has ever produced. Seriously: for me she’s up there with Whitman.
But most of all I love the way she sees at the world, how unacademic she is about everything, about writing. Check out this audio interview, if you can — really, it’s great, and it’s short. She talks about how she uses Curious George (”oh, he’s a monkey in a children’s book!”) stickers to help her write poems and how she thinks life makes a sound kind of like a humming motorbike. Solid gold loveliness.

And her advice to aspiring poets? “Take your vitamins. Exercise. Just work to love yourself as much as you can—not more than the people around you but not so much less. Love, Sharon.” Brilliant.


The Melrose Literary Society

I’ve been dying to write about this for weeks now, but as I say, the busy-ness of life has until now prevented me. But about three weeks ago I spent a brilliant Tuesday afternoon and evening in picturesque Melrose, a guest of the town’s venerable literary society.
As some of you may already know, I grew up in the Scottish Borders: my family moved to the tiny village of Town Yetholm in the Bowmont Valley when I was nine years old (hey look — that white one’s my old house!), and I lived there until I flew the nest and moved to Edinburgh in 2004, aged eighteen. Yetholm’s a teeny-tiny wee place which as a teenager I both loved and loathed: my friends and I were free to head off up the valley and climb trees, swim in the Bowmont or climb the nearby fells. However, buses were very infrequent, we got snowed in most winters, and there was only one shop. In spite of my freedom I was also restless, and high-tailed it to the Big City at the first chance I got.
However, there are some really sweet places in the Borders, and Melrose is probably my favourite of all the region’s towns. It has a handful of excellent bookshops which is obviously a big plus for me, and I am a massive fan of the town’s big arts and antiques market, “The Whole Lot“, where I’ve found many a lovely vintage bargain in the past and which I always make a bee-line for before I do anything else! I’m also a fan of a well-baked scone, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned here before, and would highly recommend Russells to anyone similarly inclined. Melrose also has its own tiny, indie theatre, The Wynd — which in such a small place and in this day and age is to be saluted, as well as heartily supported.

But the real props here must go to the truly excellent Melrose Literary Society, a community group dedicated to the promotion and protection of good literature, founded in 1885 and still going strong. I was talent-spotted, for want of a better expression, by the group’s Honorary President, Professor Ian Campbell, who during my undergrad degree was one of my great heroes (I took his honours module “Fiction in the Age of the Machine,” a class which was always truly enlightening as well as fun) — not least because he bakes scones for his students (and they are lovely)! Professor Campbell recommended that the group invite me to speak, and the next thing I knew I was standing in front of a room full of very friendly and attentive (and, as the question-session afterwards showed, highly knowledgable) Melrosians, giving a talk entitled “Making Poems, Writing Histories, Excavating Myths.” The talk was a quick trek through one section of my PhD research and drew heavily from the ideas laid out by Margaret Atwood in Negotiating With The Dead. The questions I got were spirited, difficult, fascinating and enlightened. I was extremely nervous beforehand but enjoyed myself immensely. In short: long live the Melrose Literary Society! Here’s to the next 125 years!

Honourable mentions:
If you ever are in Melrose, nip down the road to Donkey Heaven. Steve sponsors one of their donkeys, Daniel (here, on the right — aint he cute?!), and he loves to have his nose scratched! (although NB: he will obviously not love you quite as much as he loves Steve). // My all-female slam! It went super well — watch this space for separate post in due course // Being vegan! I went vegan about two weeks ago and have been astounded by how easy it is. Currently it’s just a trial to see how I go, but I am pretty much loving it so far. Delicious vegan stuffs I have discovered include Booja Booja ice cream (the Maple Pecan OMFG!) and the amazing vegan-friendly chocolate products at The Chocolate Tree, only a few blocks from my house! // The Banshee Labyrinth — so supportive of poetry events. They — literally — rock. // Spring being everywhere: Spring flowers, the smell of earth, sunshine, it actually being light in the mornings as I head to work — at last!

What are you loving this week?

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Things I Love Thursday #53

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Strawberry Fields

So folks, as part of my brand new, reclaim-my-life-and-stop-being-a-zombie programme, I have decided to reinstate Things I Love Thursday. Here’s the basic premise in case you’re new, and here’s what I’m loving lately:

The West Wing
Actually, “love” is not a strong enough word to describe my feelings for this show. My long-time readers will know that, in general, I really do not dig TV: I associate it with being too tired to do anything productive, and with self-loathing. I really could live quite happily without a television, even if it did mean never getting to watch the F1. So perhaps unsurprisingly, I have never been the kind of person to get “hooked” on a TV show.
This whole West Wing things is all Lovely Boyfriend’s fault.

