Victoria Noe

Award-winning Author, Speaker, Activist

Writer with a To-Do List

to-do-list-template-free-to-do-list-template-free-my-to-do-list-hpcgks-alEGRiI’m sitting here at Panera, breakfast sandwich eaten, ice tea at hand. My computer’s on, my to-do list is front of me.

And I’m paralyzed.

Not literally (no pun intended). I can move. My brain just can’t decide what to do.

Should I follow up on that article that a website requested? Should I pitch a presentation to a library? Should I invite someone to lunch to pick their brain about a marketing idea? Should I score the essays I read for the contest I’m judging?


Well, then, should I finish one of the six books I’m reading for research on my next book? Should I schedule tweets and Facebook posts? Should I reach out to someone on another continent on collaborating? Should I try to nail down two interviews while I’m in NYC next month?


Should I just forget about it and go home to finish my filing? Do the laundry? Eat ice cream?

No matter how you publish, the life of a writer is very different than it was just a few years ago. Your writing is part of your business, but not the only part. And it IS a business, make no mistake about that. You’re the one ultimately responsible: it’s your name on the book cover, your words inside, your face in front of the audience at a public event.

There’s a lot to do. Always. You can’t catch up because there’s always something else to do. It’s exhausting.

I’ve been self-employed most of my adult life. I like it that way. I’m enough of a control freak to be happy with that choice. But there are today…when it’s hard to focus, hard to prioritize. Days when I wish I had minions or a cabana boy or a staff to delegate to. That makes me just like many - probably most - writers.

Still, not much is getting done, is it? This to-do list isn’t to-doing itself.

I get up and walk around a little, if for no other reason than to refill my ice tea. Normally I drink green tea, but when faced with a lot to do I switch to black. This is my second black ice tea after one green one and it’s only 10:30.

I look at my to-do list again. A few things are time-sensitive, like the scoring on the essays. I assign numbers or dates to the important ones. I set arbitrary but not unimportant deadlines on a few more. If the past is any indication, I’ll meet most of those deadlines. I add followups to earlier tasks, also with dates assigned, to avoid those “oh, shit, I forgot to…” moments.

On the last page of my 2017 planner I’ve started putting in dates of events in 2018. There will be more, many more, as I draw closer to the publication of my next book in March. That in itself is enough to bring on panic: I’ll never get it done and even if I do it’ll be awful.

But I turn back to my to-do list. It’s never done, you know. I just fill up a page and when every line is scratched off I tear it off and start another page. There’s always something to do: comment on a fellow writer’s blog post, sign up for an online class, visit with the local librarian. It’s daunting and challenging and sometimes life gets in the way and blows everything to hell.

This is, however, the life I chose. Well, my friend Delle chose it for me, but that’s another story. For now, though, I’ll put away my to-do list and do what makes all those tasks necessary and important: write.

PS - The ice cream was really good.