Tag Archives: Hustle

On having no hustle

Several major players in my life have recently pointed out that I lack hustle. They say that I don’t apply to enough things. I don’t ingratiate myself with powerful people. I don’t ask my former writing professors to recommend me for fellowships and residencies. I don’t dress like a ham sandwich and hang out on the street corner, proselytizing about ham sandwiches. I just don’t have the temperament for it. Which is not to say that I haven’t defied my own nature at times and attempted to hustle. I’ve sent some embarrassing emails over the years. These bids for love and attention trill with false modesty and labored charm. I always feel far more sympathetic to the poor souls on the receiving end of these needy emails than I do to myself, the sender.

We’re told that everyone hates the hustle, but you just have to suck up your pride and crippling social anxiety and do it or you’ll never get anywhere. You have to play the game, fake it til you make it, network, ask for help, never give up, never surrender. But I’m not sure hustle is a quality I want to have. Other people impress me when they aggressively go after what they want. I don’t devalue their hustle (unless they’re Republicans). And I’m not na├»ve enough to believe that successful careers just happen organically, without cocktail parties and emails. But why do I need to be successful in the first place? I think my real life’s ambition is something more in line with being an anonymous contemplative than sharing a billboard with Jeffrey Eugenides.

Which brings me back to my perennial dream of working as a long-distance truck driver. A person has to make money somehow, and I love to drive. I love to think about things through a wide window. And you can only go so fast behind the wheel. There’s always a speed limit. I find that fact really comforting, especially coming from the literary field where there’s no cap on how smart or talented or prolific you’re supposed to be. Even if you’re happily driving your beat-up Subaru 35 miles an hour through a school zone, you imagine that someone else is driving 95 miles an hour, with the cops chasing him, jumping drawbridges and shit, and your experience is ruined. As a professional truck driver I can drive 65 miles an hour all day long, receive a consistent paycheck, eat snacks from my lap, and have total freedom to meditate quietly on life while an unobtrusive radio bolsters my thoughts with an 80s soundtrack.

I can still write short stories at truck stops. I can still read books if they’re on tape. But no one will be able to accuse me of not having hustle. “In this business,” I’ll say, “hustle kills.”