Dull content can be the kiss of death – even for writers who love to write! Whether you’re a student writing about a boring topic for school or a freelance writer researching the history of the typewriter (yawn), you won’t write well if you’re bored. No matter what type of writer you are – New York Times journalist or medical blogger – you can write in a snappy, engaging style even if your subject matter is serious.
Easier said than done! How do you stay motivated when you’re writing about a boring-to-you topic? When I wrote 10 Easy Ways Make Your Writing Edgy and Quirky I wasn’t thinking about topics that bore writers. On the contrary, I was writing for writers who were interested and engaged with their subject matter. Now I realize that the first obstacle to writing with flair and style is finding ways to be interested in what you’re writing about. Good news, though: If you’re struggling with motivation to write about something because it’s boring to you, I have a few tips that will bring even the most lifeless, limp topic alive.
Notice how I said “struggling with motivation to write about something because it’s boring to you.” You may not be interested in the history of the typewriter or whatever topic your teacher or editor assigned to you, but your readers want to hear what you have to say about it. As a writer, your job is to write for them. Successful writers (and students who earn good grades on their essays) know who they are writing for. Good writers put themselves in their readers’ shoes, and write as if their lives depended on it.
If you’re not lucky enough to write about what you love, fake it.
6 Ways to Write Even When You’re Bored and Unmotivated
If you’re not interested in the subject you’re writing about, you probably don’t know enough about it. It may seem counterintuitive but every topic – even the history of a typewriter – has little nuggets of gold buried deep inside. Your job as a writer is to dig up the treasure, clean it from top to bottom, and display its most exciting facets.
1. Fan the embers of boredom into a fire of motivation
If your topic is boring for you as the writer, it’ll be even more boring for the reader. Readers sense the energy and presence of writers. Readers can tell when the writer couldn’t care less about the words, topic, characters, plot or setting.
Can you connect the topic with something that you as the writer have knowledge of or experience with? If you can engage with the subject matter you’ll be more interested and motivated to write about it. Tell yourself that you are writing to make a difference. Without the desire to write this essay, article or book — a desire that surpasses your yearning for anything else — you won’t make it to the final conclusion. Here’s one way to you fan the flames of your low-grade motivation into a consuming fire of writing passion: Figure out what your “carrot” is.
2. Figure out what lights your fire
I’m mixing my metaphors here, but stick with me. When you have no motivation to write about something because it’s boring, you need a carrot. For example, I dislike writing my gifts blog posts because I hate shopping and don’t like encouraging readers to buy stuff. But since my gifts blog posts are my main source of income, I find topics that are meaningful to me. Here’s one: 20 Thoughtful Gift Ideas for Someone Terminally Ill or Dying.
My gifts blog posts stabilize my monthly income as a writer. I need to write these posts because I love blogging, and I love eating! I also love paying the mortgage, keeping the lights on, and feeding my dogs. So I write gifts blog posts. My carrots are writing gifts blog posts that help people in painful situations and continuing to work as a blogger. I don’t always write painful gifts posts, though! Here’s another example: 10 Best Travel Journals for Solo or Group Treks.
What is your carrot? I can’t feed it to you. You need to find your own internal or external motivation to write about something boring. Or even distasteful, like my gifts blog posts. This as, I’ve heard bestselling author Barbara Taylor Bradford say, is your drive to write. Drive is similar to motivation, but drive is more intense. Drive is almost like an obsession, an internal need to do something no matter what. For example, I’m driven to blog, but I’m “merely” motivated to accept article assignments from magazine editors and writing gigs from clients. Do you have the drive it takes to write a book or a school essay? Tap into it. Use it.
3. Discipline yourself to find the determination you need
Determination is the will to continue writing because you have to finish the project. Whether you’re looking for a literary agent to represent you, writing a feature article about the history of typewriters or researching a school essay about your teacher’s family history you need to learn how to discipline yourself. This is especially true if you want to become a freelance writer or professional journalist! You don’t have an editor, publisher or even a writing teacher standing over you all the time. You have to find the grit, drive and determination within yourself to write about a boring topic even when you’re unmotivated.
