Life

The Hustle vs. the Fig Tree

Hustle is the dark horse of creativity, the close cousin of grit and tenacity. Without the hustle, drive, and complete devotion to making things happen, you are average.” -Rebecca Rebouché

Like Sylvia Plath, I sometimes find myself sitting under the fig tree, contemplating the years ahead of me. What will I do with the rest of my life? Which version of myself do I want to become? So many to choose from. The biggest fig of all is the one where I’m writing, but within that large, juicy fruit are different rooms. In one, I’m among other writers and we’re debating heatedly on what happens to the main character of Shonda Rhimes’s new television show. In another, I’m alone in my office, pulling an all-nighter. The world is asleep and I’m in the zone, grinding out the meaty parts of my first novel.

Another fig is the one that’s always in the background, small but firm with sweet juice inside. It is the one where I devote my life to acting. Inside that fig, I see brilliant energy bursting from a stage. Music is always present. Sometimes I dance. Sometimes the stage transforms into a movie set with cameras instead of a live audience. Always, I am a new person. A very fluid fig, that one.

But today, the fig that is hanging low, beckoning me from the corner of my eye, is the one where I’m a photographer. There’s something romantic about being a human exploring parts of the earth with a camera. I don’t think I’d make much of a landscape or still life photographer though. No, what I want to is to create worlds in front of the camera’s eye. I want to go to markets where I gather props from other people’s lives, bring them to my studio, and then use them to build a story. I want to find interesting models that lack inhibition, place them inside my stories, and let them come alive.

More figs swing gently on branches in the distance. I think about having a taste of each of these figs. Just a small bite in alternating turns. Even typing this now, the idea comes out flat. The moment I sink my teeth into the fruit, it is punctuated and therefore begins to rot. You don’t take a bite of several different apples each; you eat one apple until it’s gone, and then you start on another, if you like. Perhaps figs are different. They don’t rot as quickly.

I think about people that I read about in magazines, who are leading creative lives. The difference between them and I is that I’m sitting here writing about my dreams and they’re out there making it happen. Did they have to struggle to choose a fig, I wonder? No matter. The only truth is what they have created.

You don’t find time; you make time. Keep the fig tree in view, but hustle. Hustle, hustle, hustle.

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