The List

Color Eater FanArt

•    Narrate an audio book.
•    Travel to a foreign country on book tour.
•    Receive unsolicited fan art.

In 5th grade Owen has already accomplished something I aspire to do in my career. He created something that positively impacted another human. He helped me achieve one of my life-long goals by sending me my first, completely unsolicited, piece of fan art.  Owen created something based on his personal experience of an author coming to talk to his class, he sent it out in the world, and from there his art did its own post-Owen thing.

Unsolicited fan art is on my list of benchmarks for achieving “real” writer status. I keep the list, which is much longer than three things, in the front of my journal. 99% of the items are writing related. (At this moment, the only one that’s not writing related is: do one-hundred consecutive push-ups—clearly I was out of my head when I added that one. But it’s on the list, so I do pushups in between writing sessions to train for the day I’ll get to one-hundred.)

Why do I have a list? Because writing something down is the first step to making anything become real—be it a fantasy world I’m creating for a novel or a reality I want to manifest in our current earth time-line.

The Weird Research Institute tests make me think the list is hardwired into me. Back in 2010 I scored high on the foresight test. The test consisted of looking at a random image and listing all of the things I thought it looked like. Look at a pile of string and it turns into: a face or a volcano or a labyrinth or infinite other things. I’ve always liked that game.

Somehow seeing the imaginary in reality indicates I’m a goal-oriented person.

The tester people told me I had a: “Natural inclination for setting long-term, challenging goals.  You see possibilities, lots and lots of possibilities. In life, many things conspire to derail plans, to stop you in your tracks as you head for the future.”

My list is a visual reminder to set me back on track.

The tester people also said I needed to set my goals high—like Elon Musk going to Mars high. If things were too easy, too attainable, I would get bored and lose my sense of purpose. The items on the list are the stars I want to stop off at on my flight to Mars.

All this very-insightful information came with a warning.  Once I achieve what I’ve worked so hard for there’s great potential for a colossal crash of epic-Challenger-sized proportion.  (a/k/a Sub-level XXI) Because I’m hardwired to work toward something, once it’s done I freak out—I’ve lost my purpose.

The list helps the inevitable crash feel more bearable. The list means I’m not out of goals. It means there is still something left to work for.

What I’m continually surprised by is things on the list get crossed off sooner than I anticipated.  I never thought I would get fan art until after The Color Eater was published. I never thought I’d be a writer until I was in my sixties and retired from a corporate job. So many things on the list come at me from odd angles, out of nowhere and in a way I never could have expected. And that’s the fun of it.

Owen didn’t know any of this when he sent me the picture. He probably still doesn’t know it. At eleven-years-old I’m pretty sure he doesn’t follow me on Twitter, and I’m certain he doesn’t *subscribe to my newsletter. But, I hope, if he has a list, he gets as much satisfaction out of crossing things off it as I do.

*Every other Tuesday I send out a newsletter with stories like this, fiction excerpts, and updates on publishing projects. Only a handful of newsletters end up on the blog. Newsletter recipients also have the option of volunteering for my ARC reader team. Make sure you don’t miss anything by signing up at

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