Who remembers US comedy series My Name is Earl, first broadcast on Channel 4 in 2006?
I tuned in for a couple of shows and enjoyed them, but I don't have the patience for TV series. What grabbed me about the show was the idea of fixing your life with a list. Earl (Jason Lee) had messed up badly. He'd slept with his friend's fiance, he'd stolen beer from a golfer, ruined his friend's wedding, punched a professor in the gut and failed to pay his taxes, among many others (sometimes worse). In each episode he attempted to cross something off the list, but being accident-prone (and generally an arsehole) he normally finds other things to add on. But, by the end of most stories he whips out his crinkled list and scribbles off a numbered item with a biro- and with satisfaction.
What grabbed me about the show was the idea of fixing your life by laying it out in list format and ticking it off. Normally when we make a task list it's a hideously mundane affair regarding housework and chores. In Earl's case, it was a list of fuck-ups to be resolved, which led to a series of comedic adventures. A question: Why does a list have to be dull? Why can't it be something that will surely lead to a better life? It's possible that this show laid the seed that led to blog posts like The Hit List, a selection of Manchester food-and-drink places to check out, or The 11 Top Nightspots in Manchester (both of which would be slightly different were I writing them today).
My lists are also about fixing my life: plans for the future, things that scare me, things that will be cripplingly hard. I have an issue with shyness. I need better note-taking skills to compensate for my memory difficulties. I'd like to be using my skills in writing in my actual career, as opposed to leisure. And I'm struggling with all of these. Putting them in a list format, like Earl does, makes them less intimidating. I've written these lists in the OneNote app on my Windows phone, the same app I keep my Tesco list and my weekend chores. When I open my phone, all my ambitions are laid out in as simplified a manner as my mundane tasks. So, some things I need to do are easy (or would be if the drive-in car wash was actually open as advertised), and some are a lot harder (like: approach an attractive woman without physically shaking and feeling slightly sick).
Like Earl, though, life changes and I add things to these lists as time goes on. I probably always will.