Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

storm moving across a field
August 15, 2018

Are You Riding the Horse, Or Is the Horse Riding You?

Margie Lawson

Are you in control of your life? Or do you let life control you?

You may have expected a blog on writing craft from me. But this time, I decided to use my psychological expertise to help you take charge of your writing life.

Many people let the negatives control their lives. They take their black cloud of doom with them everywhere. You know those writers. Shh… No names.

              drawn by Dana Summers

The horse is riding them—and they don’t even try to climb back on and ride that horse.

They think that due to negative circumstances, they can’t reach their goals, can’t have writing success.

Others realize they are in charge of their lives, in spite of the negatives. They ride the horse—take the reins, control where they are going.

I’m awed by Helen Keller. How many of us could face severe adversity with such courage and grace?

Here’s one of my favorite quotes from Helen Keller.

One cannot consent to creep when one has an impulse to soar.

 Wow. Talk about riding the damn horse.

 How can you ride the horse?

Your life consists of what you do each day, each hour, each minute.

When you put yourself in charge of chunks of your day, you’re in charge of your writing life.

Consider my Winner and Super Star Lists.Cue the drum roll.


 Keep reading. No skimming!

My Winner and Super Star Lists are way cooler than To Do Lists.

Creating WINNER and SUPER STAR lists every day will boost your productivity and boost your mood.


WINNER LIST items are things you know you can complete in the block of time you have available that morning, afternoon, and/or evening.

They are DOABLE in the time you have allotted. Doable.

Don’t go all delusional. Don’t load your list with things that would take eight hours and expect to accomplish them in two.

You can’t put everything you need to do, or everything you want to do, on one Winner list.

For a 3-hour block, my WINNER list could have these two items: 

But – Super Star items don’t always move to the Winner List right away. It depends on deadlines and priorities.

It’s important to keep assessing your needs. Do what needs to come next, not what you’d rather do. 

If you have several chunks of writing-focused time in your day, make a WINNER list for each chunk of time. Revise as needed as you go through your day.

Did you quit your writing task to answer the phone? Make a call? Do laundry? Declutter a room? Check e-mail?

Did you waste 25 minutes supposedly fixing a cup of tea, but you really did five other housey-things or time-wasters too?


 SUPER STAR LIST items are the things you’d like to do AFTER you’ve completed your WINNER LIST.

If you complete your WINNER list in less than your allotted block of time – you have the remaining time to start a Super Star item.



Here’s where people set themselves up to fail. They make awesome lists, then item-hop, or list-hop, or never look at the list again. 

YIKES!  They do what they’d rather do instead of what they need to do to succeed.

You may make WINNER and SUPER STAR lists for your week or weekend also. I call those long ones Master Winner and Master Super Star lists.

But always make a short WINNER list for each block of time. Blocks can range from a half hour to three hours.

Winner Lists keep you accomplishing your goals. You succeed. You stay motivated.

If you create a 53-item mega-list, you may be so overwhelmed, you lose your day to NetFlicks.

Other items will try to sneak on one of those lists.


Do not go on autopilot and slap it on a WINNER or SUPER STAR list. It may belong on one of those lists, or not.

Maybe it belongs on a third list--the MAYBE List.

MAYBE you’ll do it, MAYBE you won’t.

 No snickering.  This is an important list!

Put that item on the MAYBE List. You won’t lose the idea.

MAYBE you’ll put it on one of your real lists (Winner of Super Star) the next week.

MAYBE you’ll look at that item next week and realize it should be on a list for three months from now, after your book is completed.

Start that AFTER MY BOOK IS COMPLETED list. Don’t lose a good idea.

Creating Winner and Super Star Lists should become as automatic as buckling your seat belt.

Create those lists every day, and you’ll be in control of your life. You’ll be riding your horse, and you won’t get thrown off.

I’ll digress. But the story below is all about staying on track.

My husband’s a private pilot. Years ago on a family vacation in Florida, he broke some ribs surfing. But we had to fly out the next day. A hurricane was expected to strike the coast that afternoon.

Since my husband was in pain from his broken ribs, it was up to me, non-pilot me, to do some of the easy-breezy flying from Florida to the mid-west while he tried not to move.

I’d flown single engine planes before for hours at a time. Flying was easy and fun. I maintained speed and altitude, switched fuel tanks every 30 minutes, checked for air traffic, and followed a railroad track.

I was happy about following a railroad track. So much easier than navigating with the fancy avionics.

I told myself I could fly the plane. I enjoyed flying. It was a fun challenge. And -- I didn’t have to land.

I didn’t focus on the negatives. I didn’t catastrophize.

