18 July 2011

A Taste for Lists

via Stellar Path

I have always loved making lists of everything. It might sound like a peculiar hobby. I feel that making lists has a quite negative aura. Shopping list for the supermarket, stationary list for school in September, to-do lists of all kinds...

I admit, who makes "to-do" lists of things they like? But there is a whole new world besides this freaky-organizational-obligation sort of list. Listing things like a way to express oneself.

For example, I love making lists of the things I like, that make me laugh, that bring a moment of peace...

It is not a list of obligations anymore. It is a list reminding joyful moments, bringing inspiration, sorting new ideas... I find that there is a sort of fun in imagining all kinds of lists. It appeals to imagination, memories, creativity, but in the simplest kind of way.

The origin of the fondness

I have always liked writing all sorts of stuff. I began writing poems when I was 8 years old. I started about half a dozen novels, finished one (handwritten, that I lost somehow...), and now I write short stories, more likely to see their ending one day.

I acquired a particular taste for lists when I discovered the Japanese writer Sei Shonagon. She was an Imperial court lady in the 10th century in Japan, and somehow her writings (mainly her diary actually) survived the centuries and can still be found today. This only is quite amazing.

Source: Hisashi Otsuka - "the Pillow Book"

Sei Shonagon's main work is called Makura no Sôshi, or the Pillow Book. I think it can be found in English. In this diary, she writes about nothing and everything. The things she likes. The fleeting moments that bring her joys. She writes poems, random musings, and lists.

I just love the way she has written her lists. A thousand years away, she still enlightens us with these tiny ordinary moments of her life. Such as "the rare things", "the embarrassing things", "things that bring a sweet memory from the past"...

I feel like it is the quintessence of contemplation, the admiration of the fleeting instant that Japanese people are so good at.

So, since I discoverd Sei Shonagon in 2004, I have been writing dozens of lists. Most might seem uninteresting to most of you, but it is my way to express my own contemplation for the tiny joys of the everyday life, and remind me how rare ordinary moments really are.

They give me courage for the day to come (10 reasons to enjoy the early morning), or make me happy about a season I don't like much (The joys of summer). They help me remember nice moments (Pleasant scents), or imagine joys to come (the Christmas magic). They help me plan (My ideal wardrobe). Most of them are just happy random babble though.

I'll probably be publishing a selection of my so ordinary lists on the Nife in the future, in case you would be interested...

And you, do you make lists? Or am I just a lunatic?


  1. I love the idea of turning my love of lists into a documentation of the world around me. I have a tendency to use my journal during the darker times in my life, as I process things, but then I write nothing when I'm happy. Years ago, I was inspired by "The Pillow Book of Eleanor Bron" which had been inspired by the original pillow book, and it transformed how I used my journal. Thank you for the reminder!

  2. Melanie I do the same thing! A person in the future would think I led a most depressed life, when it's anything but.