Tips and tricks for working on writing that bores you
February 24, 2016 6:11 PM   Subscribe

I have a paper due tomorrow, which is about 2/3rds done, but I am absolutely bored out of my mind with the topic. I had just about brought myself to accept that I would spend most of the next 48 hours being this level of bored, when I discovered that I have lost the last half-day of work I did on it, so I have to redo it. This will add the tedium of rewriting stuff I wrote already to the boredom of working on a topic I find uninteresting in the first place and feels almost unmanageable. I have perky music, a clock to race against, and snacks, but what other tips and tricks do you have for working on something that bores you silly?

The topic is not inherently boring. In fact, I have colleagues who are so fascinated by it that they are editing a multi-paper book on the topic, which is why I am writing this damn thing in the first place. I have tried to put myself inside their heads and figure out what could be so interesting about the topic, but I just can't do it. I end up going off on tangents where I push the paper more towards something that is actually out of scope for the (quite clearly defined by the editors) chapter I'm meant to be writing.

Please don't suggest I don't write it. I made a commitment to my colleagues who might not end up having enough chapters if I don't submit mine, and also, I've come far enough that it would be a shame to waste the work I've done already. I have all the research done, and everything I need to write is bullet-pointed out, and it's basically paint-by-numbers at this point. I suspect that getting stoned or drunk might make it bearable, but it's only just lunchtime and that kind of seems wrong.

I asked a few colleagues and they suggested making the writing more of a challenge by playing silly games like trying to write a paragraph without using the word "the", or a sentence without the letter "i", or trying to start each paragraph with a letter that all strung together makes a secretly amusing sentence. I might get desperate enough for some of those, but it got me thinking that there must be other tricks like that that people play to make writing boring texts more fun?
posted by lollusc to Writing & Language (7 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
I had to do this when I was a freelancer all the time. In addition to what you've listed above, I would give myself "rewards" - If I write for 45 minutes/an hour, then I get 15 minutes to go read my book.

Often I would find I would get into a bit of a groove, and write a bit more, or to a logical stopping point. Knowing I would have only a short stretch of writing punctuated by something pleasant helped me focus.

The other thing I would, occasionally, do - highly dependent on the complexity of the work and the time I had to re-read it later - was wash my moribund writing down with a glass of wine, or two. Never more than four over a couple of hours though! Being just a shade tipsy does make the time go faster and could, for me, result in a fluency in getting the words out.
posted by smoke at 6:24 PM on February 24, 2016


I wouldn't recommend textual games - trying to meet the conditions will distort your prose and chew up valuable writing time. I used to view it like digging a hole or something. Boring, consistent, work that one powers through without wholly immersing oneself in the task.
posted by smoke at 6:25 PM on February 24, 2016


Put on some really comfortable workout-type clothes and do some stretching. Something about that makes me feel like "LET'S DO THIS."

If you're writing on a computer, really feel yourself "playing" the keyboard, like you are a musician - you are creating art.

(Drinking while writing something boring has always made it harder for me, and made the time kind of slow down. Coffee, on the other hand...it's nice to have something hot to sip on.)

If you can, save the work on the lost section for the end, because by the time you get there, it might not be as aggravating to have to rewrite it.
posted by sallybrown at 7:00 PM on February 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


If it's really as paint-by-numbers as you say, one trick I use is to put on some fairly mindless TV in the background: something that I've already seen and isn't that engrossing anyway. I find it occupies just enough of my brain to let the rest of it sail along without thinking "omg i am so bored so bored so bored ugh ugh ugh." This doesn't work for writing that is too complex but for something you have already bullet pointed and just need to get words on the page, it is my go-to technique.

Of course, YMMV. I am one of those people who can't concentrate if it's too quiet, and wrote a great deal of my PhD thesis sitting in the subway station because the sound of the train and all of the people helped me focus. So this might not work for everyone.
posted by forza at 7:07 PM on February 24, 2016 [6 favorites]


Get off the internet.
posted by bluedaisy at 8:07 PM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Just reporting in that I have just finished my first draft (minus the conclusions)! I followed Sallybrown's excellent suggestion of leaving redoing the lost work until last, because it turned out my reluctance to work on that was what was really holding me back. I also planned to use Smoke's idea of stopping for frequent rewards, but ended up getting in such a flow state that I didn't manage to make myself stop at reward time, which was excellent. I can probably do the conclusions or the revisions tonight after that glass or two of wine... (not a hot drink, hah, that could be good advice sometimes but it's 41 degrees C (106F) here right now.)

As for the visualisation suggestions, viewing it as digging a hole (thanks, Smoke) did not work. It made me want to go dig holes instead. But I liked the thought of myself as a keyboard musician. Somehow that really helped.

Thanks, everyone!
posted by lollusc at 9:17 PM on February 24, 2016 [6 favorites]


I submitted the paper on Friday, by the way. Youse are all awesome.
posted by lollusc at 2:51 AM on February 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


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