How to write about the boring


Word count: 592 words

Reading time: About 2.5 minutes

Do you ever have to write about something that bores you to tears? Today’s column describes five ways you can make a wearisome job much more interesting.

Last week I did something I hadn’t done in more than a year. I hopped on a Skytrain (that’s an elevated mass transit car) and rode it out to a suburb.

I wasn’t playing runaway — I was going to give a lecture at a local college’s Print Futures program. Designed to teach students all aspects of writing and editing, the program aims to produce our next generation of communicators.

I spoke for about 40 minutes and then answered questions from an exceptionally bright and engaged group of mostly twentysomethings. Normally, I don’t get surprising questions — but this time one of the kids threw one at me.

“How can I write about a topic that really bores me?” one student asked. Good question! And one to which I can relate. For many years I wrote for a company that was obsessed with safety (a good thing) but that made me write many, many stories on the same topic. And I have an exceptionally low threshold for boredom. You may, too.

The solution? As I discovered, you need to find some sort of external motivator that’s separate from the subject itself. Tired of writing about a particular topic? Bored to tears? Then focus on something you can influence.

In other words, admit to your boredom, and find a way to make the task of writing interesting, even if you aren’t particularly invested in the topic. Here are five examples of ways to do this:

1) Try to hit a precise and unusual word count. For example, if you’ve been assigned a story of 500 words, try to make your final submission 497 words. Exactly.

2) Concentrate on your readability statistics. As longtime Power Writing readers will know, any owner of MS Word has access to these stats for free. (Go to your help menu to find out how to set them up.) Alternatively, you can also go here and cut and paste your story into the box. Aim for an average sentence length of 14 to 18 words. Or try to achieve a Flesch Reading Ease score of 65% or better.

3) Write without using a single adjective and adverb. These parts of speech somehow manage to make your writing both dull and overwrought. Wipe ’em out.

4) Challenge yourself to begin your story with a metaphor. Metaphors speak to the heart and really grab your readers’ attention. Start off that way.

5) Eliminate all forms of the verb “to be” (i.e.: “is,” “was,” “will” or “won’t”) This makes your writing lively and engaging by forcing you to concentrate on other, more descriptive verbs.

Putting yourself on autopilot is no way to write. If you’re bored with your subject then give your brain a different challenge — something else to think about. You might even have some fun!

Posted February 10th, 2009 in Power Writing