If I needed help, I had the expert sitting next to me. He could take the controls anytime I woke him up. 

I had fun flying and followed the railroad track. No problems.

A couple of hours later I read a water tower that named a town I wasn’t supposed to be near. I was 200 miles off course.

I’d followed the wrong railroad track.

Follow the right tracks. Don’t get off course.

Winner and Super Star Lists help you stay on track every day. Keep your Winner Lists doable for that block of time, and you’ll accomplish your daily goals. And weekly goals. And monthly goals.

You’ll ride that horse, you won’t let it ride you.

 Hello Blog Guests:  Thanks for being here!

 If you’re considering Winner and Super Star Lists – JUST DO THEM!

 But commit to doing them daily for 21 days.

 You’re nodding and smiling. Right?

 It takes three weeks for a behavior to become a habit. Do Winner and Super Star lists for 21 days and set yourself up for success.

FYI: If you want to learn more ways to take charge of your writing life, check out my Lecture Packet on Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors. It’s loaded with goodies!

 As always – A Big Lovey THANK YOU to the WITS gals for hosting me.

 Post a comment. Share your time-wasters. The things that keep you from staying on track.

 Post something -- and you have two chances to be a winner!

 You could win a Lecture Packet from me, or an online class from Lawson Writer’s Academy.

Lawson Writer's Academy– September Courses

  1. The Sizzling, Scintillating Synopsis
  2. Empowering Characters’ Emotions
  3. Creative Writing Weapons
  4. Story Structure Safari
  5. Giving Your Chapters a Pulse
  6. Crazy-Easy Awesome Author Websites
  7. Editing Magic: Work with a Professional Editor
  8. Two-Week Intensive: Your First Five Pages, Reader Glue

 If you’re considering doing the two lists, let us know!

 I’ll draw names for the TWO WINNERS Thursday night, at 9PM Mountain Time, and post them in the comments section.

 Like this blog? Please, please, please give it a social media boost. Thanks sooo much!  

Margie Lawson PhotoMargie Lawson—editor and international presenter – teaches writers how to use her psychologically-based editing systems and deep editing techniques to create page turners.

She’s presented over 120 full day master classes in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and France, as well as taught multi-day intensives on cruises in the Caribbean.

To learn about Margie’s 5-day Immersion Master Classes (in 2018, in Phoenix, Denver, San Jose area, Dallas, Yosemite, Los Angeles, Orange County, Atlanta, and Down Under in Sydney, Melbourne, and Coolangatta, Australia, and on Cruising Writers cruises), full day and weekend workshops, keynote speeches, online courses through Lawson Writer’s Academy, lecture packets, and newsletter, please visit: www.margielawson.com


144 comments on “Are You Riding the Horse, Or Is the Horse Riding You?”

  1. I love your catagories of winner and superstar. They frame your day with positive thoughts. Here's to 21 days of winner lists!

    1. Hello Colleen!

      Yay! You accepted the challenge!

      Keep your Winner and Super Star Lists going -- several times a day!

  2. I loved your blog. I make a weekly list, sometimes a daily, and I usually stay on a fairly rigid writing schedule. But life sometimes gets in the way. Multiple list would keep all my ideas and tasks more organized and reasonable. And the best part of your blog was the three week to make a habit reminder. I know I’ve probably read that before but it resonated today on so many levels—eating, waking up at 5:00 AM to write, exercising...you get the idea. Thanks Margie for a great post!

    1. Hello Veronica --

      Love your Fb profile picture. Great hat!

      I hope you COMMIT to the 3 lists for 3 weeks -- Winner, Super Star, and Maybe. Don't forget the MAYBE list!

      Hope I get to meet you someday. I've presented in almost every state, but not in Oklahoma. Yet. 🙂

  3. It is SO good to have you back in full force. I am considering doing the 2 lists, but cannot make that decision at this hour. Just got up and my head doesn't want to wrap itself around anything. However, it is up on my screen so ..... I'm sure I'm going to try it.

    1. Hello Irene --

      Are you awake now? 🙂

      I hope you make those lists happen, daily, for at least 3 weeks!

    1. Hello Immersion Grad Becky Hodge --

      I bet you become addicted to WINNER and SUPER STAR and MAYBE lists!

      They'll make you happy and even more successful. And I hope they make you think of me too. 🙂

      See you in 2019? Hope so!

  4. Add one more to my list of wonderful gifts you've given me, Margie. I decided yesterday that I was going to write two books at the same time. Then this morning, I got up whining about it. Hellllloooo, this is going to give me the chance to sell in another genre - and it's a great premise. What the heck else am I writing for, than that!

