How to save yourself from boredom while writing

Reading time: Less than 3 minutes

Here are 10 boredom cures — also known as writing tips — that can help any writer have a bit more verve….

I sometimes find myself getting bored when I write. This feeling 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 writerly 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) 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 figurative language 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. Turn your writing into 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 to your boss. Pick a word 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.

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.”

*

My video podcast (with transcript) last week offered advice on how to spend less time rewriting. If you have a question about writing you’d like me to address, be sure to send it to me by email, Twitter or Skype and I’ll try to answer it in the podcast.

*

How do you deal with boredom while writing? We can all learn from each other so, please, share your thoughts with my readers and me in the “comments” section, below. And congratulations to Pat Bowden, the winner of this month’s book prize, The Email Warrior by Ann Gomez for an Aug. 25/17 comment on my blog. Anyone who comments on today’s post (or any others) by Sept. 30/17 will be put into a draw for a copy of Becoming an Academic Writer, by Patricia Goodson. To leave your own comment, please, scroll down to the section, directly underneath the “related posts” links, below. Note that you don’t have to join the commenting software to post. See here to learn how to post as a guest.

This post first appeared on my blog on Aug. 28/12

Posted September 5th, 2017 in Power Writing

  • Carl

    The Publication Coach’s informative newsletter is among the most useful emails I receive……catchy How to: I like the “reverse engineer” approach.
    ca

    • Daphne Gray-Grant

      Thanks for your kind words, Carl. I like to “reverse engineer” everything I can. It makes life way more interesting!

  • Christine

    These are such wonderful ideas! And a couple in particular made me chuckle like a clown. I’m indubitably going to begin using new words in my missives, indeed, in the totality of my writings (let us hope I won’t stick with pompous sounding words as I’ve used here!). I love the guy who decided to use “hilarious” in each of his news stories. I’m curious how long it “amused” his editor.

    • Daphne Gray-Grant

      Well, the writer who used “hilarious” was such a charming guy that I never held it against him. Sometimes I’d roll my eyes a bit but otherwise I’d just remove it, without comment. I’m sure, however, the a few must have slipped by my otherwise eagle I. I’m also sure this would have delighted him!

  • Dorlene

    Daphne – Thank you! This one really gave me the crow-bar that I needed! Am writing an “all-hands-on-deck” piece for a client of mine asking for renewed commitments for the coming year! Yippee!

    • Daphne Gray-Grant

      So glad it worked for you Dorlene. Thanks so much for writing.

  • Daphne, just wanted to let you know I loved this
    article. There were some very valuable suggestions in it, which I am
    going to use. Thanks!

    • Daphne Gray-Grant

      Thanks, Sandra. A lot of people seemed to like this one. I’m hoping it was simply on account of the fantastic photo!!

  • Russ Skinner

    Another helpful post. One quibble: last sentence of point 8, “work” should be “word.”

    • Now fixed. Thanks so much, Russ. This column has been posted for more than three years now. It astonishes me that no one else had caught this (least of all, me!)

  • Gabriela

    This was extremely helpful! I had my story planned out and all and had been fervently writing since sunday night–and I wrote 45 pages until today, Wednesday. Suddenly I got bored–and that’s because I’m burned out. very useful XOXO

    • Yes, people don’t often realize that working too HARD on a piece of writing can be just as dangerous as not working enough on it.

  • Jagadish Kumar

    Nice points to keep in mind. It would be helpful if you could bring out an article on creating a new writing-related challenge. we would like to know the different ways of creating the same.

    • I’m sorry but I don’t understand your suggestion/request, Jagadish. Could you please email me privately to explain it? Thanks!

      • Jagadish Kumar

        Crating a new writing-related challenge is one of your tips. So, we would like to know the various writing-related challenges. Thank you so much for considering my request.

        • Ah, now I get it! Here are a few examples: (1) resolve to reduce your average sentence length , (2) plan to use more figurative language, (3) make sure all your antecedents are clear. Those are just three ideas to get you started.

          • Jagadish Kumar

            Thank you so much for you examples, dear Daphne. I am very much interested in making sure all my antecedents are clear. For example, “The actor met the politician at his house”. It was not clear whether it was the actor’s or the politician’s house. Looking forward to you shedding some light on this issue. Despite reading the grammar book ‘The Transitive Vampire’ as suggested by you, I am not able to get through this seemingly easier task. Requesting your help in this regard. Thanks a lot in advance.

          • OK, I will try to do a column on antecedents fairly shortly. The bigger challenge, I find, is not so much with examples such as the one you give above. Many people write things like: “This is important because….” but they don’t make it clear what the “this” represents. Anyways, I’ll try to tackle this issue shortly.

          • Jagadish Kumar

            Thanks a lot for you encouraging promise, Daphne. You have made me happy. The example that I gave was particularly problematic to me. It is not clear to me until now. Kindly take care of that too. Happy weekend.