I can write my way out of a paper bag.
There, I said it.
“I am large, I contain multitudes” wrote Walt Whitman.
“Me too,” I replied.
I’m trying to pull a book together. I won’t say write a book because not all of it will be from scratch. The goal is to compile, gather, thread and punctuate several pieces of writing with new connective works. On some days I am fully convinced that this is a great idea. On other days, I end up shaking my head and walking away. And here’s where it gets interesting.
When I walk away (or even run away), what do I do?
I go hustle for approval. That’s right, hustle for approval.
I do this at home, at work, in the car, on my phone, in every imaginable context. I make the play again and again, always hot on the heels of some kind of affirmation goodness. Like this:
I run the dishwasher before my partner gets home.
I pull the secret sweets out of my backpack and hand them to my grumpy 10 y-o late in the afternoon when I still have to go grocery shopping.
My students ask, “Is it Awesome Gym Day?” and I think for a moment before saying “Yes, but you’ll have to set it up.”
I return my library books on time and take out two new books. The librarian smiles at me.
I get on Twitter and start scrolling and read two or three blog posts. I quote retweet with a passage from the piece so folks know that I actually read it.
I sweep the bathroom floor after combing my hair because, you know, all those brittle ends go flying all over.
Of course I braid my big puffy hair so that it lays graceful and flat against the side of my head and provides little cause for comment.
I put plenty of cream on my face so my skin looks smooth, even the bags under my eyes.
When I’m talking to others I try to focus on listening even if I’m not all the way in the mood.
I stand at the far corner of the track so that my athletes struggling through the last 150m of a 400 can hear me cheer them on.
So I far I’ve kept my body in about the same size category for about 40 years. People see me and say “you haven’t changed in years.” The effort required is an ongoing accomplishment and never ending challenge at the same time. The hustle is real.
At the end of the school day, I pack up my equipment and drag it back into storage and try to make sure it goes back into the right spaces. My colleagues trust me not to leave a mess.
At home I maintain a particular level of messiness but I can still find things pretty easily. It’s a skill. I may straighten my space up if we have company. (Rare)
I don’t write on a schedule. But someone somewhere always reads what I post and I can’t really quite get over the miracle of how that all takes place.
When I meet parents I usually know their child and have something good to say about him, her or them.
I read to my youngest before he goes to bed. Both of us love this ritual. There’s a special mutuality to this hustle.
Lots of people I know have a hard time imagining me angry. They have simply never seen me that way.
So these are some of my every day hustles. Writing this post certainly falls in that category, too. Hustling for approval is what I do. I want to be seen, liked, appreciated, and loved.
When I am not working on this larger piece of work that is begging for its own future, this is how I am spending my minutes, hours, days. No mask, just the real deal.
I contain multitudes as much as Walt Whitman and I can write my way out of a paper bag while I run around gathering approval points anywhere I can. Truth.
- I am borrowing the term “Hustle for approval” from Brene Brown who uses “hustle for worthiness” in her work.
2 thoughts on “Writing My Way Out of a Paper Bag”
I love Brene Brown, her books and talks. I enjoyed reading your post and can relate to much of it. This statement captures exactly how I feel about my writing. “On some days I am fully convinced that this is a great idea. On other days, I end up shaking my head and walking away.” Thanks for the perspective!
People who call their work a “hustle” are egotistical. No politician would call their position a “hustle”. Hustles carry the negative connotation of grinding your teeth to the concrete for nickles out of the dollar. Stop “hustling” when you read to your child. Stop “hustling” when you speak to people. In reality, you’re being a blow hard and an egotist. I despise egotists. You lack empathy, and all of your actions have a bottom line. It’s like your mind is in a tunnel.