When You’d Rather Die First

Writing about things you like or find interesting can be stressful. Figuring out what to say, dealing with the mechanics of spelling and grammar, and having the piece make sense and be reasonably interesting are among the common challenges a person faces when they need to put words to the page.

A new level of stress gets added when you don’t have any interest or desire to write about the subject at hand. If it’s tough enough to write when you enjoy the subject, what can be done when you can’t stand it?

You just suck it up and do it, or at least that’s what a lot of people say and there is some truth to that thought. Usually when you’re faced with the situation of writing about something miserably dull or obnoxious, there’s an element of ‘you will write about this or else’ factored in. Otherwise, the problem solves itself by not being written about. Yet in a world filled with obligations, there will always be miserable topics waiting for you to have to deal with them.

So in the interest of passing a class or keeping in good standing at a job, here are some ideas on how to write about things you can’t stand or don’t care about. Remember, just because you hate the subject doesn’t mean you’re released from the obligation to write well.

1. Pretend.

If you’re feeling truly apathetic about a subject, make up an opinion or an angle. Now, you need to be mindful about using this. This not the same as making up facts or pretending you are knowledgeable about something you’re not. This is for those times when, for example, you’re reading a book that bores you to tears and need to come up with an opinion. Give yourself permission to make up one and write as though you felt that way.

2. Be honest.

If you hate the subject or think it’s incredibly dull, then consider making the fact that you can’t stand the thing your subject. However, be warned this is very risky territory. You will need to make sure you can articulate exactly why you feel this way in order to have a solid piece of writing. This is a time when you need to write well because it can be a bold move to have a dissenting opinion. You need to have clear and well-developed ideas in order to survive this tactic because you’ll look like an ass if you don’t. Expect to get criticism if you chose this route and decide if it’s worth it.

3. Focus on a mechanical aspect.

This often works well if you need to review a particularly annoying book or other item. If the plot sucks, can you do something with the way the author uses imagery or symbolism? If the characters are boring or annoying, is there something you can do with the historical accuracy or uniqueness of the subject matter? Use something from the style to take the focus off the pain.

4. Focus on a single aspect. Can you find one topic or character or plot twist that is possible to work with? If it’s a subject you don’t care about, can you zero in on one thing that you find tolerable enough to work with?

5. Make sure you understand what you’re writing about.

Sometimes a topic sucks because you don’t know enough about the subject to get to the good stuff. Maybe this is the best the author has written to date? Maybe there is a really awesome back story about how this got written or published? Maybe there is much more information about this subject than you know and it will get more interesting once you get more details. Take the time to explore the subject beyond what you have or know.

6. Give yourself permission to not let this be your best work ever.

If all else fails, write the best you can with what you got to work with, but take the pressure off to some degree by accepting imperfection. Focus on meeting the requirements instead how much you’d rather not be writing this thing. This is one of those times were ‘good enough’ might need to be good enough.

In the end, facing and overcoming writing challenges ultimately makes you a better writer. With each piece you write, you find out a little bit more about yourself and what you can and can’t do, as well as what you will and won’t do – if you can help it. Again, just because you hate the subject is not a reason to write poorly. Use each time you write as an exercise in developing ideas and mastering the language.

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