    Even when we HAVE the time, we're still fighting our brains....

    Off to write - thank you for the inspiration!

    1. Hello Multi-Immersion Grad Laura!

      Yay! Sounds like you'll do the WINNER CHALLENGE!

      Commit to the Winner and Super Star and Maybe lists for at least 3 weeks.

      Make that 3 months. Then you'll have those lists locked in and you'll RIDE YOUR HORSE for decades!

      Can't wait to stay at your house in October - for the Permian Basin conference.

      I'll get to see your home, your cats, and your lists. 🙂

      And I'll get to see Immersion Grad Christie Craig too!

    2. Laura, remember, you can always call me and whine (though not at 4 am). I'll give you sympathy and brainstorm with you. And YAY, Margie will be at your place. What an awesome immersion. I get her the month before and I am sooooo excited.

      1. Hellooo Jenny --

        I see you in September, and see Laura in October. Lucky, lucky me!

  5. Hi Margie, your posts always help me smile. I am ridiculously guilty of the mega list. Ugh. It also surprises me how urgent my desire to completely revamp my home and bill filing system becomes during my writing time. Re-lining the kitchen cupboards pops up a lot too! Being more realistic with my time is a huge hurdle for me. The thought of the two lists is interesting, but daunting as well--prioritizing! Thanks for the chance to win.

    1. Hello cmunder --

      Most listies are guilty of the Shoot-Me-Now Mega-List.

      But you're ridiculously guilty. So YOU WILL COMMIT to the W and SS and M lists. Right?


      You're making a short list for a half-hour to 3 hours. Easy.

      COMMIT. You got this.

    1. Yay Sharon!

      You COMMITTED!

      I know several Sharon's. Don't know if I know you, but I'm proud of you!

      Ride that horse for three weeks to three months. You'll be a SUPER STAR!

  6. Ha! Some days I ride the horse, and I'll admit it, some days the horse rides me. Love the idea of lists with different levels and priorities. I'm with you, Margie. I'll give it a try!

    1. Hello DLW --

      Yay You!

      You're committed to the 21 days. Make those W, SS, and Maybe lists at least twice a day.

      You got this!

  7. Thanks for the ideas! I list hop. Even worse, I forget to make lists and end up rambling through the projects. Social media (here’s looking at you Twitter) is my biggest time suck to get me off track of goals.

    1. Hello Former List-Hopper Amanda --

      I'm sure you're COMMITTED to the WINNER CHALLENGE. Right?

      Grab hold your steely resolve -- and take charge of you!

      Gee -- Bet you're glad you chimed in. 🙂

  8. The words we use, even or especially to ourselves, are so important for framing and putting us in a great psychological state. I love the WINNER list and the easy priority of the to-do tasks.

    Thanks, Margie!

    1. Hey Debbie --

      Always great to cyber-see you! Hope to see you in person - sometime!

      Hope you do the 21-day Winner Challenge. I'm betting you've got a lot to juggle.

      Kudos on your writing success!

  9. Hi Margie! What a great reminder to do the *necessary* first and the *fun* stuff later. It's so much more fun to create memes and newsletters than get the necessary words down 🙂 I've been using the two-list system but forgot to use those brain-tricking names. Thanks for the reminder and the shot of positivity!

    1. Hello Laurie Wood --

      You're right -- fun later. But Super Star Lists may have heavy-duty work items on them.

      Kudos on you for using the two lists from my Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors course. Glad you'll use the WINNING names for the lists! 🙂

  10. Love the list idea. I do my best to ride the horse by giving myself a timer. I set the timer for twenty mins and stay focussed on what must be done in those twenty minutes. If I'm drafting, it's words. If I'm editing, it's staying on the page and not slipping off into the world wide web. But it's not always easy. See? I slipped away to come over to WITS and check out what was going on at one of my fave blogs LOL. Okay, back to my opened Word page on the putah. TY, Margie. I always enjoy your posts.

    1. Hello Maggie -

      Timers are the coolest time management tools.Love using them to keep on track and on schedule.

      Everyone's got them and they're as close as their phone. Because they're in every phone. 🙂

      But using them, and honoring them? Like you said, not easy.

      The Winner and Super Star Lists are timed -- from half an hour to three hours. Make your list, set your timer, and GO!

      Thanks so much for sharing about timers!

  11. What perfect timing for your message. I've been thinking a lot lately on the power of positivity, and noticing when I'm letting negativity creep in. I'll be creating a winner and a super star list. What a perfect way to set my day up for success.

