Help Wanted: Writing The Writers’ Bucket List

Hemingway photographed reading at Le Deux Magots in Paris, where he often hung out. When you are photographed thusly and you are a writer, it is known as an "action shot".

When I first clicked into this post, “A Bucket List for Writers”, I didn’t realize it was about Larry Brooks’ new book on writing, Story Engineering. Great book for novelists, BTW – I’m reading it right now. His central tenet is that everything you need to craft a story falls into one of six core competencies – six “buckets”, hence the name of the post.

Although good for Larry, I won’t lie: I was secretly disappointed. I thought that it would be a list of things writers have to do before they die. You, know, like the movie. But for writers.

Of course, I livened up when I realized: Hey, that’s a great idea anyway. Why don’t I start my own Writer’s Bucket List?

And that’s what I’m going to do – hopefully with some help from you as well…!

Below are my first few items on the quintessential Writers’ Bucket List. You’ll note that there are things to do, places to go, things to read, experiences to experience. They are all things meant to inspire and encourage in some writerly way. I’d like to think that it connects us as well — some of these items are things that only writers would identify with and understand anyway. Nice to think we’re not off our rocker in that respect.

They are in no particular order, just things that I have done (or would like to do) that I find to be creatively inspiring in some literary way.

So without further adieu, here are a baker’s dozen (plus one) to kick us off:

  1. Write in a café in Paris (à la Hemingway)
  2. Sit in the Zen Garden while visiting the Dublin Writers Museum
  3. Read The Great Gatsby
  4. Visit Oscar Wilde’s grave
  5. Picnic at Walden Pond
  6. Watch the sunrise from the top of Mount Sinai
  7. Visit Karen von Blixen’s farm (at the foot of the Ngong Hills)
  8. Visit F. Scott Fitzgerald’s house (or the birthplace of your favourite writer)
  9. Write a novel
  10. Camp out on January 19 to catch a glimpse of the Poe Toaster
  11. Do the Sideways wine route (with Rex Pickett)
  12. Visit the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum in Hannibal, MO
  13. See Winnie the Pooh in White River, ON
  14. See the Reichenbach Falls, where Sherlock Holmes dies
  15. Visit the House of the Seven Gables and the Nathaniel Hawthorne birthplace in Salem, MA http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_the_Seven_Gables
  16. Visit the Edgar Allen Poe house in Philadelphia http://www.nps.gov/edal/index.htm
  17. Visit the Edgar Allen Poe house in Baltimore http://www.eapoe.org/balt/poehse.htm
  18. Have a drink at the last place that Poe drank (and maybe have one with his ghost…) http://www.thehorsebaltimore.com/Site/About.html
  19. Passionately kiss a lover on a foggy evening in London
  20. Gaze moonily over the wine-dark Aegean
  21. Hike an epic trail
  22. Successfully rear an amazing daughter
  23. Meet an interesting stranger in a rare book store
  24. Follow Jack Kerouac’s road trip from On the Road
  25. Follow Steinbeck’s route from Travels with Charley
  26. Follow Thor Heyerdahl’s Fatu Hiva journey
  27. Create a deep map of home county or region the way William Least Heat Moon did in “Prairyerth”
  28. Compile “found poetry” the way Annie Dillard did in “Mornings Like This”
  29. Talk to people about their work the way Studs Terkel did in “Working”
  30. Write the book in your head that demands to be written, even if you think you’re only writing it for an audience of one: yourself.
  31. Read The Canterbury Tales.
  32. Take a sabbatical.
  33. Take a walking tour of the Lake District.
  34. iPod swap with a spouse, partner or friend.
  35. Try a reading ban (just for a short time!). It is so hard to do for writers.
  36. Read “Crime and Punishment” in St. Petersburgh…
  37. Read “I am David” in Poland.
  38. Walk the streets portrayed in The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz
  39. Write Poetry on the Spanish Steps.
  40. Visit Pete’s Tavern on Irving Place in NYC—O Henry’s old haunt http://www.petestavern.com/history.html
  41. Have a retreat with Jennifer Louden in New Mexico.
  42. Publish your own novel.
  43. Go scuba diving with James Rollins + Clive Cussler
  44. Speak at the Hay on Wye literary festival
  45. Buy a great leather writer’s bag like this one http://www.etsy.com/listing/71100172/175-inch-classic-rustic-writers-bag-175
  46. Hike in the Alps, like Heidi
  47. Drink a coffee in every city, like all the writers who have walked the streets before us.
  48. Soak up every interesting experience
  49. Visit the Globe Theatre in London – http://www.shakespearesglobe.com/
  50. Watch movies you loved in your childhood (eg. The Princess Bride, Goonies, The Lost Boys,The Neverending Story, Back to the Future)
  51. Go to workshops & learn how to do other stuff (eg. claymation movies at the National Film Board or lumpy clay stuff at the Museum for Ceramics)
  52. Travel on your own with limited money, relying only wits, instinct, good will and tips from other travellers to experience the best the region has to offer
  53. Explore the power of the mind through self-hypnosis facilitated by a professional (this is cool for labour, but pain management for surgery would be even more interesting)
  54. Read for hours in an unusual spot knowing no one can find you (eg. sit fully-clothed in a cold cedar sauna or at the top of a tree)
  55. Learn new languages and understand culture and customs by speaking to people using their first language
  56. Expand interests by immersing yourself in things you are not so keen on (eg. seek out sporting events and sporty people, if you`re not personally interested in those activities)
  57. Take a horseback riding lesson in a foreign country where you have a tenuous grasp of the language (particularly fun if the horses are half-size such as Norweigan fjord horses)
  58. Brainstorm story ideas with young children in a group setting
  59. Eavesdrop on intimate conversations in the subway, doctor`s offices, hair salons etc.
  60. Play imagination games or create multi-media artwork with young children
  61. Pursue passion in relationships
  62. Stay in B&Bs/hostels/hotels that reflect an interesting history (for example the hostel in Ottawa that used to be an old jail)
  63. Ignore social conventions about how you should act, be or do things
  64. Cook without recipes, adding ingredients based on a loose idea of how they might taste when combined and baked (and learn from mistakes)
  65. Develop knowledge and discipline by studying and working in fields other than creative writing
  66. Live instead of watching other people living on TV  (if TV is necessary, limit to 2-3 hours per week; average Canadian adults spend 20-25 hours watching TV per week)
  67. Swim in the Blue Grotto (Capri, Italy) early in the morning before the rest of the tourists come on the boat
  68. Cultivate a range of interests and seek out one or more friends with whom to share the (bonus if you find friends who love rock climbing AND poetry AND philosophy AND…)
  69. Finish a manuscript that you think is worth submitting
  70. Obtain 100 rejection letters. Arrange these in a growing collage
  71. Obtain 1 acceptance letter. Post this in the very center of the rejection collage, with a comic book KAPOW background/frame
  72. Spend a day with uber-fly fishing writer John Gierach on a stream, talking writing and fishing
  73. BookCross your own book like Tara did.
  74. Finally finding the perfect fountain pen
  75. Touring Paris using Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast as my guidebook
  76. Write a novel while looking out the window to the sea (or any large body of water for that matter)
  77. Write on a project alongside another writer you admire.

