Hunger Mountain - Vermont College Journal of the arts

List #2 – Robin Black: To Do




TO DO i, ii

Work Stuff iii

Novel, novel, novel iv
Finish PH blurb v
Talk to H. vi
Put stuff on calendar vii

House viii, ix

1.x Call about cushions xi

2. Paint DR chairs xii

3. Kitchen!!!!!!!!! xiii

4. Living room? xiv

Dinner: Chicken – buy salad? xv

Ask Richie about bike ride? xvi

Call optometrist for D. xvii
Call for haircut xviii
Meds xix, xx

i August 8, 2011, originally handwritten.

ii For as long as I can remember I have made TO DO lists with the letters of TO DO all caps. Generally, they are handwritten and I get very compulsive about certain formatting things. The TO DO itself has to be bold – so I go over it many times – and the letters have to be exactly the same size with the D very close to the first O so it almost looks like one word but isn’t quite. I sometimes think of the lists as TODO lists – pronounced pretty much like Dorothy’s dog.  It can take me several pieces of paper until I get the formatting just right.

iii I always put Work Stuff first. That is an entirely meaningless fact.

iv The repetition of the word novel here is because it’s really more of a cheer than a statement of fact. Novel, novel, novel. You can do it, You can do it! Gooooo novel! The one thing it doesn’t mean is that I’ll actually work on my novel.

v This is my fourth or fifth blurbing experience. I’ve just started to realize how bloody difficult it is even when you like a book a lot, to find things to say that don’t sound like you bought them at the blurb store. Nobody gets to be fearless, heartbreaking or insightful anymore. Nor can anything happen time and again. No sentences can begin with the word “with” as in: “With rare insight, this fearless author will break your heart time and again.”  That shit is over. But it doesn’t leave me with an easy path.

vi H. is Henry, my agent. We don’t have any business to discuss, but we’ve become good friends and it’s been a while. Mostly, we talk about our kids. This shouldn’t really be listed under “Work Stuff.” It should be under “Social Stuff” or, though it seems a little disparaging: “Miscellany.”

vii It has only just occurred to me, at the age of 49, that by writing something on a calendar, one increases the chance of actually doing it.

viii This spring, we considered moving out of our house in the ‘burbs and into Center City, Philadelphia. But then (after seeing the prices in the city) we realized that it makes a lot more sense to stay here until our youngest is out of high school (3 more years) but that as we’re staying here, we had better spruce the place up a bit. This has become a huge, huge project. It is eating up our lives. But not in a bad way.

ix In the handwritten version, there is a little drawing of a house to the left of this word.

x It’s pretty typical that after obsessing over the exact formatting of the words, TO and DO, I will then unknowingly change the structure of the whole thing about halfway through.

xi I made the mistake of ordering cushions from Calico Corner. They charge the earth, which in a decent, fair world would mean they do a good job. But in fact they did it wrong, and I have to take them back. I have written “Call about cushions” here but, in fact, what I need to do is drive out to Calico Corners and return the cushions. I just really don’t want to do that. “Call about cushions,” translated, really means: “Shit. I cannot believe I have to drive the effing cushions all the way out to Devon just because THEY did a crummy job. Maybe if I put it off, Richard will do it with me on Saturday.”

xii I have a bad history with these chairs. Ten years ago, I started to re-cover them, then midway through the 4th chair – of 6 – decided I hated what I was doing. So there they have been, semi-covered ever since. Now, I have decided to paint them in that shabby chic, distressed kind of way. But I finished two chairs about a month ago and haven’t started the others yet. People in this house are not optimistic.

xiii The exclamation marks are a howl of anguish. The kitchen is a disaster area and the odds of my cleaning it are low. Maybe the exclamation marks are a cry for help. Kitchen help.

xiv Again, the punctuation here means as much as the words themselves. We have lived in this house for 16 years and I have never known how to decorate our living room. It’s a funny shape. We don’t really use it – we hang out in the kitchen. And the living room is now infested with moths – they lived in our couch (which has been in our driveway for a month now) and on the wool rug (which has been de-mothed and moved to a less conspicuous spot.) So, this particular list item is a little miscategorized on a TODO list as I don’t really mean to do anything. And I don’t really need a reminder to wonder what the hell to do with the living room.  But there it is.

xv I won’t buy salad. It says “buy salad?” because we are trying to eat healthily, and I want to think I will buy salad. But I won’t.

xvi We are also trying to exercise more. But the odds that my husband and I will go for a bike ride at 6:30 when he gets home are negligible. We never have, though this is a frequent feature of my TODO lists. Again, this entry is there mostly to make me feel like I am a better person than I actually am.

xvii My son needs to have his eyes examined. This will actually get done.

xviii This one will probably not get done. I have a lot of difficulty committing to haircuts. I usually have the idea of getting a haircut on the list in some form or other for at least two months before any appointment making actually takes place.

xix There are some prescriptions that need to be refilled – for my ADD.  In theory they help me do things like execute the tasks on my TODO lists.

xx Hmmmmm. . .


~Robin Black, author of the story collection, If I loved you, I would tell you this (Random House, 2010), is currently at work on her first novel.*

* See above

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Bonnie West November 10, 2011 at 6:32 pm

I love your TODO list. YOU are way too hard on yourself. You may feel free to use my to do list as your own from now on. list (and check off) things like: get up. read in the tub. walk dog. eat. nap. facebook. email. think about writing. watch project runway. ( the daily show, bachelorette -okay i admit it) bed early.
You’re welcome. Bonnie


Leave a Comment

All comments are moderated.
Yours will show up soon, we promise.