Fortunately, writing discipline is a habit that can be learned. You may not be born with natural discipline or drive to write every day no matter how you feel or what you ate last night, but you can create a schedule that forces you to be consistent. This schedule won’t necessarily increase your motivation to write about a topic that bores you, but it will ensure you show up at your desk when you’re supposed to. This will get you closer to those magic words: The End.
“My best writing advice is to always do a mind map before writing to make sure you really know what you want to say,” says Michelle on 51 Over-Used Adverbs, Nouns, and Clichés in Writing. “I work best when I mind map because I always come across something that I have forgotten in the story. Mind maps are easy to do and they can only add to what ever it is that you plan to write. They work so much better than lists. The whole idea of a mind map lets your brain use both its right and left sides in thinking. It combines the visual with the rational. It is very good for brainstorming and planning, especially if you aren’t motivated or have to write about a boring topic.”
4. Make the topic relatable – and thus less boring – for readers
How can you relate your topic directly to your readers? When people read something that addresses or affects them personally, they’re much more engaged and interested. One of the best ways to make your writing more interesting (and less boring) to readers is to show them how important it is to them. We all have the same basic wants and needs – food, shelter, love, security. Can you tap into those qualities when you’re writing about something that doesn’t interest you? Can you find the emotion or personal connection in a topic that at first glance seems boring? Try. Challenge yourself.
Here’s a tip for making a boring topic more personal and relatable: Learn how to trust your intuitive voice, especially when you’re struggling with boredom and lack of motivation. Your intuition – that still small voice – will help you write a article, essay or book chapter that is authentic and vibrant. Following your intuition or inner writer’s voice is a higher level form of being creative and productive.
“This is what I find with writers who begin to trust their intuitive voice – the scared aliveness that accompanies the first tentative forays,” writes Judy Reeves in Wild Women, Wild Voices: Writing from Your Authentic Wildness. “Writing from this place can cause your hand to shake and your heart to skitter….When we write from this place we’re no longer playing it safe; we may be breaking some rules, telling some secrets, but by damn! we’re writing from our most authentic wildness.”
5. Avoid distractions, especially when you’re not motivated to write
The less motivation and interest you have in a topic, the more important it is to avoid distractions. Whether the distractions in your life are self-made (you can’t resist visiting writers’ forums or Tweeting during your writing time) or other-oriented (your kids, dog, job, or spouse urgently need your undivided attention at the exact moment you sit down to write), you need to find a way to deal with them.
“My best tip for staying motivated to write the first draft came from Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method,” says Delena on 6 Tips For Writing First Drafts. “I was actually able to get through a first draft faster and more easily than ever before, rather than burn out half or three-quarters of the way through my book. I stayed motivated and didn’t get bored.”
Here’s what Ingermanson says about The Snowflake Method: “Before you start writing, you need to get organized. You need to put all those wonderful ideas down on paper in a form you can use. Why? Because your memory is fallible, and your creativity has probably left a lot of holes in your story — holes you need to fill in before you start writing your novel. You need a design document. And you need to produce it using a process that doesn’t kill your desire to actually write the story.” – from How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method.
6. Interview someone passionate about the topic
Passion and fire are contagious! This last and final tip for writing about boring topics might be the easiest one – if you can find passionate experts. Even better if you find experts who are eccentric, perhaps a little odd or strange. You can blend their quirks or personality into your topic. Those personal details will bring your writing to life for both you as the writer and for your readers.
Not sure how to approach experts or professionals about the topic? Tell them you’re a writer who knows nothing about their subject. Explain what you’re working on, why, and how stuck you feel. You’d be surprised at how eager most people are at sharing their knowledge and expertise with writers. Ask the expert what they love about the topic, how they first became interested in it, and if they’ve ever been bored by it. The answers might surprise you.
Your turn, fellow scribes! How do you stay motivated when you’re writing about something boring?