Word Count

Writers Talk About Writing

How to Stop Yourself from Being Bored While Writing

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 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 editing.)

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 a 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. Here's a site that measures readability statistics. My advice? Aim for a grade 9 level or lower on the Flesch Kincaid index

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 writing, 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 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.

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."

Rate this article:

Click here to read more articles from Word Count.

A former daily newspaper editor, Daphne Gray-Grant is a writing and editing coach and the author of 8½ Steps to Writing Faster, Better. She offers a free weekly newsletter on her website Publication Coach. Click here to read more articles by Daphne Gray-Grant.

Join the conversation

Comments from our users:

Thursday December 13th 2012, 9:03 AM
Comment by: Mike (Florissant, MO)
Why grade 9?
Thursday December 13th 2012, 4:42 PM
Comment by: Joanne R. (Arlington Heights, IL)
I found that my annual family Christmas letter has a 12th grade reading level and an article I submitted to a (rather) erudite educational journal requires only a 10th grade education......

amazing what we think we are writing and what is the truth!

Joanne Rooney
Thursday December 13th 2012, 6:49 PM
Comment by: Suzanne (Asheville, NC)
Thank you for the helpful pointers. I felt better about writing my (boring) piece after reading your list here. Good timing -- I revised with vigor. Also thanks for the link to the readability test website. The piece I was writing scored around grade 10. Back to the drawing board.
Thursday December 13th 2012, 11:35 PM
Comment by: Trapper (Vero Beach, FL)
Wow, I can relate!
Monday December 17th 2012, 1:14 AM
Comment by: Daphne Gray-Grant (Vancouver Canada)Visual Thesaurus Contributor
Mike, the reason you should aim at Grade 9 is because your readers are busy and distracted. If your writing is really easy to read -- ie: grade 9 -- people are more likely to read it. Note that the "grade 9" designation is somewhat arbitrary. It's based on things like: length of words, length of sentences, length of paragraphs. There's nothing inherently "school related" about it. It's just a handy yardstick. Hope this helps!

Do you have a comment?

Share it with the Visual Thesaurus community.

Your comments:

Sign in to post a comment!

We're sorry, you must be a subscriber to comment.

Click here to subscribe today.

Already a subscriber? Click here to login.