    1. Hello Christine --

      Yay! You accepted the WINNER CHALLENGE!

      I bet you'll have big-time success. Every day!

  12. Again, a wonderful timely post. Every now and then I "run away" to consider what I've been doing and to determine if I need to cast-of some extra weight. Today I'm in Kennebunk, ME, alone filling my creative well and deciding on new habits. Your suggestions will be used starting today. Thank you.

    1. Hello Barbara --

      A solo writing retreat. Good for you.

      Kudos on starting your 21-day challenge today!

  13. Self-doubt is the number one reason I have trouble writing. I've taken class after class, tried this and that...and nothing. I have enough confidence in myself to know I can write but the horse still tells me where to go.

    My biggest time waster is other people's books.

    I tell myself I'm too stressed out so I need to take some "me" time and I read. And read. And read. And nothing gets done.

    1. Nicole --

      You know what's not working.

      And you know what could work. These simple, short, Winner and Super Star lists. They can help you meet your writing goals.

      Keep those WINNER lists short. I recommend writing for one hour at a time for the first few weeks. Easy to be a WINNER.

      I bet you'll decide to make reading your reward.

      Come on. You got this!

      So glad you chimed in.

  14. Thank you, Margie. This is a great reminder that my characters won't ever reach their goals if I don't reach mine first.

    1. Hello Andrea --

      Love your style!

      Hope you go for the 21-Day WINNER CHALLENGE!

      Thanks for posting.

  15. I fixed myself a cup of tea first, then tackled your article. Awesome idea! Fear and procrastination are sitting right along side me as I write this. Yes, I've done the classes, the homework and read articles galore on the subject, but just can't shake these dreaded nemeses. Twenty-one days I can do...staring right now, not tomorrow. I promise!

    1. Hello M. Lee Scott --

      I'm impressed.

      You accepted the 21-Day Challenge!

      I hope you had a WINNING day!

    1. Hugs to Immersion Grad Christie Craig!

      Great to see you here.

      Can't wait to see you in October in Midland, Texas!

    2. PS to Christie Craig --

      You get soooo much accomplished, you must not allow too many distractors to block your success.

      Good onya!

  16. My horse is getting heavy. Thanks for reminding me that it is ok to set him down.

    1. Hello Julie!

      You're sooooo fun. Can't wait to work with you in your first Immersion class in a few weeks!

      Thanks for chiming in!

  17. Margie, I've been thrown off the horse more times than I can count. Dusting myself off and getting back on is HARD. The first part of this year saw me on the ground a lot. I've gotten back into the saddle though. Thanks for giving me an extra push!

    1. Hello Immersion Grad Julie Rowe!

      Good for you for getting back on that horse again and again.

      Can't wait to work with you in December, on the CRUISING WRITERS CRUISE.

      That's big time motivation to keep riding that horse.

      Stick with your WINNER and SUPER STAR lists!

  18. I like the idea of 2 lists. In the past, I’ve used one marathon list, and never won that race. From now on, there will be some separation. I’ve had a great move recently and am looking forward to more writing time!

    1. Hello Danita --

      Marathon lists are scary.

      Good for you for opting to use the WINNER and SUPER STAR lists. I bet you'll have success!

  19. I need to reread this every day for awhile. Then every week. I don't know if I'll ever get to the point where I only need it once a month. Thanks, Margie!

    1. Hugs to Immersion Grad Fae --

      You got this!

      Keep your WINNER and SUPER STAR lists big and visible. And small blocks of time work well.

      So fun working with you in Immersion last month!

  20. I love how you retitled those lists! So much better than "To Do." I've also found a bullet journal is helping me prioritize in that way--what I must get done and then what I'd love to get done if I possibly can. My own time wasters are looking stuff up, where I start with a very reasonable, must-know question for my what I'm writing...and thirty minutes later, I realized I've navigated to something completely unrelated that just caught my eye. I really should work on that. Lol.

    Always lovely to have you here, Margie! Sorry I missed Denver, but I'll see you in December!

    1. Hugs to Immersion Grad Julie!

      A stellar book title can give the sale a boost. A stellar To Do list title can give your motivation a boost.

      Ah -- you know you get sucked into the research vortex. And you know what to do to prevent that time-suck!

      So happy I get to see you in December!

  21. Geez, Margie. It's like you know me or something. 😉 Heading off to work on my lists!

    1. Hugs to Immersion Grad Marin!

      Yay you! You're setting yourself up to be a WINNER and SUPER STAR -- every day!

      I'm excited about doing another Immersion in Cleveland. See you in late June!