Pretty much as soon as we met, he (a massive, massive advocate of TV “as an artform”) started harrassing me about various incredible shows that he couldn’t believe I’d never seen. The more I protested that TV was really not my thing, the more he became determined to find a “gateway” show that would get me addicted to the genre. He knew I’d had a brief fling with The X Files, and so he started with Twin Peaks, which I did really enjoy. But what he didn’t fully grasp was my need for at least one awesome, well-rounded female character — it was only ever Scully, on whom I had a massive girl-crush, who kept me watching The X Files. Twin Peaks may be brilliantly written and dark and weird and fun, but Donna, Norma, Shelley &co are all kind of drippy (I do like Audrey, but she was criminally underused in the show).

However, LB struck gold when he bought me the complete West Wing box set for our one-year anniversary in October. There is so much good stuff about this show: incredibly smart, witty writing, brilliant storylines and plot arcs, and a cast to die for. With every new episode we watch, one or the other of us will spot someone on the Special Guest Star credits and squeal, “ooh, [name of excellent actor] is in this episode! Zie’s so cool!” I’ve also developed the theory that you can tell a lot about someone’s personality by asking them which of the regular characters from The West Wing is their favourite (just as you can by asking them which their favourite Beatles album is. True story).
Personally, I am totally and utterly in love with CJ. I’m really spoilt for choice in terms of strong, well-rounded female characters, which is so refreshing: I also love Donna, Abby and Ainsley Hayes (I can’t stand Amy Gardner’s character and regularly yell at the TV during her episodes, simply because I’d like to think that a woman that shallow, back-biting and frankly dim would never get to be anything senior in any kind of feminist NGO, but hey). There is even regular, sensible talk between characters about prominent women’s issues and gender roles. But to be honest, I’d keep watching just for CJ. She’s strong, feisty, extremely funny, but also flawed and vulnerable. I want to be her.

My students
I’ve been looking back over my old TiLT posts, and I was surprised to see just how often I made mention of the pesky critters in front of whom I am forced to spend my days standing up and saying words. Since I suspended my TiLTing activities over two years ago, I’ve clearly started to take these guys for granted a little bit (in my defence, I reckon it’s understandable considering that well over 50% of them openly admit to having no interest in my subject, but I have to get up at 6am every day to go and teach them regardless). I reckon I need to start cutting the meaner ones some slack, and getting back to seeing each one as an exciting challenge, rather than something to put up with. Here’s an apology to all those of you who’ve received less compassion and understanding from me than I should have given. I promise to be a better teacher from now on. Most of you still passed, so hopefully there’s no hard feelings!

The February mid-term break sees a brand new term roll around. I found out recently that I teach seven lectures a week and have 103 active students on my books. Many of them are heading off into the world in a couple of weeks and I won’t be seeing them again, which does make me a little melancholy. This term I’ve had some great classes and some really lovely students: I was lucky enough to teach Communication in one form or another to two groups of Engineers this year, and they were all fantastic guys. The best classes are the ones where the students are sharp, focussed and want to learn, but who also bring the craic and are willing to have a bit of banter with you. I had an embarrassing first this semester: I’m not a fan of just standing and talking in lectures, but sitting down is awkward when you need to get up and write on the board every so often, so usually I compromise by propping myself up with one hip against a desk. A few weeks ago I was in the middle of saying Something Very Important to my Access to Engineering class when, mid-lean, I realised I had misjudged where my desk was and ended up toppling into the floor, making a not-totally-dignified noise as I went down. In front of certain classes, this would have been The End of All Respect, but the guys were totally cool about it… although obviously they did howl with laughter, as did I. So here’s to my engineers, and all the other cool students who’ve handed me happy moments over the past academic year. Thanks, you guys.

Honourable mentions: Lazy weekend breakfasts // mooching around York // starting a new Moleskine planner // plotting Lovely Boyfriend’s Christmas present for next year already (I’m. so. organised!) // still having tons of Christmas cake left // my netbook (it’s pink and covered in stickers) // the Zombies!!! boardgames // Disney movie marathons with my sister // thai food // getting some sleep after weeks of battling with insomnia

What are you loving this week?


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