How to get more interested in what you’re writing

increase your interest

Reading time: Less than 3 minutes

Does the topic you must write about seem unspeakably dull and boring? Here are some tips for how to increase your interest, no matter what the subject… 

Imagine you have a blog piece, an article for your employee newsletter or even a long report that you’ve been procrastinating over. How do you persuade yourself to sit down and actually write it?

The classic advice is to break your job into a bunch of smaller tasks. Simply identify smaller sections and do one at a time. This can be highly effective, but imagine that the subject you need to write about just doesn’t interest you and even these teeny tiny sections make you quiver with boredom. What can you do?

Here are seven tips:

  1. Understand that interest is not something you have or don’t have. It’s the result of an ACTION. So, you should take the action you need in order to generate interest. This might mean talking to others to find out what’s interesting about the topic you need to write about and why it’s important or useful to others. Did you know that yawning is contagious?  Well, so is enthusiasm. Go out and catch some.
  1. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. I have never seen a sporting event that interested me (apart from the soccer games my daughter played — and even that was a stretch.) But I can put myself in the shoes of sports fans, just as I hope they can put themselves in MY shoes as a theatre enthusiast. If you’re truly not interested in a subject try to find someone who is and approach your story from that person’s perspective. My husband likes watching tennis, soccer and some hockey so if I ever have to write a story about sports, I know I can speak with him.
  1. Watch your negative self-talk. We all talk to ourselves all the time. Psychologists call this “inner speech”  and many forms of psychotherapy involve teaching people how to replace negative self-talk with more positive inner messages. Whenever you’re writing something that you think bores you, pay particular attention to negative chatter such as: “I hate writing this. This is so boring. I wish I could do anything” The difficulty with saying these things to yourself is that they’re likely to become self-fulfilling. You say them, so you believe them. Not helpful!
  1. Tell yourself ‘I LOVE doing this.’ This sentiment may be completely untrue, but simply saying it to yourself serves a surprisingly sensible purpose: It gives you a more positive attitude, it helps you get started (most tasks are never as bad as we fear), it helps create a positive, self-sustaining cycle and it allows you to expand your thinking. 
  1. Plan your time. Many people resist planning, especially for tasks they dislike or find boring. But planning can allow you to contain a job you don’t find interesting. Work always expands to fill available time (Parkinson’s Law) so by limiting your time you can reassure yourself that even if you don’t enjoy a task very much (notice how I framed that more positively than “not at all”), it won’t take up too much of your time.
  1. Use music. While I typically dislike listening to music while writing (I keep wanting to sing along with the words) I think it’s a great thing to do just before Music can be uplifting, energizing and inspiring; it can also change our mood and improve our motivation. As well, there is some evidence that certain types of music can help writers.
  1. Understand that emotions are integral to writing. I read an interesting excerpt last week from the book Emotions, Learning and the Brain by Mary Helen Immordino-Yang. In her book, she argues that it’s neurobiologically impossible to build memories, engage complex thoughts, or make meaningful decisions without emotion. “We feel social relationships and appreciate intellectual achievements using the same brain systems that sense and regulate our guts and viscera, adjust our blood chemistry and hormones, and conjure our awareness and consciousness,” she writes. “No wonder our creations, reputations, cultural ideals, and personal relationships, including those in educational contexts, have such amazing psychological power.” Her core argument is that emotions are integral to education, but I argue that they’re equally important for writing.

It’s important not to ignore your emotions — especially not such important ones as deep boredom or a vast lack of enthusiasm. Instead, your job as a writer is to find a way to develop an interest in your topic. Above all, remember that if you are bored when you’re writing, your readers will surely be bored when they’re reading.

How do you get yourself more interested in a topic you need to write about? We can all learn from each other so, please, share your thoughts with my readers and me in the “comments” section below. Anyone who comments on today’s post (or any others) by Oct. 31/16 will be put in a draw for a copy of the novel Circling the Sun by Paula McLain. Please, scroll down to the comments, 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.

Posted October 25th, 2016 in Power Writing

  • Paul Schratz

    This is terrific. I’ll be sharing it with my kids…it’s almost like you wrote it for them!

    • Thanks for your kind words, Paul. Probably the best thing to suggest is to get them to TALK to someone who is interested in the topic. Kids like strategies that are fast and easy and talking definitely hits both of those marks.

  • Devon Lowery

    Super helpful! I’m currently in school and one class in particular includes quite a bit of writing on a topic that doesn’t interest me all that much. These tips will definitely help!

    • For me, that subject was genetics. I have a degree in political science but was forced by my university to take one science class. I selected genetics because it was a special class designed for arts students. But it was really DIFFICULT for me to develop any interest in it. (I didn’t know about these tips back then!)

  • Nandita Singh

    True ! The reference to negative chatter is interesting ! It applies to me not only while writing but also to other tasks that I find boring. Positive attitude which means ‘looking for a solution’ is crucial. That is what I gain from reading your post today. Thanks !

    • Yes, our inner negative chatter affects many parts of our lives. Over the years I’ve tried to become increasingly conscious of what I’m “saying” to myself. Even just the awareness of it is a helpful first step.

  • Vinay Kulkarni

    NIce Blog. Does Really Music help in writing ?

    • Some people find it does. As I said, I use it only BEFORE writing but there’s some evidence that certain kinds of music (Bach and Mozart, as I recall) that helps a great many people.

  • Marshall

    Daphne;

    From my knothole, this is one of your best.

    As the world’s third greatest procrastinator, I have a heck of a time getting going, even on things I like.

    My mental trick on myself is to say “I’ll just do this little part for now.” Usually I’ll end up doing more and often as not a lot more. The book I’m in the closing stages of publishing got written using this bit of self-deception innumerable times.

    Marshall

    • Yes, what you describe as “self-deception” can be amazingly effective! Thanks for sharing this idea.

  • Raquel Leao

    Hello Daphne;

    I really liked this text, specially the part where you say interest is the result of an act. I am gonna keep that on mind as a great life advice.
    You explained many brain functions that are complex to understand in such a great way.

    Thank you:)
    Raquel Leao