I used to be “that” person.
You know the one. That one Facebook friend who constantly filled your news feed with summaries of everything they had to do and “updates” on their progress, with the occasional “I wish I had time to …” post mixed in.
Unfortunately, using social media to complain about self-inflicted problems isn’t something everyone eventually grows out of, but I learned how to keep most of my unnecessary gripes to myself.
Actually, I mostly learned that the more time I spent on social media, the less time I spent doing actual work, which somehow always led to more complaining on social media … I’m glad I broke the cycle. Moving on.
Sometimes I still catch myself complaining. It’s a bad habit I have to actively work against in every area of my life. Writing is tough. Being a writer is tough. So many things constantly demand so much of our attention and time, and our fear of missing out on every little thing keeps many of us from turning our dreams into goals and our goals into achievements.
I don’t like having to skip a TV show, narrowly avoid spoilers all week, and finally sit down to watch it over the weekend. I wish I were as excited to play with my puppy as she is to play with me when she brings me a toy while I’m sitting at my desk. I would love to spend an entire Saturday sitting around with a book and no responsibilities.
These are completely valid things to want. But I don’t need to vocalize these complaints every single time I have them. Not just because I like my friends and don’t want to give them more reasons to leave me (I LOVE YOU!!), but also because complaining doesn’t change the way things are. And it definitely does not change the fact that I actively choose, every single day, to spend as much time writing as I can.
When it comes down to it — and you may be facing personal circumstances that contradict this, and if so, I sincerely hope things improve for you very soon — whether or not you make the time to write is one hundred percent your choice. No one is forcing you to do it the same way no one is forcing you to give up any number of things in order to Make Words Happen.
Sure, giving up things like TV and infinite puppy playtime makes complete logical sense and really isn’t much of a sacrifice if you think about it. The shows will always be available for streaming at a later date and your fur babies will understand the occasional “here’s something to chew on, we can play in thirty minutes.”
(They will not understand this, of course, but it’s very easy to pretend they do.)
But what about the things that matter more than Grey’s Anatomy and fetch? What about sleep, and exercise, and trying your best not to eat a hamburger every other meal? What about the time you want to spend with your family and the time you have to spend away from them? The friends you keep saying you’re going to make plans with but somehow haven’t gotten around to actually doing that yet?
In life — in the real world, which often clashes with the writing world — there are things we have to give up so we can write. There are also things we have to do instead of write. What these things are, how often they change, and the balance you hopefully find to manage all of it is different for everyone. It may be something someone can coach or counsel you through, but it isn’t necessarily something even a blog or book or course can teach.
This, like so many other things in writing, one can learn best only by doing it. By trying one thing, and then another, until somehow it all ends up working out all right.
And as you work through all the snags and run over new bumps and have to reorganize your life all over again, it’s OK to talk about these things. It’s OK to admit, “Hey, I’m kind of struggling right now, but such is the life of the writer — the struggle always comes before the success.”
But you shouldn’t take that to mean you can — or should — complain all you want about everything that changes because of your desire to make writing a priority in your life. Instead of taking a negative approach to these changes, perhaps many of us need to look at it from a more positive angle.
For example: How cool is it that you get to come home from your day job, spend time taking care of and loving on your family, and then spend a few hours in the quiet and stillness of the night telling stories that other people might get to enjoy someday?
Or: Isn’t it amazing that instead of spending every night in front of the TV consuming stories that other people have already written, you’re sitting in front of your computer writing stories that just came out of your brain somehow that could one day maybe be the stories other people consume on their TVs?
OR OR OR: It’s such a blessing that you are able to sit down and write things as ideas come to you. There are people out there who genuinely don’t have the means of doing that for a number of reasons ranging from a crippling lack of confidence to physical or mental barriers that make the process so much more difficult than it should be.
I suppose it’s whatever you need to tell yourself to remind your tired, uncertain, blocked and/or ever-spinning brain that while there may be things about being a writer you don’t always like, everything that you are and aren’t doing to make writing possible is TOTALLY WORTH THE SACRIFICE.
You should be proud of what you’re making such an effort to do. Not so proud that you get that iffy, cringe-worthy kind of braggy on Twitter, but you get the idea. You are writing! This is a thing you are doing! Wow! You are putting so much of your time and energy and sweat and tears and soul into this work. IT MATTERS. AND SO DO YOU!
Let’s work on this together. Complain less. Praise ourselves more.
You’re doing all the right things. Or at least, you’re trying to.
That is enough.
Good writer. Now have a cookie.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.