A manifesto for a more wondrous age.


This is Monochromatic Aberration, the newsletter of Ian J. Battaglia, a writer and photographer based out of Chicago. Click through to view this post on the blog mnchrm.co, and if you no longer want to receive these emails, feel free to click to unsubscribe link at the bottom.

I used to think of myself as someone who lacked diligence. As I made my way into adult life, I struggled to sustain habits. Many were things I really wanted to do, but for some reason or another, at some point they fizzled out. Not to say I gave up on things forever, I just had a tough time being consistent.

I’d always been a procrastinator as a kid, and it’s something I struggle with even now. I’ve gotten better at it, for sure, but I still find it’s far too easy for me to tell myself that I’ll just get to something later, or to start and get distracted and move to something else, etc., etc. Maybe this is productivity brain at work, but I always wanted to have some sort of clear routine, working towards my goals or doing my hobbies day in and day out; I just struggled to get there.

I mentioned this offhand to one of my Japanese teachers once, and she seemed surprised. “You’ve studied Japanese every day for years now. We’ve had classes together every week for over a year—you even do your homework.” Hearing this was sort of a revelation for me. I’m not sure why it didn’t occur to me alone, but sometimes you can build up a perception of yourself that only others can change. I suddenly noticed that I had become diligent without even knowing it. I’ve been writing, running, meditating, etc. for years. Maybe not every day, but there was nothing stopping me from doing so. All I had to do was decide to change it.

That’s exactly what I did last year with journaling. I’ve been an off-and-on journaler for years, but for some reason or another I hadn’t managed to be consistent with it. Sometimes I’d step away for a day or two, and sometimes I’d go months without journaling at all. For a while, I thought that was fine too. The creator of the journal I use (Hobonichi Techo), Shigesato Itoi even has a quote about it, noting that the blank pages are part of the story you’re writing, too. Of course, I still think that’s fine, but last August, I decided I wanted to journal every day.

At first, it was hard; so many days I thought for a brief moment I’d skip it, or just get to it tomorrow, before forcing myself to go and do it. I’d think, “Do I really want to end my streak already?” I did not want to. As of today, I’m up to 340 consecutive days of daily journaling. I’m excited to reach one year, and then to finish filling in this whole book after that.

This is a simple example, but I think the point is broadly applicable. My ability to journal didn’t change, only my willpower. I heard something recently, that a habit is not like a chore on the way towards who you want to be, it’s you as that new version of yourself. I often used to think to myself that I’d like to do something for an hour a day, but for me just getting started is the hard / important part. I just need to decide to sit down and write, to go out for a run, to practice something a bit; the rest comes easy.

Of course, this is only the start of a journey, but deciding to do something and sticking with it goes a long way. I saw this tweet last night:

For the unaware, “Bocchi the Rock!” is a currently running manga series that was recently adapted into an anime. In it, a girl named Hitori with social anxiety gets really good at guitar in hopes of joining band.

Hitori with her guitar.

Of course, the series' popularity inspired many to pick up guitar; myself included! So seeing the above tweet made me kind of sad. Of course, that’s the way things go. Most people aren’t gonna stick with a hobby for one reason or another, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with moving on from something that doesn’t suit you. But the top reply to this tweet notes that in the series, Hitori was practicing six hours a day for years (due to her lack of friends). That’s certainly extreme, but you’d be surprised how well you could do with just 20 minutes a day a few times a week.

I slowed down on guitar while I focused on the gym, but I’ve gotten back into it. I guarantee some of the people who returned or resold their guitars were better than me, or had practiced for longer. But I’m still out here, practicing, and getting better. What are you working on?

That's all for me this time. Thanks for reading this far. If you really liked this, I’d appreciate it if you told a friend or shared it with someone! Our member count on the site is slowly climbing, and it’s really been heartening to hear everyone’s nice comments and see the community continue to grow.

Stay Strong,

From Chicago with love,

— I

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