Crossing every item off

In college, I was an incredibly organized student. In fact, I’m pretty sure I was that super OCD freak no one wanted to partner with in groups — you know, the one who sends 1,076 emails a day about pending projects, takes over every activity and generally acts like a bossy mess.

I’m very bossy.

Now, I’ll admit I’ve gotten lax with my duties. I’m a one-woman show at the newspaper where I’ve worked for four years, though I get a tremendous amount of help from my friend and officemate, Sandy. Still, I have my job down to a science: which sections get published on which days; when I need to respond to messages; when I need to write columns.

I’m a machine. Only I have a sweet little heart.

But things are changing. My job is changing. I’m going to be doing the same work — but with new software. I’m losing my office and being moved to another part of the building (le sigh), though I’ll gain a window and view outdoors (awesome).

And all of this is happening just as I’m preparing for a trip overseas — a long trip. The longest I’ve ever been away from work . . . ever.

So I’m stressed. I’m flipping out. I’m trying to learn the new software; box up my entire life at work (lots of junk); going through old paperwork, sorting out what I no longer need and preparing some of my personal possessions for charity; and attempting to get super far ahead on all my sections so that I don’t leave Sandy, my kindhearted friend, in a lurch. She’s covering for me while I’m gone for almost two weeks.

Two. Weeks.

When we were planning this trip, it seemed so far away. Unfathomable, really. We’ve been talking about for months, I got my time approved at work and it all just seemed . . . so distant. I’ve long lived by the mantra that “everything will just work out” — that somehow, some way, things would fall into place.

But I’m leaving in two weeks. For two weeks. And things aren’t just working out.

I’ve been losing sleep, trying to figure out how to get it all done. How to do all my normal work plus my sections for the two weeks I’m gone, which includes writing four 450-word columns. I was thinking about just doing a “Best of ‘Right, Meg?'” and calling it a day, but I don’t want to phone it in.

I’m not that type of person.

As I mentioned, I’m pretty Type A — and OCD. So I’m reverting back to those age-old habits — the ones that sustained me through four years of college, several jobs and a myriad of relationships and obligations. I commuted to the University of Maryland for three years from my home an hour away, and there were many days I went straight from an eight-hour day at school to a six-hour night at work. And then? Then I came home at midnight, made myself some “dinner” and started on homework. And studying. Until the middle of the night.

How did I do it?

Red Bull.

Just kidding. Well — sort of. Caffeine, sure, but more importantly: lists.

I made lists.

Lists of ongoing projects. Lists of current projects. Lists of books I needed to read and by when I needed to have them read. Calendars for school projects, personal projects, work projects. Lists of my calendars. Lists of my classmates and ways to reach them.

Basically, I went psycho. And got organized.

In preparing for the new software, the move and the trip, I’ve covered slips of paper with my scrawly handwriting and scratched my brain thinking of anything I need to remember before I go.

Things I need to buy for the trip.

Topics I need to write about for work.

Books I need to read, review and then schedule to post while I’m away.

Accounts I need to suspend.

It’s endless.

But I enjoy making these lists, friends . . . it helps me sleep at night. It brings me peace. Once I’ve written something down, I don’t need to keep it rattling around in my brain — lest I forget about it.

I can forget about it — until I need to do it, then cross it off my list. And that’s the best thing ever:

Crossing every item off.

I need a list for all my lists

I’m a list-maker. When I get stressed out about the five thousand things I have going on — like, you know, right now — I begin to draft lists upon lists of what I want to accomplish, things I need to do or purchase, and obligations I’ve made. I update my Google Calendar religiously. My desk is littered with scraps of paper and scribbled notes: shopping lists for the grocery store and Target; discontinued car brands I can’t feature on the front of my Automotive section at work; recipes I want ot try; appointments; addresses of friends I want to send Christmas cards this year.

It’s basically a hot mess, friends. While some of my lists are typed up as carefully-crafted Word documents — like the one outlining everything I’m buying for Christmas, the recipient, the price tag, whether I’ve already purchased it, etc. — most are on Post-Its, receipts and scratch paper. I’m “organized,” yes, but it’s a messy chaos. It’s organization on crack.

The only list which is quite organized, it seems? My book wishlist. Scrolling through the countless blogs I enjoy every day, I add titles like an addict getting her fix. Maybe the novel features a dynamic main character, a fun love story or winning female friendships — and comes highly recommended by a trusted blogger friend. Or perhaps I just dig the cover. Whatever the reason, I keep meticulous track of what I want to pick up on Goodreads, carefully “tagging” and categorizing my entries.

Is it a little obsessive-compulsive? Maybe. When I’m hanging out in the blogosphere, I keep my Goodreads account open at all times. I can’t risk missing something, you know.

One of these days, I’m going to get really crazy and re-order that massive list — which currently holds 156 titles — into what I most want to purchase/borrow next.

But, you know, I’m not quite at that level yet.

How do you organize your wishlist? On Goodreads, LibraryThing, etc.? On a spreadsheet? On scrap paper — or just in your lovely head?

