“On a Sunday afternoon, I’d put a wash on, read the papers and make lists. Colour coded.”
Writer and performer Ceri Ashcroft loved nothing more than making elaborate lists about, well, everything. When everything changed, the lists went from indulgence to indispensable. In this warm and very human piece about creativity, motherhood and general survival skills, she explains why the lists keep flowing.
Ceri Ashcroft is an actor, writer and puppeteer. She has performed in places as varied as the Sydney Opera House, by a fjord in Norway and dangling from a crane 40 foot above the audience in Greenwich. She is currently developing a show called The Paper Moon for babies and very young children with Tiny Light Theatre.
A brief confession: I am an inveterate list maker. I make lists daily, weekly, monthly, yearly. Continuously. Lists of things to do. Lists of things done. Lists of things not done (that one’s pretty long…). Lists of the lists of things to do once the first list of things to do have been done. Lists of aims. Lists of goals. Lists of places to go, people to see, things to make, shows to write, books to read and films to watch.
This used to be a leisurely activity… on a Sunday afternoon I might put on a wash, read the papers, make a list of things to do that week in a specific notepad, colour coded into days of the week or genre of task with illustrations or notes as needed. I am decidedly not this neat and tidy in the other aspects of my life. It was elaborate and deeply satisfying.
But… things have changed.
June 10th, 2016. 9pm. My waters broke. A watershed for the era of the list.
They’re still useful. More so. Now, they’re essential. My lifeblood. With an 18 month old in tow, and touring as an actor with a family, lists help us get our shoes on, teeth brushed and lines learned before we get out of the door on a daily basis. But they’ve changed - they’re written at 2am in the bathroom, or whilst breastfeeding on a train to Sheffield. Colour coding is limited to the nearest available writing implement (pens are a luxury nowand invite written additions to walls or faces by small people. Crayons are an excellent substitution). The notepad is liberally daubed with remnants of snacks, scribbles and handprints. The lists persist.
The lists are the reason I’m recording this in a closet in Central Texas whilst my daughter naps in the room next door. The lists helped me write this whilst on the road in California. They keep me on top of acting, writing, producing, mumming. A friend with children told me, when I was pregnant, that with a small child you need to change your expectations for what you'll achieve in a day. Your lists of things to do might need to be more succinct. Pithier. More to the point. I mean, sure, you’ll get stuff done. But it might be at odd times, or in a closet. Sometimes having a shower and brushing your teeth will be an achievement, something to tick off the list. Sometimes writing about an achievement in the back of a car and then recording it really quietly under some coats will be the achievement itself.