One of the things I have learned from previous paid writing gigs is that sometimes, it is just not interesting. Sometimes, it is like pulling nails. Or, if you want a less gruesome metaphor, like trying to thread a needle with black thread in the dark. Or maybe it’s like folding the laundry, and then turning around to see the drying stand once more full of socks and shirts. Writing can be mundane and time-consuming, and can feel like however much effort you put in, you’re still at the bottom of the next mountain. (Hello? Sisyiphus? Yes, I’ll cover your Tuesday shift of stone-rolling.)
So, writing is sometimes not interesting. You have to keep going, even when it isn’t the most brilliant of pastimes. There are often times when you know, the next episode of the show you’re watching would be better, or reading, or even folding the bloody socks.
Ways to keep going when your subject matter isn’t interesting
Sometimes, you have to keep going when the writing isn’t interesting. This may be because you are writing specifically to be paid for writing (which is really awesome, to be honest), you are writing as part of your other work, or you’re writing for your studies, or you are in a drudge phase of your creative projects. In all of these cases, generally, the only way out is through. This is particularly true for the first three options, because, well, then you have some external motivation to keep going, usually with some consequences from beyond yourself. Even if there are consequences, sometimes you’ll still need to overcome hitting the wall feeling.
- Set deadlines and make yourself accountable
- Challenge yourself with various KPI-style metrics
- Change your scene
- Remember who your reader is
Step 1: Deadlines and Accountability
Set deadlines – definitely more for academic or study-related writing than for freelancing which tends to have deadlines with your client. For academic longer pieces, set yourself up for success by giving yourself a deadline a week or two weeks out from the real deadline. Set up a secondary reader (tutor, friend) and tell them that you will get them a draft at deadline-2-weeks. The making yourself accountable part is important too, because otherwise you’ll just treat them as fakey-deadlines (that they are).
Step 2: KPI-style metrics. With rewards.
This one is great, because it helps make the writing into a game. If you manage to write 600 words in an hour, or whatever your metric is, give yourself a treat. My goal for each session of my novel project is to write 600 words. This might be too ambitious – or if you follow the Stephen King way of life, not nearly ambitious enough. KPI metrics also work really well over time, if you track your progress and even chart it. Especially keep tabs on your cumulative total, your daily total, your hourly total. Try to out-perform yourself.
Step 3: Change your scene
Sometimes, your brain gets stuck because you’re just bored. You can fix this a variety of ways, but the easiest is to change your scene. If you have been writing in one room, write in another. Set your laptop up on the kitchen counter, and sit there on a stool. Write on your bed. If you are able to change more drastically, go to a coffee shop (I can’t wait to go write in a coffee shop again). Or even outside.
Step 4: Remember your reader
The biggest thing you can do to reboot your writing mojo is to remember your reader. Why will they be reading what you write? Will it teach them something? Will it prove your argument? Figure out what they will be getting out of your writing, and put that onto the page. You can do this!
Now, get the writing done!
Bum on seat, fingers on keyboard. Pump the Hans Zimmer. Remember that sometimes, even the thing you love has sucky bits, but it’s still the thing you love. Writing is creative. Writing is hard.