The Moaning Method: The Life-Changing, Writing-Changing Magic of Complaining

Something’s been bugging me lately. Something complicated and vexing and upsetting that I won’t go into here. You know the drill: endless conversations in your head, long mental essays justifying your actions, feeling ever so sorry for yourself. So far, so uninteresting to anyone else on the actual planet.

Writers do most of our work inside our own brain-holes. So if said brain-hole is full to the brim with Something Else, it can be reeeeeally difficult to write. How can you conjure up magical, publishable words for your WIP when it’s a gigantic effort to get your mind off that big-bad Something Else and onto Proper Writing.

Gif of the inside of Homer Simpson's brain: a toy monkey bashing cymbals together and doing backflips.

Enter a little thing I like to call The Moaning Method™. A simple way to write yourself out of that pit of self-pity. Here’s how it works:

  1. Take a notebook – I like to keep a separate notebook just for whinging.
  2. Write down what you are thinking – try to do this without fear or judgement. No-one else is going to read it, so be absolutely honest. Repeat yourself, contradict yourself, be melodramatic, use all caps. Underline. Rant. Lecture. Switch from first to second to third person at will.
  3. Congrats, that was your writing assignment for today.

And now keep going. Do it every time you catch yourself overthinking, obsessing or ruminating.

That’s it. It’s pretty much ‘keep a diary’ but without the pressure to do it every day, or only once a day. The Moaning Method™ doesn’t want to hear about your dentist appointment or the school Christmas play – The Moaning Method™ is about ~emotions~.

Eventually, with time, you will emerge from your funk. I promise, this too shall pass. Journaling is good for mental health – FACT – and on top of your sunnier outlook you’ll be the proud owner of pages and pages of emotional honesty that you can use in your writing.

While you may not want to write about the situation explicitly (or at all) in your fiction, emotions are transferable little beasties and you now have a real-time record of how a human being such as yourself experiences a whole range of them… and that my friend, is the highway to Fundamental Human Truth Town.

If you can get to the bottom of your own thoughts and feelings, it will give you an insight into the thoughts, feelings and motivations of your characters.

Gif of a crying woman saying "I just have a lot of feelings"

Filling three notebooks with unreadable whinging has undoubtedly made me a better writer. I can’t tell you how therapeutic putting my emotions into words, and putting those words on the page is. I managed to write myself out of a hole, and eventually that writing became fodder for the project I had been trying and failing to get anywhere with. One day the story and the Something merged and voila, I could clearly see my way back into my WIP.

Crucially, it also got me back into the habit of writing regularly. The muse returned one afternoon in the half term; unplanned, with kids interrupting and pissing me off every five minutes, but it was magical, it was a relief. I was back.

P.S. Want to give journaling a try but don’t know where to start? We’re running Journaling with WHQ webinars every Monday at 10am – find out more and sign up here.

Image of a classical painting depicting a woman with her head in her heads. Text reads: The Moaning Method aka how journaling can change your writing life

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