Dear Queer Diary: She’s Making a List, Checking It Twice

Welcome to Dear Queer Diary, a (new!) column about the joys (and occasionally, the pains) of journaling. We’ll be cracking open our tiny notebooks and breaking out the rainbow-colored pens on the regular, so get ready to limber up your writing hands and document all your beautiful feelings!

Header by Rory Midhani

Dear Queer Diary_Rory Midhani_640px

My past diaries include a list of speech pieces from the 2007 National Forensics League Final of Dramatic Interpretation, a list of classes I considered taking my sophomore year in college, and the classic bucket list of things I would like to do in the next five (or maybe six?) years.

Apparently, I’m not the only list-happy journal-writer out there. My girlfriend’s adorably curlicue-d childhood diary, which we exhumed on a recent trip to her parents’ house, includes an enumeration of possible career paths, an inventory of roles she would like to play on Broadway, and a record of people she would like to meet.

I bet you can't guess who was into musical theater in her childhood.

I bet you can’t guess who was into musical theater in her childhood.

The fact of the matter is that sometimes you are just too lazy to write in complete sentences. Those times, my dear queer diarists, are the perfect times for a list. Laziness should not be our only reason for list making, of course. Lists are useful: they help us categorize and prioritize information, and in the context of the diary, they offer a kind of shorthand when there isn’t time to compose narrative accounts of every experience in our day. As Rachel suggested last week, lists might help us process and redirect our feelings of frustration, unhappiness, and anxiety. Besides, lists are fun! Writing a list in your journal is like playing Scattergories–without the long and possibly tense bouts of familial arguing.

All the cool cats are making lists. Via Omnilexia

All the cool cats are making lists.
Via Omnilexia

There is some debate among the journalers of the world as to whether a to-do list belongs in the hallowed pages of one’s diary. One of my diary-writing pals thinks such matters should be kept separate; her journal is a reflective space, elevated above the quotidian matter of what she needs to buy at the grocery.

For me, the occasional to-do list is inevitable—some of my first forays into journaling resulted from my mother’s suggestion that I make a list of everything that I was so stressed out about in order to help me control my end-of-winter-break high school anxiety. On that list were things like “organize various backpacks and purses,” “finish Native Son,” and the mysterious, “send out knee sock reminder.” Why was I reminding someone (or someones?) to wear knee socks? I no longer recall.

Let's all take a moment to appreciate these amazingly relevant knee socks.  Via Sock Dreams.

Let’s all take a moment to appreciate these amazingly relevant knee socks.
Via Sock Dreams

While I understand the philosophy behind separating to-dos from thoughts, feelings, dreams, and wishes, when I look back at my own lists of errands and homework assignments, I am always thankful for the opportunity to remember the minutiae of my day—knee-sock-related or otherwise. One list from my semester abroad begins “leisurely breakfast”; another one from December 13th, 2010 includes the bullet point “return head,” in reference to a mannequin I borrowed for a slightly avant-garde production of Henry V. In my book (pun intended!), diary writing is all about preserving these little moments. No matter what the content of my journaled lists, there is always room for memory, desire, and meaning between carefully numbered items.

Here’s your homework, Straddlers: find your journal. Scavenge a writing utensil from the hand-painted mug on your desk, or the depths of your masculine-of-center messenger bag, or the slightly dusty space between the couch cushions. Write the day or the date (if that’s your style), and then make a list.

I Am In Love With" is another great theme for a list.  Via 1000 Journals

I Am In Love With” is another great theme for a list.
Via 1000 Journals

Among the topics you might contemplate are…

Top Potential Sperm Donors
Foods I Wish I Could Eat Every Day
Mid-Year Resolutions (see these famous resolution lists for inspiration)
Greatest Songs/Movies/Slam Poetry Performances of All Time
Humans I’ve Kissed
My Five Best Memories of College/Camp/My First Marriage
When I Grow Up, I Want To Be…
Books To Read This Year
Places I’d Like To Visit (e.g. A-Camp, Provincetown, the birthplace of Willa Cather)

You do you, my dear queer diarists, but I would highly recommend that you try doing you in list form. And I don’t want to hear about all the work you have to do before your radical knitting circle tonight! If you had enough time to read this post, you have enough time to make a list. Your journal will thank you for it!

What’s on your lists, friends? What’s the most memorable/quirky/awesome list you have journaled in the past days/weeks/months/years/aeons?

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Maggie is a freckly, punctuation-loving queer living in the Boston area. She supports her book-buying and tea-drinking habits by teaching America’s youth how to write topic sentences and spends her free time writing postcards and making sandwiches for her girlfriend.

Maggie has written 53 articles for us.


