I Love Mondays—Don’t You?

When I was a kid, I used to hate Mondays. I used to hate having to get up early in the morning, get dressed, and walk to school. My teeth were often clattering as I got dressed—I was always cold even if it wasn’t necessarily cold in the house. I felt weak and watery and would have rather done anything else than leave the house. I used to count the days left until the summer break when Mondays suddenly lost the oppressive power they held during the rest of the year.

Through my childhood and up until adolescence, I dreaded Mondays, their inexorable arrival, that empty feeling of having to wake up early and go to a place you don’t want to go to, the dusty, loud, communal atmosphere in the classroom, which was so different from the protective quiet at home. It wasn’t that school was all that bad, but the idea of having to get up and go every morning, and to do it early, really haunted me.

I believe life’s not worth living if you hate your Mondays. Because there are so many Mondays in your life, and they always come after the weekend. What’s the point of resting on Sunday if you’re going to begin a new week cycle that requires you to rest again the following Sunday? A cycle that invariably starts on Monday?

There are many drawbacks to dropping out of school like I did, but there are also benefits. And one of them is that you can design your own Mondays.

Put another way, why make Monday a compromise that you need in order to enjoy the weekend? Why not make Monday an end in itself, and fill it with things you want to do?

My Mondays tend to be quite alike:

  • I wake up without an alarm clock when my body feels it needs to get up, which is almost always between 8:00-8:45. I would be up earlier, but I tend to stay up past midnight, my favorite hour.
  • After the regular toothbrush and bathroom routine, I do some exercises for about 40 minutes or so.
  • I drink a glass of water.
  • I do not check my phone or even look at it—it remains untouched on the nighstand until later in the day.
  •  I sit down or stand up (because sitting down for too long is not healthy) and write for two hours or so. Sometimes it’s more, sometimes less, it depends on what story I’m working on. Either way, I don’t use the computer. I have an AlphaSmart, a kind of portable, analog typewriter, or else write by hand. I like my mornings to be screenless.
  • I eat brunch standing up while listening to an audiobook or radio program and then drink a cup of tea.
  • I meditate for 10-15 minutes or so and read for about 1 hour.
  • Depending on the weather and time of year, I may take a quick bicycle ride or walk around the neighborhood. Otherwise, I just see to the day’s work. By then it’s well past noon.
  • I work until the evening with constant breaks for healthy snacks and/or smoothies or to stretch my legs in the garden. Most of my work as a freelancer is writing, but I also edit and manage other writers at times.
  • I eat dinner and listen usually to some music.
  • I read or lie down for a bit or do some editing for my stories.
  • Depending on whether I had gone cycling on or not earlier and the time of the year, I go on a quick walk around the neighborhood.
  • Then, at night, I may read some more or work on my own stories until an hour or so past midnight.

I like routine. My brain likes it, my body needs it. But I like to make my own routine, or rather, to let my body and my brain choose the routine that suit them, rather than have it imposed on me by others.

I often surprise myself just how much I like my Mondays and how swiftly they pass because I’m in a state of flow. If I’d have to choose the day I die, I’d like it to be Monday.

I don’t know what you are up to right now, but I hope you look forward to your Mondays. I hope you enjoy thema and don’t think of them with dread. If you don’t enjoy your Mondays, do whatever you can to change them.

Make your Mondays personal. Make them reflect who you are. Fill them with things you want to do. Even if it means making less money.

Mondays should set the pace for the rest of your week. They should not feel like a compromise you need to put up with so you can enjoy the weekend. Your Mondays should be yours. You should be proud of them.

“This should be the spirit every Monday. Know that something good will always happen.”

Gabriel García Márquez

There’s a lot more happiness in having good Mondays than in many other things we usually associate with happiness. Trust me on this one.

Life is too short and precious for lousy Mondays. Claim your Mondays. Make them your own. We live in a time and age when we have the priviledge to do that.

8 Things You May Have to Give Up to Become a Better Writer

Papers lying on the floor

Reading a lot and making writing a daily habit are bound to make you a better writer. But often, it’s not enough. You have to create in your life the space you need to grow as a writer. You need freedom. And to gain this freedom, you have to give up things and say no to people. It can be painful. But if you’re into it for real, you have to.

1.     Blogging

Maybe you blog too much. Maybe you turn to blogging instead of revising your manuscript or rewriting that troublesome chapter that’s been nagging you for months.

Blogging is great, but if you’re working on a book, you need to be careful – it can distract you. It’s one of the reasons I don’t blog as much as I used to.

2.     Social Media

Is there a greater time-sink for a writer than social media? I’m not crazy about social media, but its many tentacles remain a constant threat.

I have a simpel rule: I don’t check anything on social media until after I write or edit or revise things. I can survive for days, nay, weeks without social media. Can you?

3.     The Wrong Job

The world is full of meaningless jobs that create a false sense of purpose. Or jobs that simply serve other people’s interests. I’ve been fortunate enough not to be dragged into any such job. But as a freelance writer, I’ve experienced clients and projects who turned out to be more trouble than they were worth.

If you want to write as a way of life, you need to have the strength to say no to any job that clashes with your ambitions. If you’re a freelancer, choose to have as much control as possible over the projects you take on, even if it means sacrificing money. Otherwise you could be stuck in a loop.

