A Complaint About Complaints

I was born on a Wednesday.

Growing up, anytime I whinged in the slightest, I’d be mocked.

Wednesday’s child is full of woe!” (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s a reference to a nursery rhyme.)

Perhaps the continual mockery shaped me. Perhaps it is why now this Wednesday’s child has next to no patience for woe… especially when it comes from fellow authors.

I’m not selling enough copies! I have no inspiration! Everything I write is crap! No one would ever publish my work. There’s no point even trying.”

Sure, everyone complains at some point. Writing – and life in general – can be frustrating, and we all need a good moan now and then (as exampled by this very post).

BUT.

One thing is a little sulk, a one off complaint. Another thing is continually complaining about the same things.

So you’re not selling enough copies, don’t have inspiration, and think your writing is crap.

What are you going to do about it?

Standing there moaning solves NOTHING.

If you’re unsatisfied with your lot, make a plan. Write down your complaints and set achievable goals to improve the situation.

Think your writing is crap? Find a critique group, read critically, keep practicing. Not selling enough? Reevaluate your marketing strategies, try new techniques.

All that time you spend sitting about moaning is time wasted.

Do SOMETHING.

If only for my sake, and the sake of all the other Wednesday’s children who’ve been mocked for complaining.

Over to you. Is there anything you’re not happy about when it comes to your writing? And if so, what are you going to do about it?

9 thoughts on “A Complaint About Complaints

  1. Well, I *will* complain about it from time to time, if I feel like it. I mean, that’s in part what Twitter is *for*. I’m not going to be held to a higher standard than any other tweeter out there just because I’m writing stuff — it’s a place to vent, right?

    • Everyone’s entitled to complain now and then, but some people are perennial complainers who don’t bother to DO anything / take steps towards changing what’s making them unhappy.

      As for Twitter, I think the site is what you make of it. I don’t want to follow people who only complain about things – or give my readers the impression that all I do is complain!

      Since, as an author, you have to “sell” yourself as a brand, then personally I WOULD hold myself to a higher standard than the generic Joe Bloggs on there with a personal account.

      • The question is what are the people following you on Twitter expecting to see. They’re not expecting to see professionalism per se — they are expecting not to be inundated with requests to buy things. Occasionally they’re expecting, I think, to see the people they follow talk about problems.

        For example, web cartoonists will occasionally complain about having problems with a particular comic they’re working on. Not over and over, but they do. Because on twitter they (occasionally) talk about their process. Same thing. Process isn’t always “hey this is going perfectly.”

        Of course it’s possible to overdo that, and I’m sure a lot writers do. I unfollow after the second or third “this is on sale now” in the space of half a day.

        But my “brand” as a writer is “I’m a guy who writes fiction,” not “I’m a corporate entity who delivers content according to specifications and deadlines.” The latter requires an entirely different presentation, but I would argue that presentation will make people less likely to follow you.

        • I think we’re in agreement.

          I’m totally down with people talking about problems they’re having with particular things (plots, characters, chapters, whatever…) – that’s normal. I don’t count talking about process as whining.

          What I’m talking about is people who just go, “Why does nobody like my stuff? Why isn’t anyone buying it?” Or people who complain they have no ideas, yet when you actually speak to them about it, admit that they never even bother to TRY writing.

          Or worse yet, “OMG this person wrote a horrible review, I hate them, can everyone go spam them?”

  2. Discontent and frustration are basic to humanity and they drive change. If it is possible to see a situation that is unsustainable or system that does not work and to also see a solution, there is no need for frustration or complaint. Sadly it is rare to find both problem and solution.

    Moaning might not DO anything, but it is the precursor to change.

    Lxx

    With great insight comes great sorrow, the more the wisdom the more the grief. Ecc 1:18

    Healthy discontent is the prelude to progress.
    Mahatma Gandhi

    Discontent is the first necessity of progress.
    Thomas A. Edison

    I think ‘Dilbert’ will remain popular as long as employees are frustrated and they fear the consequences of complaining too loudly. ‘Dilbert’ is the designated voice of discontent for the workplace. I never planned it that way. It just happened.
    Scott Adams

    The mind is a machine that is constantly asking: What would I prefer? Close your eyes, refuse to move, and watch what your mind does. What it does is become discontent with that-which-is. A desire arises, you satisfy that desire, and another arises in its place.
    George Saunders

    We are, perhaps, uniquely among the earth’s creatures, the worrying animal. We worry away our lives, fearing the future, discontent with the present, unable to take in the idea of dying, unable to sit still.
    Lewis Thomas

    Woman’s discontent increases in exact proportion to her development.
    Elizabeth Cady Stanton

    The splendid discontent of God With chaos made the world. And from the discontent of man The worlds best progress springs.
    Ella Wheeler Wilcox

    I used to think I had ambition… but now I’m not so sure. It may have been only discontent. They’re easily confused.
    Rachel Field

    Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent.
    Martin Luther King, Jr.

    It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.
    C. S. Lewis

    When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.
    Viktor E. Frankl

    If there is no struggle, there is no progress.
    Frederick Douglass

    • “Moaning might not DO anything, but it is the precursor to change.”

      Perhaps I didn’t express myself well. I agree with the above completely and think dissatisfaction is a key element to becoming a better writer – as long as you’re WILLING to change.

      I am complaining about people who complain yet are apparently content with the state because they refuse to change.

      Especially when they complain on a public space like twitter, and people like me take the time to go, “Hey I’ve had a similar problem before, have you considered doing x, y, z?” But any solution is dismissed as too much effort, or can’t be bothered, etc.

      I don’t understand how people can complain about things yet not want to work towards a solution – as ultimately a solution would make them happy / resolve the problem.

      • Aha. When I had a similar problem before, I withdrew from social media, avoided hearing the depressing details, and rediscovered the will to live. :)

        Yes, it can be wearying, but people complain without acting for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes they are frozen by the volume of advice and unable to commit to movement in any one direction – especially at the present time when the expert advice is letting many people down. It can be hard to find the right road for an individual. Like all other goldrushes before hand, many more perish by the side of the road than make it to El Dorado.

        Some are happiest moaning. I suffer therefore I am. Some are hoping someone else will solve the problems for them. A lot of people who attend social support offices are asking for help or complaining about their problems because they’re already exhausted and feeling hopeless. So many reasons.

        Sometimes, like Marcus below, talking about the issue, even complaining, helps to get perspective on the problem and to see it in a different light. Complex issues, as he says, can sometimes be closed off by action.

        And I’m just babbling away on your blog.

        Lxx

  3. A perfect example of a decade of discontent:

    “For more than 10 years I have been regularly tormenting myself with the question whether I am better off writing in my mother tongue, German, than in English, which is a language I acquired in passing as it were but which is not mine by birthright.

    I suppose this torment might appear to others as a privilege, and complaining about the choice will seem a luxury to them. But the world created by one’s intellect to understand and perhaps to describe the world not created by one’s intellect is made valuable mainly by privileged choices. Choices which are rooted in complex concepts like morality and loyalty, which must be opened up by reflection rather than closed by action. Therefore I cannot feel too sorry for myself for having the problem though I do feel and have felt very sorry for not finding a solution.

    So much so that lately I was fed up and I decided that perhaps the problem itself was the solution I needed. That oscillating between both languages, using them as it were to cast a different image of the same idea, struggling with them in very different ways, was the very core of my being a writer.”

    http://marcusspeh.com/2013/03/06/linguistic-cross-dressing/
    Lxx

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