We’ve all heard it proclaimed from Facebook to Instagram to Pinterest: “Hustle, hustle, hustle!” Pithy quotes from overly-ambitious bloggers tell you that “Good things come to those who hustle!” They warn you against “nibbling on mediocrity” because it’s better to choke on greatness.
Now before you write this off as an excuse to laze around in the comfort of mediocrity, let the record show: I believe in hard work. I’m all about dedication and achieving excellence. But this idea of hustle—of constant motion—has to go if we are to achieve anything beyond absolute burnout.
The Truth about Hustle
I used to be a huge fan of the concept of “hustling.” I do, after all, have the tendency to be an over-achiever—which is not inherently a bad thing! In fact, if you scroll way back on some of my Pinterest boards, you can probably find some of those pithy quotes. But over the last couple of years, I’ve learned the truth about hustle.
It’s not better to choke on greatness.
Choking destroys energy, joy, and by extension, creativity. Just because you aren’t moving at an inhuman pace 24/7 doesn’t mean you are incapable of achieving greatness. In fact, as the old story goes, slow and steady wins the race.
As writers, since chasing squirrels is one of our specialties, we are especially susceptible to falling down the black hole of “hustle.” After all, it’s preached at us from every corner of the internet—especially those of us who also work day jobs. We’re told that if we want to succeed, we just need to work harder, longer, and make bigger sacrifices.
But what we really need is to slow down; to work smarter.
The preservation of creativity depends on this. During my period of constant hustle, feeling like I was never doing enough, I found my creativity steadily draining away. Writing became a grind instead of a joy. And I’ve only just started to claw myself out of that world by forming healthy work habits.
How Hustle Hurts Creativity
As I’ve begun the journey out of the “hustle” mindset and into a more balanced lifestyle, I’ve learned that, when it comes to writing and creativity, hustle does far more harm than good.
1: HUSTLE CAUSES UNNECESSARY STRESS
One of the things hustle is notoriously responsible for is creating stress. There’s always one more thing to be done; one more page to be written, one more email to respond to, one more research article to be read before you’re good enough. Before you’re successful enough.
The primary causes of stress in a hustler’s life often stem from two factors:
- Self-imposed deadlines and unhealthy, unattainable goals
As one of my favorite podcasters, KM Weiland put it, it’s sort of like being a bull rider: they look impressive from the outside, but spend the majority of their time hobbling between doctor’s appointments. They’re beat down, bruised, and exhausted. The same is true for most obsessive hustlers if you look behind the Instagram Curtain.
2: HUSTLE CAUSES YOU TO DENY YOURSELF FREE TIME
Creativity happens in the whitespace of life—something chronic hustlers are in the habit of denying themselves. Instead of indulging in some much-needed rest and relaxation, they push themselves to work even harder—to complete that one more thing.
This is, perhaps, the biggest strangler of creativity. Denying yourself the necessity of margin is not only mentally taxing, it can become downright unhealthy. As writers and creatives, it’s time to beat back this mindset that says we have to stay in constant motion. Our creative spirits need space to contemplate; to imagine, wonder, and explore. So if you’re already feeling burnt out, take a break. Even a half hour of silence can refresh the weary mind.
3: HUSTLE OVERLOADS YOUR MIND WITH INFORMATION
This is one of the classic signs of working harder instead of smarter: your mind becomes overloaded with so much information, it dams up your creative flow. You’ve read so many articles your eyes are starting to get blurry. You’ve written so many emails, you can’t remember what day it is.
Eventually, your creativity shuts down to conserve energy. And instead of being productive, you’re just spinning your wheels.
This is why it’s critical not to deny yourself precious free time. Stop telling yourself that you’re only good enough if you’re constantly working. Remember, quality trumps quantity. Give yourself a break (and by break, I don’t mean social media!) to recharge your batteries. It’ll be worth it.
This week, I want to challenge you to tap the breaks. Maybe even slam them. Give yourself permission to work smarter instead of harder; to be intentional rather than hustling blindly forward.
Create a routine that allows you whitespace. This may mean you have to sacrifice an hour of Facebook time, but I promise you, friend, it will be worth it.
So, who’s ready to stop the hustle and get some real work done?
- Are you a chronic hustler? How has it affected your creativity?
- What is the #1 stressor you’ve encountered as a result of too much hustle?
- What’s one way you’ve been able to create whitespace lately? How have you benefitted as a result?