a month of mondays
The chimneys are blowing thick gray smoke above our little drowsy town, and the smoke fades away grasping for the dreary clouds that have enveloped everything. The vibrant colors have gone away. Everything is either white, black, or gray. Gone are the red roofs — hidden under a veil of slowly melting snow. Gone are the green trees — down have come the autumn leaves. Gone are the summer days — and the curtain of the stars and the moon gets drawn too soon. The branches are covered with frost, the only sign of life a sparrow that sees me, wonders what I’m doing, aims at the next tree, and takes the leap. The bites of cold on a neighborhood stroll evoke longing for the comfort of indoors, whose hot breath fogs glasses, warms the hands as dry as oak bark, and heals the red, runny nose — I come back to hot teas, soft blankets, warm showers.
It’s once again the time to turn to short stories, to essays, to the influences of people long gone, who are no longer witnessing the endless scenes of the turning seasons; from the bustling excitement of summer, to the gloomy despair of winter, from the cradle to the grave, over and over again, as it was long before me and will be long after.
Among far too many books I’ve bought this month — and I hope I don’t sound like a snob for saying this — I’ve picked up “Bird by Bird”, a yet-another-book-about-writing, and read that December is the worst month for writing as it is a “month of Mondays”. That might be true, but December is also the best month for reading. The darkness and the cold make the warmth of the book’s embrace a gift that strengthens my appreciation for reading. Schopenhauer said that one should be careful with reading too much as it can make one stupid and compared that to people who ride horses all the time and how they in the end forget how to walk. I have ridden the horse to distant lands this month and I still walk, since I start the days by walking, by revealing my interiority to an old friend with the endless patience who does nothing but listen, never judging, never accusing; as I start the days by opening the diary.
Foucault’s “stultitia” haunts me because I recognize it in myself as I read the older entries. He defined it as “mental agitation, distraction, change of opinions and wishes, and consequently weakness in the face of all the events that may occur”. I change my opinions and wishes. And writing makes this even more obvious, as it is a snapshot of my thinking, which later becomes evidence of all the change. I used to think that I shouldn’t write because my opinions and wishes are not set in stone, and that good writing is downstream of strong opinions, but now I think it’s the other way round — writing as a tool for revealing opinions — one could even say that one builds oneself in the writing process, in these confessions, these reveries.
I recognize this “stultitia” in my switching of writing apps which only spreads me all over the place and makes the note taking useless. I recognize it in abandoning of note taking practice, although I’ve discovered them earlier than they became popular. I recognize it when I read comments from people that discovering those practices is one of the best things that happened to them because that reminded me of how I felt when I discovered it. Recognizing my own abandoned discoveries in other people’s enthusiasm is always a painful experience. Emerson wrote about this in Self-Reliance:
A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.
To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men — that is genius.
I think what made me reject my own thoughts was because no one around me was as excited as I was and didn’t understand. I suspect that I have good sense for detecting what might get popular when it comes to technology, but the self-doubt makes sure I don’t profit from that in any way, since I’m usually met with confused expressions when I air my excitement about it. I’ve known about Bitcoin long before most of my peers, but — of course — I didn’t buy any and I’ve stopped paying attention. I was hyped up about building side projects, but — of course — I didn’t build any that were successful and I’ve lost the enthusiasm. I’ve effectively multiplied all the effort by zero.
If taking writing seriously for these past three years has taught me anything it’s this: improvement is incremental and takes a lot of time and effort, but in the end this effort is not wasted as long as I don’t multiply by zero and as long as I try my best with every attempt. In writing, multiplying by zero doesn’t mean deleting words, sentences, paragraphs, or even entire drafts — doing that is beneficial — it means not writing anything at all.
Yes. The endless cycle repeats once again — and the next year’s cradle will soon replace this year’s grave. It’s the time to reflect and wonder where this year has passed and hope that the next one will be better once again, with less energy spent on worrying about things that don’t happen in the end and more on making oneself resilient to things that inevitably do once again. Less doubt, more conviction. Less cynicism, more hope. Less fear, more action. If I only do one thing better next year I want it to be this — I want to finish what I start.
As always, thank you, dear subscriber, for reading this essay. Thank you as well for the kind words in response to the last month’s essay. I appreciate you. I hope you are enjoying this holiday season in the company of your dearest ones and I wish you a happy and wholesome 2024.