Now it’s your turn! I’m hoping to get a list of 100 ideas here. What have I forgotten? What are your top things to do, see, read? Even if you consider yourself to be more of a reader than a writer, is there anything you find inspiring? Give me as many ideas as you have: five, six, one, 20… or just go crazy!

How to help build the list:

Feel free to add (or link to) pictures, YouTube videos, graphics, whatever you think works!

Don’t forget — share this with other writerly types as well. There are some social media links below, or just email/tweet it along. The more the merrier!

I’m looking forward to it already…

Literally yours,

~Graham

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50. Watch movies you loved in your childhood (eg. The Princess Bride, Goonies, The Lost Boys,The Neverending Story, Back to the Future)

51. Go to workshops & learn how to do other stuff (eg. claymation movies at the National Film Board or lumpy clay stuff at the Museum for Ceramics)

52. Travel on your own with limited money, relying only wits, instinct, good will and tips from other travellers to experience the best the region has to offer

53. Explore the power of the mind through self-hypnosis facilitated by a professional (this is cool for labour, but pain management for surgery would be even more interesting)

54. Read for hours in an unusual spot knowing no one can find you (eg. sit fully-clothed in a cold cedar sauna or at the top of a tree)

55. Learn new languages and understand culture and customs by speaking to people using their first language

56. Expand interests by immersing yourself in things you are not so keen on (eg. seek out sporting events and sporty people, if you`re not personally interested in those activities)

57. Take a horseback riding lesson in a foreign country where you have a tenuous grasp of the language (particularly fun if the horses are half-size such as Norweigan fjord horses)

58. Brainstorm story ideas with young children in a group setting

59. Eavesdrop on intimate conversations in the subway, doctor`s offices, hair salons etc.

60. Play imagination games or create multi-media artwork with young children

61. Pursue passion in relationships

62. Stay in B&Bs/hostels/hotels that reflect an interesting history (for example the hostel in Ottawa that used to be an old jail)

63. Ignore social conventions about how you should act, be or do things

64. Cook without recipes, adding ingredients based on a loose idea of how they might taste when combined and baked (and learn from mistakes)

65. Develop knowledge and discipline by studying and working in fields other than creative writing

66. Live instead of watching other people living on TV  (if TV is necessary, limit to 2-3 hours per week; average Canadian adults spend 20-25 hours watching TV per week)

67. Swim in the Blue Grotto (Capri, Italy) early in the morning before the rest of the tourists come on the boat

68. Cultivate a range of interests and seek out one or more friends with whom to share the (bonus if you find friends who love rock climbing AND poetry AND philosophy AND…)

69. Finish a manuscript that you think is worth submitting

70. Obtain 100 rejection letters. Arrange these in a growing collage

71. Obtain 1 acceptance letter. Post this in the very center of the rejection collage, with a comic book KAPOW background/frame

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21 Responses to Help Wanted: Writing The Writers’ Bucket List

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