Fuck the hustle
“Good things happen to those who hustle.”
“I’ve got a dream worth more than my sleep.”
“Hustle until you no longer have to introduce yourself.”
If these quotes made you cringe or filled you with rage, keep reading.
Hustle culture has always rubbed me the wrong way, and as I got deeper into the process of writing my first novel, I started exploring why.
Now before you come at me with pitchforks and troll comments, I’m not anti hard work. What I am against is the narrative that rest is for the weak, that if you aren’t spending your free time working towards something that you’re wasting time. And most of all, that you must monetize your hobbies.
The process of writing a novel has been fascinating to me. There are a lot of preconceived notions I had that were mostly cobbled together from movies about authors. The closet full of unsold volumes that a student or lover stumbles upon “Oh that old thing…” or the drunkard on a barstool who gets recognized by a fan and launches into a “never meet your heroes” tirade. I was terrified that I would publish a novel and never sell a copy. Or, and potentially more terrifyingly, I wouldn’t actually finish my novel in the first place.
When March 2020 hit, and we were in the height of panic over the COVID-19 pandemic, I noticed a disturbing trend. Hustle influencers referring to our two week isolation period as a “vacation” or “break” and saying that it was not an excuse to rest, it was the perfect time to turn up the intensity on starting a business, or finishing a novel, or just basically hustling harder “Work while your competition is sleeping.” (Seriously, what is their issue with sleep? Don’t even get me started on the 4 am club.)
The damaging thing about this narrative is that it completely ignores mental health. Many of us during that time (myself included) were simply trying to get by. Hustle culture would have us believe that simply getting by is weak or ineffectual. Now, some of you might not know me, but one thing you should know is that I am stubborn. I really don’t like being told what to do. So my reaction when I saw those hustle-fluencers (most of whom were incredibly privileged and barely affected by what was going on around them, and many of whom had businesses and were blithely unaware of employees who were suffering … hello capitalism!) posting that ableist garbage, I responded by doing less. Much less. I showed up to my 9–5 and worked hard yes, but in my spare time? I napped. I binged a TON of shitty TV. I took walks. I listened to the new Taylor Swift album over and over and over. I took a bunch of pictures of trees.
Then, something really incredible happened. I started writing. I found myself inspired and motivated. And in 2021, I finished the first draft of my novel. Because I allowed myself the space and time to rest.
There’s a famous quote misattributed to several different celebrities; “You’ll never be criticized by someone doing more than you, you’ll always be criticized by someone doing less”. While that may be true, should criticism really be what’s driving us to succeed? In 2020 and 2021, I did do more. I did more thinking, more feeling, and I replaced the word “hustle” with the word “align”. I also realized the person criticizing me this whole time was me.
Now, the quotes that motivate me look more like this:
“Your direction is more important than your speed.”
“Your value is NOT tied to how much work you do.”
And my personal favourite …
“Fuck your motivational quote.”