4.     False Love

If writing is an integral part of your life, the person at your side should understand this. Not everyone will. You may argue that love is more important than writing, and I agree with you. But you see, if writing is a part of you, you have to accept that; and the person next to you needs to accept it too.

If he or she can’t, they are simply changing you into what they want you to be. They do something selfish. Believe in writing. Writing will help you find love. Readers are the most beautiful people on Earth.

5.     Fast Food

Fast food and sitting at your desk for hours is an explosive combination that could get your hospitalized. Get into the habit of cooking your own food. Or choose to work in cafes close to healthy restaurants.

6.     Certainties

Making it as a writer is tough. It’s more like a marathon than a sprint. It calls for endurance in the face of many uncertainties.

You may not have a steady income. You may worry that the book you’ve worked on for years won’t make you any money. You may also doubt yourself and your choice to be a writer.

But all these doubts, all these uncertainties, are the flip side of being who you really are and not who others think you should be.

7.     Other People

Writing is one of the most solitary jobs in the world. It’s for people who not just enjoy being on their own, but who need solitude need it on a fundamental level or they become unhappy (or start acting mad).

8.     A Fixed Place in Society

Whether you’ll be immortalized in a statue or wholly ignored is mostly beyond your control. You need to be able to think of yourself as a loose cog in society, one that may or may not ever fit in with others.

Picking up a pen is nothing like putting on a white coat or a uniform so grow a thick skin.

Closing Thoughts

In the end, we are the sum not only of what we choose but also of what we give up. Today, when we are swamped with choices and false comforts, we need to have the strength to say no to retain our freedom.

As writers, we have to give up more than adverbs or first drafts. We have to say no to distractions, other people, certainties, and lousy jobs.

We need to write our life off-page with as much courage as we write in on-page. Otherwise, our words will not ring true, and our writing will only be a regurgitation of what more courageous people than us wrote before us.

Over to you: What else do we need to give up to become better writers? (Not my blog, I hope!)

When Your Life Feels Too Short

“Life is so short,” you hear people say. “It passes like a dream. It seems that only yesterday I was a kid.”

I disagree. Life is not short, not unless we let our mind make it so.

I am only 26 years old, but I have lived a great deal already. I would like to say that I have done everything – that I have climbed mountains and backpacked my way through South America; that I have loved many women; that I have read all the great books and written some great books myself.

That is not the case, at least not yet. There are many experiences that I have not had and that I would like to have. And yet, whenever I am reminded of my age and of the past that is behind me, I find myself reassured by the depth of my experiences.

I know that I can turn inwardly to a thousand rich memories nestled in me and find in them good proof of the long years I have lived already.

Such as the many days I spent in the park, walking mindfully in a refreshing world of green and blue, or cycling through it in the hush of cool summer nights.

Or how once I knelt before a girl to tie her shoelaces. (She was rather mean to me after, but somehow that does not sour my happy memory).

Or the first shave I gave my grandfather after his stroke.

Or when, as a kid, I understood that my father was sick and that he would soon die.

Many of my memories are tinged with sadness, and some are dreary. But I find that sad memories have the power to take me to a depth of feeling otherwise inaccessible to me, that sets the measure of what it means to be human.

“Among all living creatures, it is man that lives longest. The brief dayfly dies before evening; summer cicada’s knows neither spring nor autumn. What a glorious luxury it is to taste life to the full for even a single year. If you constantly regret life’s passing, even a thousand long years will seem but the dream of a night.” – Yoshida Kenko

Taking the time to remember, whether aloud with others, or quietly alone, makes life seem longer and deeper. One memory encourages another, and more than images and scenes, it is feelings and moods that we remember, that is, that we recreate.

For memories themselves are not mere reproductions of something that has been, but signposts for the present. Good or bad, inspiring or depressing, memories guide our steps, influence our direction.

But more than our memories, it is what we do and how we do it that determines the length and depth of our lives. Boredom is often a warning sign.

“What people call boredom is actually an abnormal compression of time caused by monotony – uninterrupted uniformity can shrink large spaces of time until the heart falters, terrified to death. When one day is like every other, then all days are like one, and perfect homogeneity would make the longest life seem very short, as if it had flown by in a twinkling.” – Thomas Mann

There was a time when I used to do the same things at the same hours, eat the same food, play games with myself, all under the burden of a great sadness. Now, looking back on those times, I find them compressed to but a few memories, and even those scant and shallow.

We have to be careful about such habits, not to slid into them even if they are a protection from depression and sorrow. All too often, comfortable habits easily become monotonous ones.

But then it doesn’t take all that much to refresh habits. Only presence, together with some hope and a bit of confidence.

“Habit arises when our sense of time falls asleep, or at least, grows dull; and if the years of youth are experienced slowly, while the later years of life hurtle past at an ever-increasing speed, it must be habit that causes it. We know full well that the insertion of new habits or the changing of old ones is the only way to preserve life, to renew our sense of time, to rejuvenate, intensify, and retard our experience of time – and thereby renew our sense of life itself.” – Thomas Mann

Our sense of time is a habit itself, I would say. If we do not remember, if we not to turn inwardly, if we do not refresh our habits, life will seem short, unpleasantly so.

But if we do all that, then on those days when age or sorrow folds our life like an old, overused fan, making it seem light and insubstantial, then we will have our habits and our turning inward to make us say,

“No, life is not short, it is not a waking dream. Life is long. I may not have done all that I wanted to do, but I sure lived a lot already.”