I sometimes find myself getting bored when I write. This is not the end of the world, but it’s not very pleasant, either. And if we’re bored as writers, think about how our poor readers are going to feel!
Or maybe I should say “former readers” because people don’t continue reading when they’re bored, unless they’re forced to by their boss or their school teacher.
Here are 10 ways to help you fight the curse of writing boredom:
1. Take frequent breaks.
Sometimes you’re not really bored, you’re tired or burned out. I think everyone should take a three-to-five minute break every 30 minutes and not ever write for more than four hours per day. (Of course, you can always do other writing related work such as interviewing, reading, organizing, planning, researching, and mindmapping.)
2. Ensure your “well” is full.
Closely related to the problem of not taking enough breaks is the challenge of making sure your brain has had enough stimulation to be able to write. I call this our “well” (as in a well of water — which needs to be full), but you can also think of it as a bank account. You can’t withdraw money that isn’t there! To be able to write you need to have spent enough time reading, getting exercise, talking to friends, and enjoying leisure activities, whether that’s going to a hockey game or to the symphony concert.
3. Create a new writing-related challenge for yourself.
Here I’m thinking about challenges that will specifically help your writing. For example, I want to become better at using metaphor in my writing. I’m working as hard on this as a 16-year-old trying to get her driver’s license. Another useful challenge would be to improve your readability stats.
4. Make your writing a game.
Instead of thinking of writing as work, imagine it to be a computer game. You have to succeed at various tasks before you’re admitted into the next level. For example, imagine you need to write 1,000 words in 60 minutes. Go!
5. Go for a walk.
Sometimes when we’re bored the real problem is that our major muscles need some exercise. Go for a walk or, if you have time, a swim. When you return to work you’ll feel less bored.
6. Put yourself in jail.
Turn off your email notifications and shut down Facebook and Twitter. Set a timer for 30 minutes and force yourself to work with total concentration on your writing until the timer beeps. Then, stop, and reward yourself for being so diligent.
7. Write a first draft in the opposite direction.
Bored with a topic you’ve been given? Let’s say you need to write 500 words on the best ways to improve safety at your company. So make your first draft “10 Best Ways to Get Into an Accident.” Doesn’t that sound more interesting? (Your boss may agree with your approach. But, if he or she doesn’t, you’ll be able to redraft it to the original assignment relatively quickly.)
8. Use an unusual word in your writing.
When I worked in daily newspapers, one writer in my department tried to use the word “hilarious” in every story. Why? No good reason, it just amused him. So, do the same. Pick a work that’s unusual for your workplace and fit it, surreptitiously, into your next story.
9. Identify your natural rhythm and adjust your writing schedule to suit it.
What’s your best time for writing? Mine used to be late at night; now, it’s early in the morning. Write only at your most powerful time and use other times of day for other tasks. If you’re writing at your “best” time, you’re less likely to become bored.
10. Adopt the voice of a different writer.
For fun, try to write a piece that sounds like Ernest Hemingway. Or Jane Austen. Or Charles Dickens. Doing this skillfully will be an enormous challenge and might be just enough to take an otherwise dull topic and give it the spark of life you need to make it enjoyable.
The curse of writing boredom. When life hands you lemons you can either curse the tartness of the fruit or turn it into lemonade. Or, as Dorothy Parker put it: “The cure for boredom is curiosity.” And then she added: “There is no cure for curiosity.” ∞