Not all topics are exciting or interesting to write about, but as writers we are occasionally tasked with the impossible – to make that which induces boredom and encourages narcolepsy sound interesting.
Sometimes this requires superhuman writing powers: a monthly energy conservation newsletter no one reads, a review of a a hotel with a history of thefts and drive-by-shootings, or a travel destination piece on a location tourists should never visit, let alone consider as a vacation spot, unless torture, captivity, and imminent death are on their list of must-see attractions.
There are misconceptions about the life of a writer. Some have great magazine or script writing jobs, but they normally don’t come overnight or without a lot of networking. Many work 8 – 5 at jobs they hate that may have nothing to do with writing, but provide health insurance and the rent paid while they search the job ads for something more fulfilling. Others work mundane jobs that barely pay the bills, but give them time to write. The idea that we sit by the beach or lake all day churning out magnificent pages for our next novel is a fantasy.
But the opportunity to write – in any capacity- is priceless, which means sometimes working on something you hate.
Usually the promise of a paycheck, the anticipation of a byline, or fear of your reputation being eternally ruined so that you never get published is enough to keep you writing. In case none of this works here are some things to get you through it:
Give yourself a deadline or a strict punishment if you miss it.
Imagine winning a Pulitzer for your research and all those who told you to get a real job were forced to sit in the audience and clap.
Have a glass of wine when you finish. You probably already drank the entire bottle.
Compare “my job is worse” stories with a writer friend who is also procrastinating.
Have a mini-dance party with loud music and angry lyrics.
Imagine what life will be like when you’re living in a box with no electricity.
Write the piece the way you would if you could say all the things you really wanted to say and not get fired. Then write it the way you’re supposed to.
If none of these suggestions work, swap out the wine for a few shots of vodka and put your fingers to work on the best piece of drivel they’ve ever read. Once it’s published and you become the author you’ve always dreamed of becoming share it with a writer who is new to the game as encouragement that things can always go up from here.
It’s never too late to start over. The original plan after graduation was to turn my thesis back into the novel it was on the way to becoming. At the time I was working on a novel of linked stories and to comply with thesis requirements I had to choose three to present. After thesis when I began to put it back into its original format I realized I no longer liked the way it was laid out. Not only that, I had grown as a writer and my characters had matured. So basically, I started from the beginning.
Many writers cringe when they look at their old writings. I started by separating what I liked about what I had written from what needed to be discarded, and now I’m in the process of rebuilding the story.
For me, the most difficult part of writing is self-judgment. I’m my harshest critic. I learned at a young age to aim for perfection, but in writing, as in life, perfection does not exist. Unfortunately, this habit of harshly criticizing my own work produced writers block and delayed the progression of my work.
I was pleased to discover I’m not the only writer with this habit. I follow @thewritelife on Twitter and saw their blog post “The Real Source of Writer’s Block (And and Exercise to Beat It).” The post recalled how as children we effortlessly told stories because our audience mainly consisted of our parents. As we grew older we became aware of a larger audience and doubt settled in, which produces writers block.
To combat writers block the author recommends a five-minute free writing session before you begin to write. During the five minutes you are encouraged to purge your thoughts onto the page. The purpose of this exercise is to find your writer’s voice in a judgment-free place so that you can once again capture that childlike spirit of producing judgment-free work (that will one day be harshly judged by others). The exercise may seem menial at first, but if you stick with it, eventually when you do start writing again you’ve stopped judging your work enough to write freely.
I have not tried this technique, but definitely plan to do so. I have a novel to finish.