The line between working hard toward a goal and hustling is a fine one. That’s why hustle culture is so draining.
Working hard for something is good. We need to have a destination in mind—something that we want to achieve. Maybe we have a series we want to complete or a character we want to bring to life for 300 pages. It takes work. It takes dedication.
When that motivation turns into obligation and burden, though, it may be time to take a step back and reevaluate. What does that even mean? Let’s take a look.
Hustle Culture is a real thing, and it’s a problem.
This doesn’t mean that working hard or having big dreams is bad. The problem lies in maintaining an internal belief that “if you work hard enough you will get there, and if you didn’t get there then you didn’t work hard enough.”
Anyone who has ever been moderately successful at anything will tell you that there is never a straight line from point A to point B. There are setbacks and giant leaps forward, and all kinds of ups and downs along the way.
Life happens, and the road can be full of unexpected bumps and twists and turns. Sometimes you set out to create one thing and it turns into something else entirely. Deviating from your goal is not always failure. Sometimes the accidental destination is even more beautiful than what you set out to do originally.
Rest is part of the process
If you’re a creative, dreaming and resetting are all a part of the process. No one can effectively churn out good work all the time. You need those periods of resting and recharging. They’re essential to you as a human, and as a creator or anything you have to honor your creative cycle.
We all have different productivity thresholds and yours isn’t wrong. Maybe you’re a one book every 5 years kind of writer, that’s okay. If you can write a book in a month, more power to you. The important part is knowing your limits and when you’ve hit them.
Sometimes, the most important thing you can do to complete your project is rest and come back to it with renewed energy.
How do I know whether to push through or step back?
You have to be honest with yourself and figure out where your hangup is.
Time to push through:
- You are bored with your work. This is a fixable problem that you can work on. Maybe you need to rework something. Maybe you need a fresh set of eyes to help you brainstorm. Maybe you need to look at something else for a while.
- You are distracted by all the shiny new projects. Write down your ideas so you don’t forget them, and then keep going. Some writers are more productive when they have projects to jump around in, working on whichever one they feel most strongly about that day. Totally valid. Regardless of how you do it, an abundance of ideas and multiple projects is normal. Just take some time to figure out how to best manage it and keep working on something.
- You hit a bump in your story and don’t know which direction to go. There are a ton of possible ways to deal with this.
- Skip that part and write whatever part you feel ready to write.
- Brainstorm with your writing group.
- Ask beta readers for feedback and evaluate what you have.
- Pause and work on something else, if you have multiple projects.
- Do some story plotting with Plottr or other plotting technique.
If you have no idea how to push through but still feel like you should be writing, take a look at this post for some more ideas.
Time to take a step back:
- Life feels like too much. Sometimes outside forces demand your time and energy. And that is okay. Don’t add more weight if you already feel like life is crushing you.
- If it isn’t bringing you any joy. Do you just genuinely hate writing/creating right now? Does it feel like more work than it’s worth? Are you irritated by the thought of sitting down at your laptop? Then don’t do it. At least, not for a couple days/weeks/however long you need.
It’s easy to confuse frustration and day-to-day exhaustion for burnout, but be honest with yourself and decide if you’re just in a little rough patch or if you really need to step back for a while. You’re not a failure if you decide you need to take a few weeks or even months off. Sometimes life decides what your priorities are.
Don’t believe the Hustle Culture lies
Overall, you need to trust your own process and get to know yourself as a creator. Do you need downtime? Do you do better when you push through rough spots? Are you a 5k a day writer who flies through a book and then taps out for 3 months? Are you a slow and steady writer who reliably churns out 300 words a day?
Whatever works is what you should do.
The bottom line here is that you should not believe the hustle culture lies. You cannot always work yourself from point A to point B, especially in business-like writing where so much of your journey relies on outside forces.
All you can do is consistently show up for yourself and your work and know-how to get the most out of the time you have.
About the Writer: Allie Gravitt is a mom of 4 and lives in metro Atlanta with a house full of animals and plants. Her debut poetry collection, prisonbreaks, and second collection Killing Ghosts are available now on Amazon. Follow Allie’s writing journey on TikTok and Instagram.
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