Coffee’s brewing, and I’m cooking some eggs – Beautiful day in Eugene – I’m going to take a walk later, soak up some vitamin D. Let’s take a moment to talk about something I’ve wrestled with – creativity craft: no more hustle culture. Creativity is a beautiful, fragile human state. Forcing our creativity into hustle culture is the fastest way to kill it. Let’s spend a few minutes talking about why.
I know I’ve talked about hustle culture before, but it bears repeating: ‘The Grind’ is a lie. Art, true creativity, comes directly from you. You can’t fake that, can’t hustle it out of yourself or someone else. How then, do we view the work? When it’s hard, do we say ‘pain is weakness leaving the body?’ I’m going to say ‘No, but …’ Suffering does not equal success. Don’t believe me? Read this quote from /r/bestof that I stumbled across today:
Let’s be clear: suffering is suffering. It’s not a training montage. It’s suffering. Suffering doesn’t necessarily make you stronger. In my experience, certain types of suffering generally make people weaker. Material deprivation, for instance. Material deprivation is a type of suffering that mostly just robs you. It takes years off your life, it limits your opportunities, it worsens your health… studies have shown growing up poor can even lower your IQ. I grew up in a really poor part of rural Arkansas, but I was lucky enough to get out and go to a pretty decent university. I remember when I got there, I assumed that I would be stronger than my classmates–most of them had grown up privileged, after all, and privilege makes you weak, right?
…one of the most unpleasant realizations of my life was the realization that growing up (relatively) poor had actually given me nothing over my classmates. They were smart. They had good attitudes. They worked hard. They were generous… Actually, they were much nicer, harder-working, and giving people than the people I grew up with in Arkansas. They didn’t struggle with substance abuse and depression the way the people I grew up with did. And the worst part: they weren’t petty and afraid like the people I grew up with. That was a rude awakening. I thought I’d be tougher and more resilient than the rich kids I was suddenly going to school with. In fact, I realized growing up with less than them had only given me depression, bad drinking habits, and a chip on my shoulder. That sucked.
Nietzsche’s point was that since life is suffering, the more you suffer, the more you know about life. I guess I agree with that. But honestly, in my opinion, harder times create weaker men who abuse opiates more often and take care of their responsibilities less reliably. Suffering is really cruel that way, I think. – From mechrobioticon
As this Redditor points out, suffering will actually make you worse because the human body is not a piece of iron pounded to create a blade. We don’t do better by hurting ourselves. It doesn’t benefit us to see ourselves as harsh, inhuman machines. What we should be doing is embracing something called ‘antifragility.’
What’s ‘antifragility’ mean? Antifragility is a property of systems in which they increase in capability to thrive as a result of stressors, shocks, volatility, noise, mistakes, faults, attacks, or failures. The phenomenon is well studied in medicine, where for example Wolff’s law describes how bones grow stronger due to external load. We acknowledge the need for stress in ourselves to grow. Indeed, as Yogainternational points out: ‘No stress is unhealthy; too much stress is unhealthy; but the right amount of stress is great.’
So if strength and flexibility are human systems that benefit from stress, it follows that creativity can benefit from the same. However, things like ‘the grind’ and ‘hustle culture’ are logical fallacies that suggest that humans can tolerate increasing amounts of stress forever. That’s simply not true.
From sports injuries, to mental health breakdowns in firefighters, it’s clear that humans have a limit. They can only be pushed so far. Our creativity must be treated like the personal, living system that it is. Going back to that Yogainternational article, ‘the challenge becomes to apply some stress, but not so much that we go over the edge.’ That limit is different for everyone.
So as you write, paint, film, create – treat your creativity as a living system. Work on your creative craft: no more hustle culture. Be productive, but not prodded; active, but not exacting. Our creativity cannot flower under force. Nature never hurries, but everything happens right on time.