Gambling, Blog Posts, and Expenses
Imagine you have a terrible gambling habit. How do you break it? Mark down every time you gamble. Note how much you spent and where you spent it. Don't let yourself forget. And if you won't let yourself forget about it for long enought, you might try to do something about that habit.
This is exactly what George Washington did when it came to his own fits of gambling. His journals are filled with anecdotes about his gambling escapades. When he gambled. Where he gambled. How much he spent. Who he was with. That was the kind of guy Washington was. A meticulous note taker of everything in his life.
But this meticulousness was more than a quirk. “Washington’s contemporaries recognized,” Ron Chernow writes, “that this compulsive note taking, this itch to record his every action, went to the very essence of this well-regulated man.” Chernow, however, didn't know where to draw the line with the gambling passages in his journals:
“One wonders whether this detailed list simply reflected Washington’s compulsive record keeping or whether it was a way to monitor a perceived moral failing.”
We cant draw the line either. But there is something to this note taking.
Because for me, not keeping track of my expenses is a bad habit. Money management apps and spreadsheets rub me the wrong way. I cannot keep up with them to do me any good.
But I wonder if a solution is under my fingertips. Something I use to publish words like these. Write.as itself.
I could create and keep a blog. I hesitate to write 'blog' because Write.as calls it a 'collection'. In this case, collection does more justice. A collection of expenses.
With each expense as a post instead of a cell on a spreadsheet, my mind changes around the act of documenting them. I view the exercise like writing in a journal rather than clicking on an app. It becomes a calming practice. At the same time it allows me to face the music like Washington did with his gambling. All of my expenses laid out in chronological order with personal notes for each. No stats. No window dressing.
At its base level, Write.as is a publishing platform. You can publish anything. But we are conditioned to think in blog posts. Why must everything I write be a composition, a poem, an essay? Why cant I post my expenses?
It reminds me of a question Michel Foucault asks in “What is an Author?”:
If we wish to publish the complete works of Nietzsche, for example, where do we draw the line? Certainly, everything must be published, but can we agree on what 'everything' means? We will, of course, include everything that Nietzsche himself published, along with the drafts of his works, his plans for aphorisms, his marginal notations and corrections.
But what if, in a notebook filled with aphorisms, we find a reference, a remainder of an appointment, an address, or a laundry bill, should this be included in his works? Why not?