How to Stay Focused When You’re Writing Something Uninteresting
I’d like to say that every freelance piece I write is deeply engaging for me … but the truth is that, so long as it pays well, I’ll write about plenty of things that don’t especially interest me.
Whether you’re writing something uninteresting for money, as part of a school or university class, or as another means to an end, it can be tough to stay focused.
It could be that the topic itself bores you. I’ve written about cryptocurrency and blockchain-related issues a few times, but I’ve got to admit that they don’t hold a lot of interest for me.
Or perhaps it’s the type of work that’s very routine. You might be writing dozens of product descriptions, or maybe you’re tasked with writing SEO content that involves lots of similar posts on slightly different keywords. Even if the topics are interesting to start with, writing about them over and over again probably won’t be.
There are plenty of great tips out there about staying motivated when you’re writing. But a lot of those are aimed at novelists or personal bloggers – people who have, you’d hope, at least some degree of interest in what they’re writing about.
So what can you do if the writing itself is truly uninteresting to you? Here are six things to try.
#1: Time How Long Each Task Takes
One of the worst things about boring writing tasks is that they can seem interminable. If you don’t have a clear idea how long it’s going to take to write an 800 word blog post, then you might picture yourself spending hours dragging yourself through it.
But if you’re a fast and experienced freelancer, you might well be able to dash off that 800 word post in under an hour.
When you sit down to work on your next uninteresting writing assignment, time how long it really takes. (Pause your timer if you take a break – this can also help make you more aware of the time you spend on social media or news websites when you’re supposedly working!)
Once you know how long, on average, a particular type of task takes, it can be easier to push yourself through it. If you know you’ll be done in an hour, you can press on, even if you’re not particularly motivated.
I use Clockify to keep track of how long my various freelance tasks take. This also lets me easily figure out what I’m making per hour – and sometimes, my more tedious assignments end up being the ones that make the most money.
#2: Work for Set Blocks of Time
My usual working hours are 9.15am – 12 noon and 1pm – 2.45pm. I’ll often split my morning slot into a couple of different blocks to focus on getting different tasks completed.
By working for set blocks of time, you give yourself a break to look forward to. I had a bunch of not very interesting, but well-paid, work to plough through this morning: I was definitely looking forward to my lunch break (and to getting to write this blog post during this afternoon’s writing block).
Depending on your daily schedule, your blocks of time might look very different from mine. Perhaps you have an hour to write between classes, or you’re writing from 6am – 8am before you head to your day job. However your blocks look, try to figure out some consistent times when you can be at your desk writing. Otherwise, it’s all too easy to keep putting writing off.
#3: Write Down What You Want to Achieve Each Day
If you have a bunch of different tasks on your to-do list, it’s very tempting to pick the easier and more interesting ones. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing: if you’re choosing between, say, two short story ideas, it’s definitely best to write the one that grabs you the most.
But if you have paying work or classwork to get through, then you don’t want to simply pick the easiest things until you run up against a hard deadline. Instead, spend 5 – 10 minutes at the start of the day planning what you want to get done.
You might fit different tasks into different time slots in your day, make a list of your top 3 priorities for the day, or both. This can really help with becoming a more disciplined writer.
For the past two years, I’ve been using the Full Focus Planner for this. It’s definitely not the cheapest paper planner out there – but having tried a few different planners over the past few years, I’ve found that the Full Focus one really works well for me.
#4: Find Some Angle or Aspect of the Topic That Interests You
This is advice I’ve heard a few times, when it comes to writing about an uninteresting topic: find a way to make it more interesting to you. It might seem like a bit of a no-brainer, but I’m not convinced it works in all cases.
Of course, if you can find a fresh and fun way to approach a topic you’re bored with, then go for it! But some types of writing simply aren’t all that engaging.
If you can’t figure out a way to get interested in your topic, don’t worry about it. You absolutely can write about something even if you’re bored.
#5: Think About the Money (or Other Results)
Although I can’t always find it in myself to be interested in the topic I’m writing about, it’s fairly easy to be interested in the money.
After 14+ years of freelance writing, I’m now at a point where I’m generally making $120 to $150 per hour of freelance work. That’s a great hourly rate and one I’m certainly willing to put up with a bit of boredom for. 😉
If you’re not getting paid, you’re hopefully getting some other beneficial result for working on a boring piece of writing. (If not, it might be time to rethink whether you want to stick with this project at all.) Focusing on the end reward could be enough to keep you sitting at your desk writing, even when you’re finding it tough to stay focused.
#6: Give Yourself Something to Look Forward to When You’re Finished
Interesting writing projects are often their own reward: you love spending time working on them, and it might even feel like a treat when you get to do so.
Uninteresting projects need to have an external reward attached. Yes, the money (or grade) that you’ll receive is a reward … but you may find it helps you to focus if you have something more immediate in mind.
Perhaps you’ll spend an hour reading after you send your next set of product descriptions to your client, or maybe you’ll watch your favourite TV show after you’ve checked off your freelancing tasks for the day.
You could even reward yourself with more writing! If you have a writing project that you love working on, like a novel, short story collection, or blog, you could give yourself some time to spend on that after you finish your less interesting work.
Not everything you write will be interesting to you. Yes, you absolutely should look for freelancing assignments on your favourite topics, and you should find ways to make your work as engaging for yourself as you can … but there’ll still be times when you need to simply push through and write about a boring topic, in a boring way.
Hopefully, the ideas above will help you to stay focused and get your writing done. The sooner you can get through it, the sooner you’ll be able to move on to something more enjoyable.
I’m Ali Luke, and I live in Leeds in the UK with my husband and two children.
Aliventures is where I help you master the art, craft and business of writing.
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