4 Tips for Writing A Bucket List

Welcome to Amazing Words Wednesday, the day we enter the labyrinth of language and see what we can find.

BucketOn the first Wednesday of the month, I share my own words — something I’ve crafted from our vast-yet-finite number of words in the English language. Since it’s the very first of the year as well, I wanted to talk about writing a bucket list.

What’s a bucket list?

bucket list (buck·et list)

noun: a number of experiences or achievements that a person hopes to have or accomplish during their lifetime: making this trip is the first thing on my bucket list

origin: early 21st century: from the phrase kick the bucket ‘die’, popularized by the 2007 movie The Bucket List

Oxford Dictionaries

Some people prefer to call it a “life list,” since the connotation of kicking the bucket makes it sound like you’ve got one foot in the grave. Yet, plenty of young people write bucket lists, or rather wish lists of what they want to do in their lifetime.

I’ve called my own list the 40 After 40, because I wrote it at age 40 and included 40 items. I’ve knocked out a few, but not as many as I’d like.

Here are my tips for a bucket list of any kind:

  • It must include items you have control over. Stating as a goal “get a book contract” doesn’t work, because that decision doesn’t belong solely in your court. Whereas “submit manuscript to ten agents” is a goal in your hands.
  • It should include items that don’t require money. On my list are a few high-priced items, like vacations and purchases. However, if everything on your list requires that you get rich first, you may never get any traction. Try to include some activities that are cheap or even free. They may require contacts and effort, but not cold hard cash you may not have.
  • It should run the gamut of experiences you desire. Some may be small items, some large, but all things outside of your normal. Still, you’re looking for a range of experience that will enhance your life.
  • It should include others. Not every item must include other people, but find things that involve your closest loved ones. You’ll enjoy some activities far more when you can share them with people dear to you.

And now my words — my list.

  1. Shop for a wedding dress
  2. Travel to the Holy Land (Israel, Egypt)
  3. Write a novel
  4. Own a gazebo
  5. Participate in a musical
  6. Learn to tap dance
  7. Teach a women’s Bible class
  8. Ride in a small private plane
  9. See another opera
  10. Sing at a karaoke bar
  11. Go on a cruise
  12. Attend the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, New York (tennis)
  13. Write a blog
  14. Take ballroom dancing
  15. Host a costume party
  16. Read the Bible all the way through again
  17. Read War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  18. Attend another ministry conference
  19. See Shakespeare in the Park (again)
  20. Record songs I’ve written
  21. Shoot a gun
  22. Go on vacation by myself
  23. Sing the national anthem at an event
  24. Ride in a limousine
  25. Learn military phonetic alphabet

Yes, that’s only 25 of the 40, but some items are a bit personal and others would require explanation. I’ve knocked out several of these, including writing a blog (obviously), teaching women’s Bible class, reading War and Peace, and shopping for a wedding dress which I wrote about here. My Texas friends will be happy to learn that I did go to a shooting range over the holidays, and this born-and-bred Texan has finally fired a real gun. (No, not at anybody. Paper target, y’all.)

I plan to check off several more items in 2014!

So what’s on your bucket/life list? What tips do you have for writing such a list?

What’s on Your Bucket List?

Welcome to Scarlet Thread Sunday, the day I toss out a thread of something I’ve learned in the labyrinth of life.

"Forty is better than 30." - quote from Brooke BurkeSometime ago, I wrote about making a “bucket list” or “life list.” In my case, I turned 40 years old and took stock of what I still wanted to do in my lifetime. That list became my 40 After 40–with forty items of things I wanted to do after turning 40.

One recent day, I was sitting in Café Express with my best friend and we had our laptops open to work. The restaurant WiFi started having problems (uncharacteristic for them, by the way), and we weren’t getting much done. Suddenly, my fabulous BF looked at me and said, “Let’s take you to try on wedding dresses!”

You see, I got married over 20 years ago and wore my mother’s dress. While I chose and loved wearing the dress that she had stitched herself, when I was writing my 40 After 40 list, it occurred to me that I missed that experience of shopping for a dress. So I added “shop for a wedding dress” to my list and moved on.

My best friend remembered that item from my list and prompted me to play hooky and cross it off. Within a half hour, I was at the local bridal shop pulling long dresses with beading, lace, and layers off the rack. I didn’t want to waste the salesperson’s time, so I told the truth about why I was there and fessed up that she wouldn’t be making a sale off me. She thanked me for my honesty and suggested trying three dresses. She helped us pick, and I made my way to the dressing room.

I asked a lot of questions as I tried on the dresses. Perhaps I can use what I learned as novel research someday. (For instance, did you know that the dresses are based on European sizes? So order up a size, American gals.) The saleswoman was wonderful*, and each time I emerged from the dressing room, my sweet friend snapped a pic on my camera.

