For all its various definitions, “hustling” appears to have no truly positive meaning. In the sense of “hurrying” it’s at best neutral to my way of thinking. Hurrying isn’t automatically either good or bad–that would depend entirely on what it is one is hurrying toward or away from.
When paired with “bustle” it’s again neither positive nor negative. It’s only within the context of a sentence or paragraph that we gain insight as to the emotional weight of that particular phrase. The country boy forced to visit the big city for the first time in order to receive life-saving medical treatment might be overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle. The ambitious young actress might sup on it as if it were food.
Mostly, though, “hustling” is a word which conveys various senses of brusqueness, coercion, pressure and even chicanery. It’s so often about personal gain without allowing for thought of the consequences on others.
Essentially, “hustling” is what seems to have elevated many folks to their exalted positions today. People who display no discernible skills somehow garner attention. So-called news websites cater to this by producing click-bait “stories”, almost all of which refer to breasts in either a subtle or conspicuous way. Usually conspicuously.
The thing is, we’re all feeding that monster. Okay, not all of us, but enough to make it worthwhile for those websites to keep pumping out the utter non-events, with headlines worded to somehow draws folks into following links. Stop clicking the links, people!
The publishing industry certainly hasn’t escaped similar treatment. Plenty of non-authors have jumped into self-publishing without actually having a product to sell. Assemble the minimum words, throw a cover on it, toss it out onto websites. I’m not being cynical here, either. There are literally people—let’s call them awfurz—who are publishing word assemblies in English which not only make no sense, it’s essentially unreadable. Yet some of those awfurz are doing fairly well financially because… well, I admit, I don’t know the answer to that.
The hustling side of things is a two-way street these days also, with the advent of several new options. The policy some distributors have to allow customers to return books they’ve finished, but without giving them any hoops to jump through, is a tad disheartening from the author side of things. Personally I’ve never returned a book, but while I hate seeing returns in my sales figures, I try to take them in my stride. Perhaps people genuinely disliked the product, and I’d rather they not resent the author for having to keep something they hated.
Of course, there are folks out there who abuse that option. Hustling for free books by simply exercising the options presented to them.
I was informed a couple of years back about a particular book-related website where folks would give books 1-star ratings without reviewing them. Again, this is rather disheartening for an author. Often times we can accept a 1-star review (hell, it’s not like we have a choice!) if only it offers some insight as to what the reader hated. With no review to read, you kind of want to sit and rock in the corner with your thumb in your mouth. Or maybe that’s just me.
It turns out, however, that many folks were using this as a method to mark the books they’d like to read. 1-star ratings as a search tool, essentially. Of course, they could have considered something wildly radical like making a document in Word and typing the titles in, but wouldn’t that mean more work? And wouldn’t that fly in the face of the hustling philosophy? Personal gain. No allowance for consequences on others.
And don’t get me started on trolls.
So why do we do it? Not just authors, but why does anyone continue in a creative field, or a manufacturing field, or any other field? Why, when there are barriers at every turn?
Because there’s one other definition of “hustling”. To strive. To endeavour. To pull out all the stops. Not writing our stories—not trying, not pushing, not hustling—would be awful.
I won’t speak for others, but I feel my view would be shared by many; the thrill I get when I stack words together in just the right way is amazing. It can be akin to finishing a 30,000 piece jigsaw puzzle.
For authors, finishing a novel pushes the same buttons as finishing a marathon does for runners. And I guess that’s a form of hustling too. We write for our own pleasure, without allowing for the consequences on others. If we did that—wrote purely what the market told us we should—then we would never write what’s in our hearts.
And then, we might as well join the ranks of the awfurz.