  22. I have been waiting for the kids to get back to school before committing myself to anything. This is a timely post, I have one week before the kids go back and I have a moment to myself. Thank you for the reminder of the Winner and Super Star lists. They are pretty brilliant.

    1. Hugs to Immersion Grad Carol --

      Glad the timing is so right! Start the W and SS lists -- and stick 'em!

      You got this!

      And -- it's been waaaaaaaay too long since I've hugged you!

  23. Great post Margie! I love the little white board and may order one today! But I'm currently a list worrier....not the list warrior I want to be. My problem with lists is that I make them here, there, and everywhere, then worry I'll lose those slips of paper, and fret about how to consolidate them. The Notes app on my phone has also turned into umpteen gazillion digital scraps of notes and it's difficult to find the one I want. Any suggestions on where to keep a master list that's always accessible?

    1. Hello Soon-To-Be Immersion Grad Vanessa!

      List worries, not list warrior.

      Smart writing!

      But being a smart writer doesn't help you get your book written.

      MY PLAN:

      I keep my MASTER List on a HUGE WHITE BOARD in my writing loft. Lots of items in lots of colors!

      My WINNER and SUPER STAR lists go on the little white board.

      Since the W and SS lists are for a short block of time, right then, they're right by me.

      Since I travel a lot, I take a picture of my MASTER LIST.

      You can see my Master List in my loft in a few weeks!

  24. Great post, Margie, and a perfect way to get back into after the summer fun. Thanks for always sharing your wisdom.

    1. Hugs to Multi-Immersion and LWA Instructor -- Rhay Christou!

      I bet you're still loving your summer fun. August is your month to play!

      Miss you!

  25. Funny thing, Margie: I dreamed of horses last night. So when I saw your post, I knew I had to read it! Yes, it was exactly what I needed to hear. I'm making my Winner and Super Star lists right now. 🙂

    1. Hugs to Immersion Grad Roxanne Snopek --

      Yay! Another smart person runs with the WINNER CHALLENGE!

      So fun to get to know you at Immersion in Canmore!

    1. Hugs to Multi-Immersion Grad and LWA Instructor!

      So cool you're doing the three lists!

      Yep. That MAYBE List decreases stress. And that MAYBE list can be crazy-long!

  26. Great post! Thanks for sharing your expertise, Margie!
    I’m going to make the 2 lists right now. ?

    1. Hugs to 3-time Immersion Grad Angela!

      I bet you'll be become addicted to Winner and Super Star lists!

      Don't forget that oh-so-handy Maybe list.

  27. Thanks, Margie! What a great way to prioritize my to-dos. I've made my winners and superstars lists for today.
    Hugs, Carrie, diving into fungicide research (for the day job)

    1. Hugs to Immersion Grad and AH-MAZING Immersion Hostess Carrie Padgett!

      I know you're writing is going strong -- and you'll keep using these lists for at least 21 days!

      So great to see you at RWA National!

  28. You psych people have the best ideas! Thanks for this. I'm definitely going to try them. I'll probably have four, adding in the "After I finish the book" list. There are always tons of things waiting for me after I type (metaphorically) the end. So, so many things.

    1. But you gave me one of my Conference highlights, Darynda...a photo with you and Sylvia Day! I adore you ladies so much. It's nice to see you here on WITS. 🙂

    2. Hugs to 2-time Immersion Grad Darynda Jones --

      Yep -- SMART to do the four lists. You're AFTER I FINISH THE BOOK list will be awesomely long. And motivating.

      You got this!

  29. Thank you for your motivating inspirations, once again, Margie! I started my lists a few months ago...and derailed...but it's never too late to pick it up again. That first week of consistency is the hardest for me, it seems...

    1. Hello Karen --

      The first week is harder. But -- If you use short blocks of time, and keep your WINNER list DOABLE for that short time, you'll be a WINNER!

      You'll be a WINNER several times a day!

      Glad you're embracing these lists again. Give 'em a hug!

  30. Hi, Margie. I think I need my lists for other than writing. I do usually accomplish my writing goal, it's the HOUSE and YARD that don't get done. My priorities are straight, but I am so far behind on the yard, I could put in eight hours a day for a month and maybe I'd catch up. My biggest risk of falling off the horse is with meme creation, which is sooooo fun. I confess, it does happen. Like yesterday. (Adore the new meme, though.) Perhaps I need to add yard items to my list two days a week or something? I'll have to think about what is reasonable. I know I wouldn't be making my writing goals if I weren't single and retired. I'm fortunate. It's crazy hard when you've got lots to juggle and they're all high priority. I like your lists.

