I’m not an impulsive shopper. I don’t just “treat myself” for the heck of it or when I feel down and retail therapy is extremely rare for me. I don’t wear makeup and my skincare routine is nonexistent. I live in sweatshirts and jeans. I don’t even buy journals as much as I used to. I don’t have a Netflix subscription. The only thing that probably would be considered self-indulgent for me is buying a Venti regular black coffee from Starbucks (I’m still saving $1 by not buying that latte) and splurging on an occasional $10 iTunes album (only if I really, really love a particular artist). I would say, by modern standards, I am probably the least self-indulgent person you’ll ever meet.
Even as a minimalist, it’s still so easy to fall into a trap of avoidance. While I may not have many material items distracting me or the urge to shop, I still don’t think I am where I need to be and as someone who isn’t “quite there yet,” writer’s block is something I have yet to conquer. I want to be prolific and be a high-powered writer, but somehow I haven’t mastered it yet.
To Hustle Or Let Things Go?
Due to the glorification of the 80-hour side hustle, non-stop productivity, and 6-month success stories, I’ve seen so many other articles written in opposition to that. People are quick to point out that hustling is terrible for your physical and mental health and it’s extremely counterproductive to feel guilty about all the things you’ve failed to do five years ago. I get it. Not everyone is meant to be extraordinary and not everyone can achieve mega-success in a relatively short amount of time.
I have been a published article writer since September 2018, but I started blogging in 2014. I would have short bursts of “mass-production” until I lost motivation (life got in the way) and discontinued those blogs.
Now it’s May 2019. And I’m still a new writer who’s very obscure. I only have 70 followers on Twitter and 220 followers on Instagram (and it always fluctuates). I haven’t gotten agents approaching me for a book deal and no one’s reached out to me for a paid writing position. Although money and other external forms of success were not my motivations for writing (I did it as a way to cope with my existential worries and to clarify my thinking), I still am a bit disappointed in myself for not being as far as I could have been and it’s not because of the lack of the book deal and lack of paid writing gigs. It’s because of how few articles I actually have put out there and the intense feeling of resistance and fear when I have an idea of what I want to write but I end up not starting it.
I’m not just another wannabe writer…
I know I am capable of being prolific. I have demonstrated this before through various writing projects that were completely done out of love for the craft: I wrote a 100,000-word novel in a month. I wrote my first poetry book in a week and my second over in a week as well. I even wrote 115,000-word book on Theology (a very heavy topic that not too many young people, not even people in seminary, are interested in writing about) in two months. When I started my first blog, I was posting three times a day for three months straight (before I decided to shut down my blog and focus on finishing my degree). When I took four upper-level English classes (meant for English majors) in addition to my heavy STEM course load, I was still able to meet strict deadlines and get above 90 on all my papers, along with favorable and oftentimes enthusiastic comments from my professors — I’m not saying this to brag but rather to prove to myself that I am a real writer and not the stereotypical dreamer who doesn’t get anything done.
I know I am a fast writer, but within the past seven months, I have only managed to write somewhere between 10 to 20 articles per month, which by professional writing standards is WAY below the average. I am not complaining about lack of followers or lack of views because I completely understand that my output isn’t enough. I don’t feel guilty about this as much as I used to. All I know is that I need to level up and do the intense work if I want to become more prolific.
What I mean by coddling myself
To me, coddling myself means choosing to distract myself with other things that have no relation to my goals — watching people lead “perfect” lives on Instagram (and feeling bad for not being marketable as them), taking 4-hour naps because “I’m tired,” and going down Internet rabbit holes and reading so many articles without applying anything I’ve read to my own life. Although I may be tempted by fewer things (as an introverted homebody with no friends, I don’t go out at all and I’m not particularly adventurous and I’m somehow immune to the travel bug), I am a struggling and average human who can’t help but self-sabotage and shy away from more difficult challenges that would actually propel me forward to where I really want to be. However, the biggest way I’ve been coddling myself is telling myself this lie — that I am acceptable as I am and I don’t need to prove my worth, meaning everything I do has to be for a “pure reason” without any external measures of progress. I keep telling myself I want to write for the love of it and don’t give a damn about what other people define as “success.” But this is the biggest and most destructive lie I’ve ever told myself because it’s held me back and I’ve had numerous nights in which I chose to scroll and consume so much content while putting my article writing on the back-burner. In essence, I chose temporary ease over long-lasting fulfillment. I chose pleasure over purpose because I thought I was going to be a hobbyist forever and would only write “when I feel inspired.” And right now, I am not satisfied. I may not feel guilty about it anymore, but I’m still not satisfied. I know I can do better.
I completely understand why most people advocate improving yourself out of self-love and not out of guilt — with guilt, comes even more procrastination and avoidance of doing the difficult work because of how overwhelming it is. Striving to improve yourself out of guilt is only going to keep you trapped in a cycle of avoidance and escapism, so it’s important to identify why you want to be more consistent and prolific. You have to have a naturally high level of interest, innate skill to start with, a singular focus, and a militaristic work ethic.
If you’re being honest with yourself, you probably need a kick in the rear (to put it quite frankly), especially if you are ambitious but are still so far behind due to not completing all the projects that you wanted to do five years ago. Ignore what people say about “treating yourself,” or taking as many breaks as you need to because it can be very difficult to break out of overconsumption and neglect your higher, ideal self for the sake of comfort and avoidance of failure.
You may not be able to make up for lost time within the next month, but right now you can choose to take action and finish one little thing and attempt to do it every single day.