It was a little like being a princess for an hour.

But I can honestly say I got it out of my system. Trying on wedding dresses was a lovely experience, but I don’t think I want to go back and wear 15 pounds of dress to walk down an aisle. Being married for 20 years (happily, by the way), I’m content with the dress I wore, the vows I took, and the husband I managed to snag.

But I can’t do all of that teasing without sharing, right? So here you go.

Wedding Dress 1
An Oleg Cassini
Wedding Dress 1
The one nobody liked (looked good on the hanger)
Wedding Dress 3
The favorite

And now for crossing items off another list!

ROW80 Update


  • Read 8 fiction books. Halfway through The Sleeping Doll by Jeffery Deaver.
  • Read one craft book: Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies by Deborah Halverson.  Actually finished reading the craft book I started last round and now ready to read this one.
  • Visit and comment on ROW80 blogs as a Round 2 sponsor. Yes indeed! Some great reports out there.


  • Finish writing GOOD & GUILTY, YA mystery. Added 5,447 words and finished the first draft. Done!
  • Complete first round of edits of GOOD & GUILTY. Starting Revision Hell/Deep EDITS this week.
  • Write one short story.
  • Edit two short stories–one needs a final polish, the other a full edit. Marked up the short story that needs a full edit.

Additional Goals

  • Exercise twice a week. Question: How long should one’s knees still hurt after stopping the running plan?
  • Prepare for and attend DFW Conference in May. Received my business cards and worked on pitch; got my agent appointment notification; working on pitch.
  • Prepare for and attend Immersion Master Class with Margie Lawson in June.

So what’s on your “bucket list”? What items have you already crossed off? What item will you be crossing off very soon? (Hint, hint: Get busy.)

*Note: I tipped the salesperson as I left. She had taken quite a bit of time with me and was very sweet about the whole experience. Moreover, I will keep that shop and that saleswoman in mind if I ever need a fancy dress of any kind.

Monday Musings: Facing Forty

Logan's Run - yes, with Farrah Faucet

I can’t remember how I spent birthday number 10, but for my 20th I threw my own birthday party at a local Abilene restaurant and invited my friends, after which we went to a classic movie at the refurbished Paramount Theatre. Year 30 was spent with a newborn in our home watching Logan’s Run and feeling happy that I was neither in that sci-fi world nor relegated to the 1970’s hairstyles sported in that movie. And year 40 was spent realizing that I am – oh my goodness! How did this happen? – FORTY!

I don’t lie about my age or particularly dread the aging process (unless I watch a Depends commercial or catch myself noticing a nice-looking guy half my age). However, age 40 hit me like a buffalo stampede. I was left bewildered and wondering what had happened to so much of my life. Where did it all go? Some days seemed to drag, but the years revved by.

I fell into a contemplative state worthy of a monk or a philosophy student. I figured that I was about midway through this game we call Life, and I needed to regroup and figure out how I was going to play the second half.

So I started a bucket list. But I hate calling it that. I’m nowhere near kicking the bucket! Forty isn’t one foot in the grave! It’s just a few steps closer to the cemetery – you know, where you can kind of see the headstones now but not yet read them (especially not without my glasses). So I counted up my to-do list and found that I had over 30 items. I numbered down to 40 and titled my list “40 Things to Do after 40.”

It’s now merely my “40 After 40” list.  Here are a few of the items:

  • Write a novel
  • Learn to tap dance
  • Sing at a karaoke bar
  • Host a costume party
  • See Shakespeare in the Park
  • Write a blog
  • Ride in a small private plane (open cockpit would be great)
  • Attend the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, New York (tennis)
  • Read War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  • Own a gazebo

I’ve researched tap dance lessons in my area, need to check the upcoming Shakespeare in the Park schedule, and have to wait for a while on the gazebo (they cost $$). Others are in the works as well.  Of course, if anyone has tickets they want to give away to the next U.S. Open, I’d be happy to take those off your hands!)

I’m proud to have crossed some things off my list – including that first novel, starting this blog, and delving into another Tolstoy book with more characters to track than all the roles from the recently cancelled All My Children.

By the way, if you looked at my list and wondered why at past-40 I have never been to a karaoke bar, I can’t explain it. In fact, I’ve been told I sing well enough, so it’s not fear of utter humiliation that prevents me from going. I simply haven’t gotten around to it. Perhaps at the next writers’ conference I attend, I can find some brave people to scout out a nearby karaoke place and help me check yet another item off my 40 After 40 list. I’ll start working on my rendition of “I Will Survive” now. (Am I allowed to ad lib lyrics, such as, “I will survive . . . the book pitch”? That might be a crowd-pleaser!)

Do you have a similar list? How’s it going? What are some of your must-do items for your lifetime?