  1. I’ve been struggling lately with intense writers block, can barely get a word down on paper.
    I think that this could be help a ton! Thank you for inspiration this morning :)

  2. This is brilliant! What a fun way to get your creative juices flowing.
    Here is a list of things I am thankful for as I sit at my desk at work this morning.
    1. Autostraddle
    2. Yellow and red leaves gracefully falling from the trees outside my window
    3. This huge mug of chai tea

  3. Just reminded me that I made a bucket list around five years ago and I’m pretty sure I’ve marked some things down. Thanks for reminding me this!
    I’ll be making a list of the best 10 moments of my life this past 5 years thanks to you, too!
    *No longer a comment virgin!

    • Every time someone comments on Autostraddle for the first time, a baby lesbian is born. Congratulations!

  4. Things I miss about A-Camp:
    Butches with tie pins
    Vegan panel
    Blue Crush cabin shenanigans
    Getting hugs/life advice from Riese
    The Shark
    Shouting “ANARCHY” at random inappropriate moments

  5. Lists really scratch an itch. I keep a running list of things I want to read, and I cross items off as I finish them. It’s interesting to go back through and see what my interests were a few years ago and contrast them with where I’m at now. Much of the time I find I’ve picked something up from a book or a poem that’s still with me, where I probably wouldn’t notice if I hadn’t kept track of what I was reading and when.

  6. Ohhh, diary lists!
    Among others I have listed people I’ve kissed, clothes I need to buy, places I would like to visit, hilarious names for potential future children (what was I thinking?), things I have to change about my personality or appearance and people I’m going to invite to my next party.
    In fact, I am so in love with lists that I once bought a brilliant listography journal (yes, these things exist!), which lets you complete about 100 different lists on fantastic topics such as “best make-outs”, “most memorable concerts”, “character traits I envy”, “worst habits” and “favourite clothes”.

    • This special list-themed journal sounds intriguing! I feel like I had a similar book in my youth that I never completely finished filing out…

    • Okay people so I thought I was going to be on Broadway in 9th grade, whatever, it’s fine that it didn’t work out. Another list that Maggie chose not to photograph was of all of the roles I was going to play.

      A note on listing vs. other kinds of journaling: I often couldn’t keep a “real” journal for great lengths of time, due to both a lack of inspiration and a tendency to internally edit everything so much that I talked myself out of putting words on paper. Even now, I am extremely critical of my younger self’s writing – but I LOVE looking back at old lists! (Which is a great, since now the whole AS community can read one of them!)

      • … And now I’ve gone and hit send too early! Aah! ANYWAYS the point of this whole post is to say that Lila, I really really REALLY could have used one of those listography journals to mix up my list themes!

  7. Oh wow, “Humans I’ve Kissed” list was a major element of my teenage journal. I hadn’t thought of that in years. I just pulled out the journal now and had a look. Hilarious reference to several girls on the list: “Abbie- this doesn’t really count it was a dare” “Catherine- We were soooo drunk!” “Laura-spin the bottle, no harm done!”

    You guys, I was such a little queermo!

    • Subsequent realization:
      It suddenly makes a lot of sense to me, that my boyfriend at age 17 got really mad about me making out with my best friend at nightclubs (yes I was briefly that straight girl, I’m not proud of that fact) I was always rolling my eyes and saying things like “why are you making such a big deal about it? Its not like it even counts. I don’t like girls”

      Methinks the lesbian doth protest too much.

  8. I write myself memos in the form of lists of topics I feel need to be discussed at a later date, which inevitably never happens.

  9. I actually spent last night listing my queer headcanons for Ace Attorney characters in my journal because I am a huge nerd who was very sleep deprived and in a heightened state of Having Emotions About Queerness. I used to keep my lists seperate from my “serious journaling” but I recently realised that a) listing things is probably a more honest way for me to express my feelings, and b) I am pathetic at serious journaling as it is.

  10. -My List-

    5 things/stuff/beings that are weird:
    1. Tongues
    2. Dogs/cats when they start moving around in their sleep
    3. The weird part of youtube
    _. Me for refusing to type certain numbers when I make lists
    5. My fear of planet Jupiter. I actually feel mildly afraid of it even if it can’t do anything to me and I’m super far away from it. I get really creeped out by Jupiter.

    Bonus: the size of the largest known stars when compared to the sun. That is weird. Weirder than tongues and all weird youtube videos combined.
    Bonus: Everything. Just…everything is weird.

  11. Thanks to this post I’ll be writing up a list of top potential sperm donors. I’m sure fully half of them will be cartoon characters.

  12. I just wanted to say that I absolutely LOVE “Dear Queer Diary”. It’s definitely one of my favorite columns on autostraddle. It’s actually convinced me to make a journal! I just can’t describe how grateful I am for this column and this website…okbye.

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