The Worry List


I don’t like clutter. My childhood room would tell a different tale, but these days I can’t work or focus when there’s clutter in my space. My mind works the same way. When I can’t sleep, it’s because so many thoughts are crashing around my head, competing for space. It’s like I need to think about them all at once or they’ll slip away. And for some reason, that’s terrifying.

I’m not the only one in my family who gets worried and anxious easily. I can trace it back quite easily, and as problems go, there are worse ones to have, I suppose. But the same thing that makes me hyper-responsible can also be my worst enemy; it can make me so overwhelmed that I can’t focus on anything fully, and everything begins to take far longer than it should.

It is in these moments that I find comfort in listmaking.

There is something about writing everything down that just makes dealing with the anxiety more manageable. In those moments when I am paralyzed by the incessant, clanging noise of thoughts, I reach for a piece of paper, most often a notecard. And I write out another worry list.

My worry lists are nothing more than spaces for me to keep my thoughts so I don’t lose track of them. It becomes a combination of the things I need to do, the things I do not have time for, the things I want to do, and the worries that are not actions, but feelings. I write them all down, together, and until I have a handle on things, it is a sort of anchor for myself, a reality check. It is not only a reminder of the things that I think, but a reminder of how special writing is; this tool we have to capture memories and emotions and tasks without them getting lost or distorted with time.

Unlike my other lists, the worry list is rarely used, but of utmost importance.

The odd thing is that in the space and time of de-cluttering my mind is often when I get the most inspiration. It probably has to do with the act of simply writing things down—an act I neglect far too often, when the words that I write to help keep a roof over my head swallow anything else I might produce and keep me from calling myself a fiction writer. But that too, probably, is an excuse. Maybe it’s time to stop getting swallowed.