Steps In Between

Celaine Charles ~ My journey as a writer ~ Author site:

A Murmuration of To-Do’s – Check!


I have learned to become a list-maker. If you find this news completely boring and overly organized… keep reading. As always, I have a fun piece of writing advice at the end.

Writers (as well as non-writers) have many things to think about. These things might be about writing, and they might not… but they are there regardless, filling up our minds until we do something with them. Sometimes a filled-up mind can feel like a flock of birds taking flight. If we don’t think fast enough, we might lose something.


I make lists to remember everything I must do. But this developed skill is not as easy for me as it sounds. Often the list is in my head, or on a post-it note… that doesn’t seem to be posted anywhere I would have left it. I have a journal of to-do’s (crossed off, circled to move forward, and checked off) that I’ve successfully used again and again until I can’t find it anymore. So, I begin a new one.


I have a to-do list app on my phone. Though sometimes when I finally sit down to look at it, I end up checking off the things I accomplished months ago (as if they still mattered) and roll my eyes at the unfinished ones, far too late to do anything about… except that they glare back at me, waiting for their circles to be ticked.

I have beautifully gifted notepads on my desk at home, and a clipboard with clever to-do graphics on my desk at work. Sometimes I can find my official planner in my purse (or work bag, or sometimes the car). I always do eventually find it… as it is official.


And I use ALL of these methods to keep track of my thoughts and to-do’s willingly because I have a very busy mind. I think all writers must. Ideas fly like flocks of starlings. And for me, it’s not only writing ideas and revisions for my fiction and poetry, but grocery lists, and reminders to pay bills and schedule doctor and dentist appointments. My car tabs will need renewed soon, and I haven’t signed up for that writing conference yet. Don’t forget the birthdays and anniversaries coming up. Can you feel the pulse of the murmuration? The swelling and tapering of tiny connected black birds in flight, like the growing list in my head. It’s beautiful and miraculous and bizarre all at the same time.


Painting by Anna Vowels

My mind is always fluidly in motion, and changes day to day, minute to minute. I absolutely must write everything down to keep it all straight. I used to feel bad about the craze of my methods. I envied the efficiency of others around me. Then I realized, it works for me. It’s how I keep my front of organization. It’s how I attempt to tackle everything before the flock settles, miracle vanished. And so, even though I misplace them from time to time, I make lists.


I use colorful pens to write all the important and even unimportant things down. I find joy when I can check off the accomplishments of my day. I thrive at writing down inspirational verses and quotes to keep me going. And as I recently learned, I am writing down three things I’m proud and thankful for to remind myself the next day that I have, in deed, been moving in the right direction.


As unorganized as all that may sound to some, remember the synchronized starlings in their orchestrated chaos? That’s my brain – and I am choosing to embrace it. I hope you choose to rejoice in whatever limitations you may have thought were holding you back. Organization has always been the mountain I can’t seem to give up climbing. Unfortunately, I have never been able to find its plateau or peek. I still hold hope that I will one day plant my flag at its top, stand with both fists in the air over the vast vista before me, and cry out declarations of achievement. Until then, I keep climbing, making my lists, and checking them twice (when I can find them).


Finally, I feel content with myself and what works for me. It’s become my own personal murmuration… unique and original each time.


Writing Advice: List Poems (for poets and non-poets)

One of the first lessons I teach in my poetry class, after word splashes, are list poems. For young children, it’s the easiest method for me to prove to them that they can, in fact, write poetry. I love this trick, because it works every time. But it’s also challenging and inviting to do as adults. List poems are just that, a list. They can be lists of words about a topic. Or they can be more than just words; lists of phrases or full thoughts.


List poems can be a freeing form of poetry, yet also a warm-up for writers who might not identify themselves as poets. These created lists of words get the brain ticking in one direction, at the same time reigning in all the stirring thoughts about a topic. The perfect start to a positive writing session for any creator… with your thoughts and senses wide awake (and organized).

I always start with a subject, then a random list of one or two words per line that describe the subject. After that, I go back, imagining each line growing from the one before it… time to shuffle words or ideas around (I love to revise). Move things in and out, stretch out words to full thoughts (if you want to). Now, think of its beginning, middle, and end. Find the hidden flow to your list… it is poetry after all.


Here are two examples (and I like them both for different reasons):

Starlings Murmuration (take 1)

Small birds

speckled black,


in flight.


oil spill,




as one.



to seven more,

and more,

and more…

Scale free





Starling Murmuration (Take 2)

Small birds,

speckled black and white,

called to connect as one

in glorious flight.

Artistry painted, obsidian fluid

oils on blue canvas,

moves in brush strokes,

pulses one heartbeat,

breathes one miracle…

one body for many minds.

Starling from afar                                          

responds in motion

to seven more alike,

unveiling their perceptive

range of feelings

united. Scale free


synchronized and flowing

into a masterpiece of beauty.

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Categories: Thoughts on writing...

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5 replies

  1. I enjoy your posts so much… this one with its starlings and mad thoughts rang true for me. I am terribly disorganized. I am also trying your list poem approach. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people


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