Published: May 25, 2016 12:00:00 PM

golden-party-turtles.jpgAre you staring down into a big barrel of boring? Probably wish there were fish in that barrel. At least then you'd have a live target.

Instead, you've been tasked with ladeling that gray slop onto a paper, a report, a blog post, or a project. You need to write about a boring topic. Your body is resisting the task. Writing about a boring topic is emotionally taxing.

Know what else is boring? Running.

Who here disagrees? Who thinks running is most certainly NOT boring?

But people still have asked me how to write about boring topics throughout my professional career. Regardless of which side you take on that topic, you'd likely agree that somebody, somewhere, could write about recreational running and make it interesting. Somebody cares enough about it, knows enough about it, and knows the audience well enough to keep it sharp.

That's the secret.

Don't Run From The Boring Topics

Before you ask how to write about a boring topic, ask: what do you care about, personally? What remarkable little something could you talk about night and day? A hobby? A person? A football team? There is something. This is part of the process, write a few things down, it's more productive than staring at a blank page to complain that it's impossible to write about whatever's boring.

You need to latch onto a topic of your own expertise, then transplant that mindset onto the boring topic.

You are now inhabiting a passionate headspace. Looking around my desk, I notice an example: what do you know about scissors?

While this is an unidentified brand of scissors, there is good heft in the blade. The handle is a somewhat gritted plastic, suggesting solid grip in case of a heavier job. Furthmore, you can notice shear extends well up into the handle. That'll keep it from snapping when working through thicker material. It's not quite the wrought-iron luxury found in the shear-level blades I recall my dad using, but the screw at the center of this pair is set tight. That's a sign it can handle a good deal of leverage. Now, I'm not certain your day-to-day cutting jobs will demand much more than slicing paper, ther's a solid chance this pair could make quick work of medium-grade posterboard.

That's just a few lines on scissors. It took 3 minutes to write. If you want to know how to write about something boring, begin with deconstructing the paragraph. You'll notice it described the look, feel, background knowledge, history, and potential usage of a tool as simple as scissors. It's not boring, either. If people didn't know how to write about innocuous topics, the Science Channel wouldn't exist.

A few musts to know when considering how to write about "boring" topics:

  • Put yourself in the mindset of your audience -- what're they searching for? What're they hoping to learn?
  • Equate the topic with something you are passionate with -- you notice tiny textures and feelings in your favorite sports, inconsistencies in flavor in your cooking, so summon that focus for the boring topic
  • Put yourself in the mindset that it is going to get done -- this is perhaps the most important, because if you've been tasked with writing something, for a school paper, or for work, then you owe it to your own living braincells to make it at least tolerable

Did we missing anything? How do you write about stilted, unsexy ideas?

-- Alex Crumb
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