Do you ever find writing is just plain tedious? Have you lost the joy of the endeavor? Does writing suddenly seem more like accounting than something delightful? I received an email a while ago from a subscriber who told me he’d lost interest in technical writing, which had been his sole means of support for more than 25 years.
Immediately, I resolved to make a list of ways to make writing more fun again. Here are 10 suggestions:
1) Give yourself some goals. Having goals not only improves your chance of success but it also makes work more fun. Why do you think they keep score in tennis and hockey? Competing is fun! Your goals don’t have to look like mine, but they should be concrete and measurable. Resolve to write x number of words per day or for x number of minutes per day.
2) From time to time, make your goal super challenging — then work like hell to achieve it. For example, I am trying to write this post in 20 minutes (normally it takes me a minimum of 30 to 45 minutes to produce a first draft of this length.)*
3) Challenge yourself to work a specific (unrelated) word into a piece of writing. When I worked in the daily newspaper business, one of the reporters in my department always tried to use the word “hilarious” in every story. I invariably took it out — but I always admired his spunk! For him, it made writing more fun, which also made me very happy.
4) Give yourself plenty of rewards. Many people I know have a hard time with this one — but, really, isn’t life more fun when you get rewarded for what you do? The rewards don’t have to be expensive (a car or a Chanel suit) or fattening (chocolate brownies or a big piece of cheesecake) but they should be something that give you a little joy. What if you bought yourself a magazine you liked for every story you wrote? Or a latte? Or a… [decide what suits you.]
5) Learn and practice a relaxation technique. Writing can and should be fun but it can also be stressful. Be sure you know how to take a break. Learn how to meditate or how to do some simple back and shoulder exercises and work these techniques into your regular writing day. I try to set a timer for every 25 minutes (a pomodoro) and then I take a five-minute stretching break every time it beeps.
6) Give yourself some short bursts of physical activity throughout the day. Wander to your favorite coffee shop (or to your kitchen) to make yourself a cup of coffee. Go for a short walk during lunchtime. Stop reading this column right now and do five jumping jacks. If you have your own office, then throw your arms in the air and yell, “Go ____ [your name], go!” (You can whisper it if you work in an open office.)
7) Take whatever you’re writing and put it in the opposite direction from what you’d originally intended. For example, if you’re writing a piece on how save money for a mortgage, turn it into: Five Ways to Waste Your Money So You Can Never Buy That House.
8) Try to tell a story in your writing. Stories are inherently fun — especially if you’re the one telling them. Have you ever noticed how the best conversationalists (and speech givers) always tell lots of stories? Try to do the same in your writing, even if your boss doesn’t think it’s necessary. Stories have a natural beginning, middle and end and for this reason they’re easier and more fun to write.
9) Write with some music in the background. I can’t bear listening to music with words while I write (this makes me want to sing along, which I find distracting) but I do enjoy quiet instrumental music from time to time. I tend to stick with Chopin, Sibelius or Mozart but choose whatever appeals most to you.
10) Limit your writing time. It’s perverse how much we all ache to break rules but give yourself a rule that you can write for only 10 minutes and you’ll soon discover how desperate you are to write for an hour. Increase your writing time gradually.
*By the way, I wrote this column in 21 minutes. One minute more than I wanted but it was fun having a good “stretch” goal.