I’ve been really struggling in my creative writing efforts over the past few years. I’m not ashamed to admit that. After all the time I’ve spent offering advice to writers, you’d think I’d have set a good example and, oh I don’t know, published a book by now or something. In time, friends. In time. Maybe. Hopefully. Or not. Who knows?
It took me far too long to realize the problem wasn’t me — well, not really. Technically, there was nothing wrong with me as a writer. There was a reason I was having trouble finishing every story I started writing, and it had everything to do with boredom.
While I don’t struggle to focus on projects or minimize distractions, I do often find myself hitting a wall. There always seems to come a point while writing a story in which I just stop caring. I’m bored. I just want the story to end, I want to skip to the final page. I don’t want to do it anymore.
Now, at least, I know why … and how to handle it.
Have you ever stopped working on something because you just … got bored and lost interest in your story completely? You’re not alone. It’s safe to guess most writers have quit or project-hopped strictly out of boredom. I’ve done it more than once.
While there’s nothing wrong with deciding to set something aside in favor of a much more promising project — for the right reasons, anyway — quitting because you’re bored is actually highly preventable.
I’m not talking about “fixing” your short attention span or dumping your distractions here. I’m talking about paying attention to the story itself, and being honest with yourself about WHY you’re bored with it.
Sometimes, admittedly, even I focus too much on external factors and neglect what lies within. Paying attention to your writing process and the things helping or hindering you is important, don’t get me wrong. But when it comes down to it, it really is all about the story you’re writing.
And if you’re bored writing it, maybe instead of wondering if there’s something wrong with you or your routine, there’s something wrong with the story.
Something you are fully capable of fixing … because you’re the writer. The master of your own story. You can literally do whatever you want.
If you don’t like where the story is or isn’t going, guess what? You can change it.
Forget about having a set plan in place. Forget about sticking with what you originally decided was the best way to tell the story. In writing, nothing is ever set in stone. The worst thing you can do as a creative is to lock yourself into a box and not allow yourself the freedom to set your story on its own path.
It’s an unwritten rule, in the creative world, that if you’re bored making it, other people will be bored consuming it. Feeling bored while writing an article, for example, probably means you’re not doing enough to make it interesting. Facing boredom while writing a novel might signal you’re playing things too safe.
Experiencing boredom while writing, contrary to what many believe, does not mean your ideas are bad or that you should stop working on that project. In fact, boredom very well may be the best thing that will ever happen to you. It’s your wake-up call. Your story is missing something. And in order to figure out what that is, all you have to do is think about the change or direction that would excite you and make it happen.
In all honesty, some of the stories I’ve tried to write since graduating college have been … boring. At least they have been for me. And if they’re not interesting to me, they’re definitely not going to get a potential reader interested.
So how do I solve this problem? I raise the stakes. I take more risks. I “go there.” I make the story too exciting to ignore — and, once again in full honesty, interesting enough that I actually want to finish it.
It seems like such an obvious fix to a very common problem. But there’s a reason I always say you’ll never get better at writing if you don’t write. As active writers, we are constantly learning, making discoveries, and figuring out how to tell better stories.
I don’t mind that you read this blog and seek writing advice elsewhere. As long as you take what is given to you and actually apply it to your life outside the internet.
If you’re bored, there’s something you can do about that. Don’t just give up out of disinterest. Write the story that you’d want to read. That’s how you know other people will be interested in reading it someday too.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.