It doesn’t matter if you do it through a Facebook status or it stays inside your head (or you mumble it quietly to your giant stuffed panda, who does not respond).
A little bit of complaining here and there is normal – maybe even healthy, sort of. But if you know someone who seems to not be able to open their mouth without complaining about something, you know how destructive this habit can be if you indulge too much.
The most destructive kind of complaining, I’ve found, is complaining about work.
Work is inevitable. You have to do it whether you like it or not. Many people do not like it, and don’t hesitate to shout that loud and clear.
I’m one of those people, naturally, for a lot of reasons. When I’m not happy about something, the first thought that usually pops into my head is a complaint.
I realized, about six months into a very frustrating career as a freelance writer, that complaining didn’t actually solve anything. I could complain about the sometimes outrageous demands of my clients as much as I wanted to. That didn’t make anything better. I still had to do the work. I still had to struggle. I still had to find a way to make it work.
Eventually, I stopped complaining. At least, as much as any sane human being can.
That’s when everything changed.
The work didn’t get any easier. Writing rarely does. My income didn’t increase the moment I stopped whining, even to myself, about every little thing throughout my day that didn’t go right.
When I stopped complaining, I actually started paying more attention to why certain things upset me. The sources of my dissatisfaction became much clearer: I was tired of working the equivalent of a full-time job without getting paid what someone with my amount of writing experience deserved. I was frustrated that some of my clients spoke to me as if I didn’t understand what they were asking me to do (far from it).
Mostly, I realized that dedicating all my work hours to freelancing, at least the way I was doing it, wasn’t working. I complained about my job(s) because I was mad at myself for acting so ungrateful to have a steady income in the first place, which many, many people my age did not have.
I was literally complaining about how much I was complaining about work.
It took breaking that habit to understand that my work was making me unhappy.
Don’t get me wrong – I love to write. I love working. I legitimately enjoy what I do, and always have. But the first six months of freelance writing for anyone is more often than not a train wreck. I didn’t even notice how emotionally draining and stressful some of my projects were (or, maybe the people in charge of them). Until I did.
That was what inspired me to start searching for the kind of work that would make me feel energized instead of drained. It took almost eight more months of freelancing to find that work, but it flew by. Because I stopped, as much as I could, complaining about having a job.
Your attitude toward writing makes more of a difference than you think. If you’re not happy about where you are, complaining – a lot – isn’t the right solution. That frustration, that exhaustion, should inspire you to find and work harder to earn the kinds of opportunities that bring you joy.
I’m a much happier human being overall now that I complain less. I’m still going to complain here and there – we all do. But at least now I know that with every complaint, there’s an underlying, unresolved issue that needs my attention. It’s up to me to focus on fixing that – not spending all the remaining energy I have stomping my foot when things don’t go my way.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.