I’m a bigger proponent of the long-lost art of complaining. I believe in the importance of airing one’s grievances on a regular basis. I believe in a good vent session between friends. And I really believe it’s good to be a little dramatic from time to time- it’s character building.
I can usually find a variety of topics to complain about, but lately I’ve been focused on writing.
As all writers know, writing is prime complaining material. There’s always something to rant about, some injustice or wrong doing to dissect.
Why wasn’t my work published?
Why did my pitch go unanswered?
How come she is so successful?
When is it going to be my turn?
Recently, I’ve ruminated on the classic: what is the point of this whole thing, anyway?
I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time fuming about how I’m not sure of what I’m doing, or why, or what the overall plan is. I’ve doubted my talent and whether or not I’m ever going to be “successful”. And just when I was starting to get worked up, it hit me like a lighting bulb straight to the heart- painful and obvious and completely unavoidable:
I’m not doing the work.
It feels like I am. From the outside, it probably looks like it. But in reality, I’m complaining and dreaming and outlining and doing everything but sitting down and focusing on my work. The work is the writing. The scheming and the planning is just a distraction. And when it comes to my actual work, I have to admit that I’m not giving it 100%. Not really. I’m phoning it in and wondering why I’m not getting noticed. I’m not showing up, and yet I expect the karma gods to show up for me.
That’s not the way it works in writing and that’s certainly not the way it works in life.
We can’t complain about the results we didn’t get from the work we didn’t do.
So often, we think we’re not talented enough or smart enough or capable enough, when really, we’re just not working hard enough. We’re not willing to do what needs to be done to get the desired outcome.
In high school, I skated by and got pretty good grades. I wasn’t a straight A student. I was never top of the class. I did the bare minimum and completed the assignments I needed to do to get by without too much of a fuss. I put in mediocre work, so I got mediocre grades. And as a result, I never identified as smart or overly intelligent.
In college, I graduated top of my class. The difference? I worked my ass off. I did everything I could think of to do to succeed. I studied, did assignments early, went to office hours, hit up the tutoring department. I worked really, really hard. And it paid off.
I think the phrase “hard work” turns people off. Like it’s something that should be avoided. Like it’s something that causes physical pain or sacrifice. Like it’s a bad way to be spending our time.
Hard work can be fun. Hard work can be sexy. Working hard means you have a vision and a goal, and you’re going after it with laser-like precision. It means you’re all in. It means you’re leaving it all on the field. That’s exciting! That’s intriguing! That’s worth getting fired up about.
And yes, sometimes hard work feels like a slog. It can mean getting up early or missing out on fun things or rearranging your priorities.
But when the thing you’re working towards truly lights you up, it doesn’t feel like sacrifice as much as it feels like the next right step.
Don’t be afraid of working hard. Don’t be afraid of doing your best. If you’re doing everything in your power that you know how to do, you can hold your head up high. Then and only then are you free to complain about the lack of results.
You can’t teach urgency, but you can cultivate it. You can become the kind of person that goes after what she wants with sincerity and ferocity. You can be someone who goes all in. You can be someone who knows the meaning of dedication and commitment.
When I think about writing, I know that I’ve been procrastinating on doing the work. I haven’t wanted to go all in. I’ve wanted to tiptoe along the edge and dab my toe in the water from time to time. That’s not how success works. You can’t dabble if you want to experience greatness. You can’t test the waters and complain about the lack of depth.
Going all in is scary. Working hard is a very vulnerable thing to do. It leaves you open to rejection and criticism. It is taking a risk.
But it has to happen if you want to achieve greatness. You have to ask yourself, what am I willing to do? How far am I willing to go? When am I going to stop complaining and start being brave enough to do the work?