Two challenges complete!

Since I first signed my little self up for reading challenges at the end of last year, I’ve been plugging away at checking more and more novels off my to-be-read lists and keeping track of my progress here! Since January, I’ve finished two of the challenges — the 2009 YA Challenge, hosted by J. Kaye, and the Chick Lit Challenge, hosted by The Twiga Blog.

I’m very excited because these are, in fact, the first two reading challenges I joined — and they’re the first ones I’ve completed. It’s only July and I have plenty of other goals to accomplish before the end of the year, so I’ll get right back to it! My biggest challenge is J. Kaye’s 100+ Reading Challenge, and I’m currently on book No. 43 for the year. Though I’m a little behind schedule, I still think I can do it.

So what did I read? Check out my completed lists! (Hooray!)


1. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
2. The Princess Diaries X: Forever Princess by Meg Cabot
3. Forever In Blue: The Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood by Ann Brashares
4. Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson
5. Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson
6. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
7. Looking For Alaska by John Green
8. A Certain Strain of Peculiar by Gigi Amateau
9. Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway
10. 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
11. Along For The Ride by Sarah Dessen
12. Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson



1. Scot On The Rocks by Brenda Janowitz
2. Milkrun by Sarah Mlynowski
3. The Reading Group by Elizabeth Noble
4. The Anglophile by Laurie Gwen Shapiro
5. Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin
6. Everyone Is Beautiful by Katherine Center
7. Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty
8. Second Helpings by Megan McCafferty
9. Frenemies by Megan Crane
10. Charmed Thirds by Megan McCafferty

Musing Mondays: Keeping track

musing_mondays Here’s this week’s question:

Do you keep track of what and/or how many books you read? How long have you been doing this? What’s your favorite tracking method, and why? If you don’t keep track, why not?

I never kept track of anything I read until I started blogging! And even up until this year, I was pretty loose about it. I have an account at LibraryThing that I update religiously, but I didn’t really have constructed lists of books until I started completing reading challenges in 2009.

Now, I update my master “reviews” list here at write meg! — and since I review each book I read, that’s a great way to keep up with all of my literary accomplishments! And I’ve gone back and updated my LT account to reflect everything major I’ve read in the past ten years or so — basically the books about which I can remember the actual plots, central themes, characters, etc. from high school and college.

Since I have such list OCD in the rest of my life, it doesn’t really shock me that I can get pretty anal about it all! LibraryThing satisfies that desperate need I have to categorize everything. I can add the date on which I received the book, the dates I started reading and finished it, and then private notes about the subject, too. And I love that can “tag” everything — and see just how obsessed I am with England (24 of 134 books), young adult reading (22 books) or books on first love (19 books) and family dynamics (49 books). An excellent system!

Best-selling books of the last 15 years

I absolutely love lists! S. Krishna posted about USA TODAY’S top 150 best-selling books of the last 15 years, so I had to go through them and figure out how many I’ve read — of course! I’ve bolded everything I’ve checked out. That would be 33. Thirty three out of 150? I guess that’s all right. Check out the original article here!

I’m surprised to see so many “recent” books on the list: The Shack, The Last Lecture, Breaking Dawn, Eldest . . . not that they’re not all worthy of making the best-selling list! Not too many surprises on there, especially with Harry Potter dominating most of the top positions. Many of the titles are weight/nutrition guides, too, which makes sense. Working at the bookstore, I would only go a few hours without someone asking me for a weight loss guide . . . and definitely had enough of them.

And now, without further ado:

USA TODAY’s Best-Selling Books List Top 150 books
of the last 15 years

(Oct. 28, 1993 through Oct. 23, 2008)

Rank, Title, Author

1 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone J.K. Rowling, art by Mary GrandPre

2 Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution — Robert C. Atkins

3 The Da Vinci Code — Dan Brown

4 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows J.K. Rowling, art by Mary GrandPre

5 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix J.K. Rowling, art by Mary GrandPre

6 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince J.K. Rowling, art by Mary GrandPre

7 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets J.K. Rowling, art by Mary GrandPre

8 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban J.K. Rowling, art by Mary GrandPre

9 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire J.K. Rowling, art by Mary GrandPre

10 Who Moved My Cheese? — Spencer Johnson

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No plot? Start thinking of what you want

Skimming through one of my favorite blogs — Smart Bitches, Trashy Books — I was reminded of an exercise I did in preparation for NaNoWriMo last year. Today is actually the first day we can sign up for the 2008 NaNo challenge, but the server has been “too busy” since I started trying to log on around 9 a.m. this morning. Guess I’ll just wait until tomorrow!

But the challenge from Chris Baty, founder of National Novel Writing Month and author of the how-to guide No Plot, No Problem!, is to sit down before beginning your story and come up with two lists: one includes all the elements you love in a novel; the other features, of course, all the elements you really dislike in a novel. The idea is to take your two lists and make sure you’re following these guidelines as you’re writing your own novel — we write what we like, right? I know I do.

So here are my lists, which are in no way conclusive:

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