    1. Hugs to 2-time Immersion Grad Sheri Humphreys!

      You usually meet your writing goals. You're soooo amazing! KUDOS TO YOU!

      Makes sense to SET A TIMER -- when you're making memes. And doing other fun things.

      Good idea to add yard to your lists a few times a week. Have fun making it pretty!

  31. What perfect timing for this post, Margie! I'm game for the 21-day experiment. Expecting great things!


    1. Hello Dallenco --

      Love that you're expecting great things.

      You make the short lists DOABLE, and you'll be a WINNER!

      Thanks for chiming in.

  32. Wow. I can’t even imagine having to fly a plane. Go you! And I love the idea of the lists. I’m a firm believer in them, but The last few months have been rough. Time to get back on that horse, make a list, and get moving. Thanks for the inspiration.

    1. Hello Vicky --

      No worries about flying the plane. I've taken the controls lots of times.

      Glad you're getting back on that horse -- and making the lists. Kudos to you!

  33. Love these lists Margie! I'm a list maker so these will work great in my life. Thanks so much! As soon as I get moved into my new house I'm taking the 21-day challenge and getting refocused on writing!

  34. While in Corporate America, I was able to keep my sanity (barely) with lists...especially when there were too many jigsaw pieces to fit within the border. Now that I'm on my own, I only "resort" to lists when the water's rising faster than I can tread. After reading your blog, I realize I miss the sense of accomplishment that lists can create. I raise my glass of ice water and toast you, Margie. Here's to feeling more accomplished and, most importantly, accomplishing more!

    1. Hellooo Chris --

      Good for you for getting back to lists. Hope you try Winner and Super Star and Maybe lists!

      Love your last sentence. Smart writing!

      So great to see you at RWA National -- and can't wait until the Immersion at your house next month!

  35. Margie, I was thinking about these DSDB lists the other day! I am vowing here and now to get back to this. My big sin isn't the mega list, it is losing the list all together. I've tried a lot of things to get around this and the only two that seem to help are the whiteboard on the wall, or the ginormous calendars that I can't lose.

    1. Hugs to Immersion Grad Jenny Hansen --

      Ah -- You were thinking about Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors lectures. You know how to make me smile.

      Your WINNER Lists will be short. A small white board works well.

      Can't wait to see you again in Immersion in Orange County next month!

  36. I forgot to mention my time sucks! I don't count my family because they are a wonderful and necessary place to put my time. Or my volunteer efforts, because they also give back to me tenfold. But phone games...if I don't watch it, Word Cookies and Gardenscapes can kill an hour in a snap. I try not to do either on week days.

    My other latest trick is to ONLY do social media on my phone. Having it up on my computer with the alerts and such is too distracting so I turn the alerts on my phone to silent and check it 2-4 times a day for no more than 5-10 minutes each. Or, I do at night when I have perimenopausal insomnia. (It's a thing!)

    1. Hello Jenny, Again --

      Good plan limiting social media to your phone. Good onya!

      Thanks for sharing!

  37. I love this post! I struggled all day to get started because I didn't know where to start. Life kept getting in the way, the dog is sick, the kids are upset, people are coming over and I just.couldn't.get.started. Tomorrow I am going to start fresh with the Winner List, Super Star List and Maybe list 🙂

    1. Hello J.Z. Smith --

      So glad you dropped by the blog!

      Glad you accepted the WINNER CHALLENGE. Hope you stick with it for 21 days.

  38. Margie, I needed to read this blog today. The last few days I've been excited about my new historical series as I wrote the first chapter. I felt compelled to get it down before taking the time to do the historical research and layout the synopsis. Everything was fresh and falling into place. I even used some of the deep editing techniques you taught in your class. Then came today, the first day of research, and wham! It wasn't just a lack of focus. I was overwhelmed! It felt bigger than I could handle and I started to question my own ability to get it done. Now I know myself better than that, and I know I can accomplish what I set my mind to. And I love the concept of this new historical fiction series I've envisioned. But it was as if the whole thing had become a monstrous mountain to climb. Then I read this blog, and I mentally slapped my forehead. You reminded me to divide my time into doable chunks of reading and research and writing--the Winner and Superstar Lists that can make the work not appear so ginormous. Like Jenny H, I have family and volunteer activities that have a necessary and meaningful place in my life that I never want to neglect. It all takes balance and doable chunks that makes it all seem easier to achieve. So thank you for putting this out there and for the reminder to put all of it into perspective!

    1. Hellooo Donna --

      I believe you! You definitely need to do the WINNER and SUPER STAR lists!

      Glad I get to work with you in Immersion in a few weeks!

