I was so tired, but I had a deadline. I kept typing, not really paying attention to my words as my eyes got closer and closer to shutting. And then that was it. I could not write anymore.
This has been my life so many times, at 10:20 a.m. or 10:20 p.m. and a million minutes in between. The problem isn’t always just that I’m tired: it’s the boring subject I’m writing about. When I’m writing something I want to write, my fingers fly, and it’s almost like I’m in a different world. Sleep doesn’t have its iron grip on me like usual. It’s the topics that I don’t choose that are so hard to get through sometimes, and I know I’m not alone on this one. I’ve written about a lot of boring things in my various roles as a student, a supervisor, and as a freelance writer. Sometimes it just has to be done. And that’s the only reason I would do it.
In all my years writing about boring topics, here are a few things I’ve come up with that help me get through the essay, article, or other tedious topic.
1. Try Not to Write When You’re Tired
This is tough if you’re just tired most of the time, like me. You know what times work best for you, though. Is your mind alive in the morning? Are you more of a night owl? Or are you like me and not really a morning or a night person? You know yourself best. People may try to tell you what time of day is the best time to write, but you have to just figure it out for yourself and try to squeeze as much in to that timeframe as possible. Your writing will probably be much better if you do.
This may seem super simple, but if I’m tired when I really need to whip out some content in order to hit a deadline, I eat a crunchy snack like chips or crackers. Constantly chewing on something combined with the urgency of needing to hit my deadline will often keep my energy up enough to get me through even the dullest writing assignment.
2. Try Not to Write in Bed
I break this rule every day….I know there are studies that say something about this, but my bed is my absolute favorite place to write and it works out just fine when I’m doing my creative writing and my blog. However, I almost always fall asleep if I’m writing something boring while sitting in bed. I don’t think I need to say much about this. If you have time to take a nap, write your boring stuff in bed. But if you really need to get some writing done, write somewhere that won’t suck you into a slumber.
3. Use Formulas
Writing 250-300 words shouldn’t be hard, but when the subject is less than intriguing, it can take FOR-EV-ER. Sometimes a simple 300-word page can take me over an hour to write just because I’m not inspired at all.
When I was doing my first freelance job, my go-to guy (Contact? Supervisor? Not sure what he was to me…) suggested googling copywriting formulas. I had no clue what this meant, but I did what he said and it changed my writing and the level of interest I had in the content.
Basically these are formulas to get your readers hooked or more interested in what you have to say. I found this list of copywriting formulas and have used it for over three years. Coming up with different ways to fit the formulas into my writing is almost like a game. It makes writing more captivating, even if I’m just describing what dental implants are.
Here’s one of my favorite formulas as described by Kevan Lee in the blog post I linked to above: Before – After – Bridge. In the “Before” section, you describe the reader’s current world. In the “After” section, you try to help readers imagine what it would be like if their problems were solved. The “Bridge” describes how to get there and usually it’s through the services you’re writing about. Kevan uses this tweet as an example:
These formulas can be used for almost any type of writing, whether it’s a copywriting page, blog, article, or a simple social media post. Using formulas makes my writing sooo much easier to get through. When I’m lazy and don’t use them, I just drag.
4. Make Sure to do Plenty of Research…But Don’t Take Too Long
In high school and college, I was proud of how I could get enough content to reach the page requirements of my essays just by adding fluff. This definitely doesn’t work with professional writing, and it probably didn’t really work with my essays either. Since adding fluff isn’t really an option, I make sure I know enough about my topic. I’m able to write so much quicker if I have plenty of knowledge of what I’m writing about.
The trouble is when I’m doing freelance writing, I don’t like to take too much time researching because pay is usually based on the number of pages or words written, so research is kind of on my own dime. It’s still important to sound like an expert, though, so what I often do is create a simple outline of how I want my page to look.
For my current freelance writing job, I always write about dental procedures and services. So if I’m writing about dentures, I’ll first write an introduction (and use one of the copywriting formulas from the blog I mentioned above), then explain what dentures are, describe the advantages of dentures, and sometimes I include a description of the process of getting dentures. I end with a small conclusion that usually includes a simple sentence about why the company I’m writing for is awesome and finally, a call to action.
As I’m researching, I copy different information about the topic and paste it under each different section. If it will help me learn more about what dentures are, I paste it under that section. If it describes the advantages of dentures, it goes under there.
This makes the research and writing process go so much faster and makes it easier to get through because I’m not taking forever to finish my required word count. As with my other tips, this can be applied to any type of writing.
5. Try to Tell a Story
I recently wrote a page on sleep apnea and had learned a little bit about the condition from an article where the author described her personal experience with it. Because of where I had gotten some of my information, my page told more of a story than usual. I tried to imagine what life is like for someone suffering from sleep apnea and wrote a little more personally and descriptively than usual, but still kept it professional and informative.
I was surprised when the editor I work with came back with praises on the page. I mean, my freelance writing has always been about procedures or services, so it’s not something people usually rave about. But she loved this one. For the first time I realized that I could try to tell a story as much as possible in my freelance writing, just like I try to do in all of my other writing.
A lot of writing has very particular formatting and content guidelines, whether it’s for school or work, but try to use storytelling principles as much as possible. People love stories; it’s one of the few things that could actually suck someone into a potentially boring topic. Use descriptive words, paint a picture, and if possible, tell about a personal experience, whether it’s your own, someone else’s, or made up.
6. Keep it Short
One of my fiction professor’s in college advised us to start a story as close to the ending as possible. This is great advice for any piece of writing. To go along with this, one of the most common things I say to people when helping with their writing, whether it’s an essay, an email, or a proposal, is “Less is more.”
I’ve noticed that when I speak, I tend to repeat myself a lot because I’m not sure people are really listening or understanding what I’m saying. People do this in writing too, but it’s not necessary. Sure, it’s good to reiterate your point at the end of your essay or article, but you don’t have to tell it all again and you don’t have to keep going in circles!
If you’re writing on a boring topic, chances are readers think it’s a pretty boring topic, too. If they’re reading about it, perhaps it’s because they have to or because they need to find more information. Try to keep it short and concise while still being helpful. Make your point as quickly as possible and only say what you absolutely need to.
What are some things you do to get through writing on a boring topic? I’d love to hear your ideas. 🙂 Comment below!