“Why We Make Lists” . . . on the BBC World Service

In the recording booth for the BBC World Service interview on lists!

In the recording booth for the BBC World Service interview on lists!

I will forever be fascinated with lists: why we make them, what they reveal about us, how they help us, and how they control us.

Listen to this beautiful 18-minute radio documentary “Why We Make Lists” from the BBC World Service here. And then when you want to read the lists I read out loud during the piece be sure to check out my book To-Do List: From Buying Milk to Finding a Soul Mate, What Our Lists Reveal About Us.

The Secret to an Interesting Life

The secret to an interesting life is saying yes whenever possible. A strong, CLEAR no is important too. Without a strong no there is no yes.

But exercising your yes muscles even when you are fearful or in doubt will no doubt to lead to more magic and adventures. One thing leads to another.

Yesterday, my last day in Buenos Aires. I was packing and preparing for my friends to come over to watch the Argentina-Holland semifinal game when I got an email from a producer at HuffPost Live. His Argentine superfan had disappeared and he needed a fan from Buenos Aires to do a live chat faceoff with a Dutch fan.

He wanted blue and white face paint and an Argentina jersey for the interview, and I had to say, I don’t have those things! I was honest with him and I will be honest with you. I know very little about football. I am no superfan. I know more than most Americans, probably, because I was living in Rio de Janeiro four years ago for the World Cup (such wild passion), and I was in Argentina for this World Cup (such luck!). But I am by no means the person to tell you about “what we can expect from Messl” (the top player in Argentina and maybe the world) in the game.

Regardless, I said, “Sure, why not? But tell me what you are going to ask me.” In the next mail, I said, “Just don’t ask me about the players, ask me about the mood and the passion in Buenos AIres.” Cultural observation I can do. Connecting football to politics I can do. So I commented on the World Cup in HuffPost Live. My brother Dan is an actual sports reporter who covers the Boston Bruins and I found it amusing that now I can call myself a sports commentator too.

Watch my debut as a traveling sports reporter above.

What does saying yes to this opportunity mean? Who knows?

But it’s fun to say yes. It makes life more interesting and opens the door to more magic and adventures. When have you said yes?

By the way, I want to remind you I am teaching this one-day writing workshop Writing Your Hero’s/Heroine’s Journey at the San Francisco Writers Grotto Saturday, August 2.

Perhaps these are the stories of when you have said yes and what you learned. Would love to see you in this class to hear your story, whether you’re blogging, writing an essay or a book.

Check out the class details here and take advantage of this opportunity while I am back in the States!


Spinsters, old maids, and changing ideas about being single on Quirkyalone Day 2013

Here’s me talking about spinsters, old maids, and how our ideas about being single have changed on this Quirkyalone Day 2013 on a wonderful hourlong NPR show out of Illinois. This was a great conversation with lots of smart callers calling in about cross-cultural ideas about singlehood and coupling, the birth rate, how we treat older people who live alone and how our society must step up to the plate to support them more, and much more.

The host asked me what would happen when I do find my soul mate. . . will this be the end of the road for quirkyalone?

I told him I will model quirkytogetherness with my partner. I talk about my ideal quirkytogether union at the end.

Here’s the show. Give it a listen and enjoy.

Our Lust for Lists

A journalist from Chile who works for La Tercera sent me interview questions for a story she is writing on lists (since I am the author of To-Do List: From Buying Milk to Finding a Soul Mate, What Our Lists Reveal About Us and the “world’s leading todolistologist” :). Once her story is published, I will share it. I also thought I would share my answers with you. Especially because I am planning to offer an upcoming todolistology course; this might inspire you and you might want to join me. To stay in the loop and find out more about the course, please sign up here.

New Year’s Resolutions of a Brooklyn 16-Year-Old Girl, 1956

Why do we need to make checklists?
We make to-do lists because we would be lost without them. We have too many things to do to remember them all. Writing a list relieves anxiety because we record everything we have to remember and get done. Once it’s down on the list, we can stop worrying about it so much.

Why people still prefer the tactile experience of writing their lists with pen and paper?
Although I use an online to-do list program Things, I am still a huge believer in writing a list with pen and paper. Eighty-nine percent in my listmaker survey also prefer writing lists with pen and paper. The tactile experience of writing a list in your own handwriting is a chance to settle down and detach from the infinity of the Internet and settle into yourself, to feel more grounded. Now you are in own world, thinking about what you need to today, tomorrow, or in this lifetime.

A list written in your own handwriting is more personal, like a contract with yourself. It carries more weight. I accomplish a higher percentage of the items on my handwritten lists than my electronic ones. Plus when you handwrite you can doodle and be creative, and our lists are one of the everyday places where we can be creative.Read More

Me and Quirkyalone on Globo, Brazil’s Largest TV Channel

Those of you who follow my work know that I fell in love with South America in 2009 and spent six months in Brazil in 2010 (and then went on to Colombia and Argentina). Those travels are the subject of the memoir I’m writing now.

My book Quirkyalone had already been published in Brazil in 2005 and now the concept is getting even more attention in one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Globo, Brazil’s largest national media channel did a 20-minute special on the global phenomenon of people embracing singlehood rather than treating it like a disease. I’m on at 1:12 (in English) telling the “creation story” of quirkyalone of how I first came up this this idea on New Year’s Day 2000—and then we have all kinds of stories and analysis about people living single and/or alone in Brazil, the US, Sweden, worldwide. A great special, especially if like me you have a sweet spot for that lilting, lyrical Brazilian Portuguese. Check it out here!

Jumping in the discussion on the “extraordinary rise and surprising appeal of living alone”

I will be on KCRW’s national news affairs program “To the Point” tomorrow Wednesday 11-12 with sociologist and fellow examiner of the modern human condition Eric Klinenberg. We’ll be talking about his excellent book Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone. The topic will be the growing global phenomenon of people living alone. As the author of Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics, I provide the on-the-ground commentator perspective as well as a global view from having interviewed so many quirkyalones. Let me be equally clear that although I am a kickass commentator on this trend and an advocate for quirkyalones and quirkytogethers everywhere (and I actually really love living alone), my heart is very open to finding my beloved and a future in which I might not live alone. Just had to throw that personal note in there!

I have a review of Eric’s book coming up and I have been so busy writing a book of my own I haven’t been posting much, but this too will come.

Is One the Quirkiest Number?

When did the media get so into quirkyness? I thought that was my sole territory. Now the New York Times plays up the quirky habits of solo dwellers in the Home Section. The reporter may be confusing the quirky behavior of living alone with other kinds of issues, like, forgetting to put your clothes on when you leave the apartment. But I do adore being quoted in the New York Times talking about eating “discrete objects” for dinner. And this piece has brought the quirkyalone movement to many readers who had not yet heard of it, and for that I am glad.