  39. It takes discipline. I make lists all the time, but don't follow through, scratching off things as I get to them, not necessarily the most important. I will be more vigilant from now on.

    1. Hello Immersion Grad Barb Heintz!

      Remember to make two lists -- Winner and Super Star -- and just what you think you can accomplish in a short block of time. A half-hour to three hours. Keep your lists doable.

      Thanks for chiming in!

  40. I love lists! But sometimes I forget to look at them ... being a visual person, I need to have things out where I can see them otherwise they get forgotten 🙂 I see a large bulletin board in my future! Your lists are great ideas and I will attempt your 21-day challenge.

    1. Hello Sue --

      I vote for a big white board for your Master List. You could use a section of the big white board for your WInner and Super Star lists.

      Glad you accepted the 21-day challenge!

  41. Like many I have goals but...stuff gets in the way. And also like many, at the end of the day, I too often discover that stuff that got done was not as important as I expected. I will take the challenge and use the lists to help do what I truly want to do.

    1. Hello Robert --

      Smart. Smart. Smart!

      You sound committed to doing Winner and Super Star lists every day for 21 days.

      Stick with it. You'll make great things happen!

  42. Thanks for the reminder. I tend to think positively most of the time, but I can always use a nudge to refocus, especially in the dog days of summer. LOL.
    Love your winners list and every one of the lessons in that packet. I like to focus on the priorities. Everything else is lagnaippe as they say in New Orleans.

    1. Hello Sue --

      You're a Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors grad. Good for you!

      Glad you're committed to doing the Winner and Super Star lists. You'll boost your productivity, and your mood!

    2. PS to Sue -- Random Thought

      I know what lagnaippe means. And I can spell the word. I've even had speaker guy say the word several times.

      But I don't like the way lagnaippe sounds. It looks much cooler in print than it would sound in a conversation.

  43. OMG, Margie, you are so right about those lists. I am a queen of procrastination, but when I have been sensible enough to make a list, I do stay on task and accomplish so much. I hadn't thought of dividing the list, though, and this makes so much sense. Gives you something to look forward to as a reward for tackling the less sexy must-dos. Thanks. And oh, what a story of you flying bravely while poor Tom slept on.

    1. Hello Jeanne --

      Sounds like you're committing to using the two lists. Remember to keep them short and doable!

      Hope your writing is going well.

  44. Hi Margie,
    Good advice!
    I’m really good at making lists - I love lists - but I’m not so good at getting stuff done on those lists. And I don’t utilise small blocks of time. I’m constantly busy but achieving little.
    Time to do Winner and SuperStar lists! Time to relook at DSDB lecture pack too.
    Thank you for the motivation and tools to achieve my goals and to-dos.

    1. Hello 4-time Immersion Grad Raewyn, from Melbourne --

      Ah -- so you're a Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors Grad too!

      Glad you'll revisit the DSDB lectures. And do the WINNER and SUPER STAR lists.

      I knew you were smart. Cliche alert. 🙂

  45. I love the advice in this post–so practical! This line jumped out at me: 'When you put yourself in charge of chunks of your day, you’re in charge of your writing life.' Rather than looking at the overwhelming pile of to-dos Winner Lists and Super Star Lists create bite-sized goals for your time. One small thing I do is seesaw many things I can achieve while the kettle boils. Wipe the counter, put away some dishes, stack the dishwasher. You get a sense of achievement and use the time wisely. I just have to do that it my writing life! xxx

    1. Hugs to Multi-Immersioner Elaine Fraser!

      Yes! Winner and Super Star lists are practical.

      Using the two lists, you'll have an amazing sense of accomplishment. And your writing is amazing -- so you'll get to accomplish more writing. Which will make me happy. 🙂

      Meeting bite-sized goals will make you a WINNER!

  46. This is brilliant. I am definitely a list-maker (I do cheat and add stuff I've already done so I can put a line through it) but they tend to be a bit unfocused. Putting it into time-blocks and structuring into winner-lists and super-star lists sounds much more efficient. Definitely going to give it a go (beginning on Monday. Some habits are hard to break).

    1. Hello Little Miss W --

      Yay! You're doing the WINNER CHALLENGE.

      Starting Monday -- Great plan!

  47. Hi Margie,

    This is so timely. I've been putting off list-making since I got home from that fabulous immersion up the mountain in Co-Lo-Ra-Do. As soon as I send this message, I'm going to write my lists ready for tomorrow morning. (It's night-time on Thursday here in Tasmania)
    Thank you, Allison

    1. Hugs to 3-time Immersion Grad Allison M --

      You'll kill these lists -- in a good way. 🙂

      See you in Tasmania in late October!

  48. Hello Margie! I like the lists idea for changing my behavior and accomplishing more of what's actually important to me. For a long time, my priority has been on doing EVERYTHING for everyone - for everyone but me. I'm going to commit to doing these three lists (W/SS/M) but I'm going to keep it real, too. One or two items per list, and none of those big "renovate the bathroom" things (well, at least THAT will be done today, so I can get back to writing, finally). Like littlemissw, I'm starting Monday. Need to recover for a couple of days from that bathroom reno. I think I'll read a book for a change and rejuvenate!

    1. Hugs to 2-time Immersion Grad Felicia --

      Great! Starting Monday -- excellent plan.

  49. I keep lists, but I'm inconsistant. I like your labels, so I'll give them a try. I have different catagories for my lists. Writing, Self-care (just changed that label from health) and Family. Perhaps I should put Winner and Superstar under each.

    1. Hello Larissa --

      Keep in mind WINNER and SUPER STAR lists are for a SHORT block of time.

      If you have two hours available, you list what you think you can accomplish in that two hours on your WINNER LIST.

      Keep your items DOABLE in that short block of time, and you'll be successful!

    1. Hello Immersion Grad Vanitha --

      You're smart and fearless. I know you can do it!

      So fun getting to know you in Immersion in Yosemite!

  50. Hi Margie!
    As I said on Facebook, I still use your Winner and Superstar lists daily. Today was my first day back at school and you better believe the first thing I did....after getting coffee...was make my daily list. I do it for work, for writing, and even for home at times.

    Lists ROCK!


    1. Hugs to Anne --

      I'm sooooo proud of you! You're in charge of your Winner and Super Star lists, which makes you in charge of your life!

      Kudos to you!

  51. Margie, I just came across this post, and I loved this! And, it's just what I need. It's been a summer full of craziness and drama. I've gotten distracted when I sit down to write. I have gotten distracted by my overwhelming inbox and by the kids. The kids are now back in school. I'm learning to turn off my emails and my notifications so that I can be less distracted. 🙂

    I'm going to begin WINNER and SUPERSTAR lists tomorrow. LOVE this idea!

    1. Hey Jeanne --

      So glad you'll use my lists to put yourself in charge of your time...and your life. Yay!

      Bet you'll be a WINNER and a SUPER STAR!

  52. Love the idea of Winner and Superstar lists. Sounds like a great way to jumpstart my daily writing practice.

    1. Hay Ani --

      Yes! I bet you'll make these lists work in lots of ways. Good for you!

      Thanks so much for dropping by the blog. Hope to see you at WTWA again -- or somewhere!

  53. Hi Margie. I left two posts here yesterday but they haven’t arrived. I wrote about skywriting (you’ll understand). I call that bucket list. So I have three lists now. Thanks.

    1. Hello Jay --

      Sorry your other posts didn't show up. Ah -- skywriting.

      Keep using those lists until I see you in Down Under in a couple of months!

    1. Hello Karen --

      I can't wait to work with you Down Under. Your Immersion class will be amazing! Only two more months!


    Kudos to all who accepted the 21-Day WINNER CHALLENGE!

    Had to be at least 40 of you. I'm impressed!

    We have TWO WINNERS!

    The first winner is............................................Carol Storey!

    Carol won a Lecture Packet from Lawson Writer's Academy.

    The second winner is.........................................Christine Lashinski!

    Christine won an online course from Lawson Writer's Academy.

    Congratulations to Carol and Christine!

    A big THANK YOU to all the WITS gals. So fabulous to be here again!

    See you all next month!

      1. Hello Immersion Grad Carol --

        Congratulations on being a winner!

        I thought you might like one of these two lecture packets:

        1. A Deep Editing Guide to Make Your Openings Pop

        2. Visceral Rules: Beyond Hammering Hearts

        I emailed you!

  55. Just realized my horse is flying. The problem is that I'm in the saddle pushing him to do more, more, more.
    Gotta slow down and take care of me!!!
    Thanks for directing me toward my AHA!

  56. Thanks for posting this Margie. I have been very overwhelmed lately as my kids go back to school. I am a list maker by nature but not this specific. I usually make them too long and don't set a time frame. Shorter lists are better and I get to be a winner, maybe even a super star.

    1. Hello Carla --

      I recommend a short list for a block of time no longer than three hours. I bet you'll be a SUPER STAR!

  57. I like the idea of very specific lists. I also like your recommendations for shorter blocks of time. We kind of give ourselves a lot of loopholes. You have that covered!

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