There’s a lot of boring writing out there. I’m sure you’ve read it.
Dry, lifeless points thrown into a listicle and sealed with an overused, trending headline designed to make the writer go viral. What makes for boring writer is when the writer is boring.
Writer Isaiah McCall reminded me of a quote from the book “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: The Complete Guide to Writing Creative Nonfiction.” The author explains “a writer is only as interesting as his life.”
Isaiah took the advice to heart. He interpreted what the author was saying to mean “have more experiences” to be a more interesting writer readers want to devour the words of over a bottle of red wine.
He joined the army for six months, became an ultramarathoner, began a career in standup comedy, and started writing for well-known publication, USA Today.
Those experiences are bound to make what he writes about more interesting. It explains a lot of his recent success as a blogger. He’s intentionally become more interesting. You have the same opportunity as a writer.
The missing component
What’s missing from a lot of writer’s work is a personal touch. They write a rushed intro that doesn’t grab the reader’s attention and then get straight into slapping the reader over the face with advice.
Context is crucial in writing. You’ve got to set the scene a little. Give some background. Explain your philosophy.
Add this sizzle to your intro
One of my favorite things to do in the intro is to define a key term. For example, if I write about being financially free then I define the term upfront.
Every term has a different meaning to the writer using it. The biggest argument I see in the comments sections of many blog posts is over terms. You can provide readers clarity when you define what you mean. If you say I can be retired by listening to what you have to say, what does that look like amigo?
Is the version of retirement you’re talking about involve Lambos? Are we talking private jets too? Or is it a small house in the woods that you can construct from materials you buy from Walmart? Does Ikea furniture cut it or are we talking primo leather couches with coasters to place your champers glass on?
Can I wear my undies while sitting on the couch or is this more of a Vanity Fair style retirement with photographers and the candy colors of the rainbow as background? Do I need to donate money to a good ol’ fashion Nelson Mandela endorsed cause or can I just gift a Ferrari to the nearest 21 year old in the street who is seeking a one night stand and qualify as worthy for this version of meaningful retirement?
Pro writing tip
You can create your own terms. People love it when you come up with a term. It helps people identify with what you’re saying.
A now-infamous Reddit User, Ryan, blew up online when he came up with the term “Zero Days.” He built a catchphrase off the term that went like this: No more Zero Days. It was unconventional motivation. It was a term he coined off his own personal experience.
A zero day is when you don’t do a single f*cking thing towards whatever dream or goal or want or whatever that you got going on. No more zeros….promise yourself, that the new SYSTEM you live in is a NON-ZERO system. Didn’t do anything all fucking day and it’s 11:58 PM? Write one sentence. One pushup. Read one page of that chapter. One. Because one is non zero.
You can create your own terms. Make them so simple, anybody can relate, and drop your newly created term into a tweet or a blog post of their own.
Experiment to become more interesting
I wasn’t born interesting. My career was crazy boring when it started in a call center. Maybe you can relate? The good news is you can use mini-experiments to become more interesting. Here are a few of mine you can steal:
- Go to strange meetups with odd themes.
- Read about weird topics — like the supernatural, higher states of consciousness, flow states, strange events in history.
- Commit small acts of kindness. Notice how you feel.
- Reach out to people you don’t know. Spend a bit of time researching them and then use what you’ve learned to see if you can have a 30-minute video chat with them.
- Take several odd jobs in the space of a year.
- Volunteer at a homeless shelter. See the brokenness.
- Write down interesting conversations you witness.
If your writing isn’t being read. If you feel your writing is boring. If you find yourself staring at empty stats. The answer is to make yourself more interesting rather than get lost in chasing empty writing hacks — like headlines, virality, styles, or trends.
Do things that make you incredibly emotional
What makes writing boring is a lack of emotion.
Readers want to feel what you have to say, not only read your words. When we feel what you’re writing we can absorb it. You subconsciously ignore information that makes you feel nothing.
Emotion acts like a bookmark in your brain. You remember the emotion and then the writing attached to that emotion.
I remember reading a blog post with the cheesy title “How To Lose Weight In 4 Easy Steps” by Aaron Bleyaert. I have never been fat. (My look is more like a skinny version of the infamous green character Gumby.) I read Aaron’s post on weight loss and found myself sobbing like a child. It wasn’t a blog post about losing weight at all. It was a love story. It was the story of seeing the person you love move on, while you’re still stuck in the past loving them.
I was going through something similar when I read it. His words pierced my heart. As soon as I think of the headline for Aaron’s story I get emotional. That’s how powerful emotion is for memory recall.
You, too, can be Aaron. You can inject emotion into your writing. How? Simple. Ask yourself “how does this idea make me feel?” If you’re writing about playing tennis, then how does it make you feel?
If you’re writing about losing your job, then how did it make you feel on the day? If you’re writing about your friend that passed away from stage 4 cancer, then how did it make you feel to send them a message on Facebook, realize they were dead, and attend their Youtube funeral because of a pandemic?
Your writing isn’t intriguing unless people can feel what you’re saying. Too many writers prioritize quotes, facts, and throwing advice at readers. Instead, add the missing ingredient of emotion.
The beauty is in the tiny details
I am guilty of this one. My most boring pieces all go straight to big concepts that lack detail. You may skip over the tiny details to keep your writing concise. Don’t.
The tiny details help people relate to you and the humans you’re writing about. I tell people I’m Aussie for this reason. The Australian way of looking at things is laidback. “She’ll be right” is our country’s motto. It takes a lot to make us outraged. You can throw stones at our parliament building. It will take more than that to get our tanned buttocks off Bondi Beach, over to our phones, and logged on to Twitter to express disgust. Nature is just too good to take everything so seriously.
This tiny detail helps you understand where I’m coming from. You can do the same. You can reference your hobbies, what stage of life you’re in, your age, what you do for a living, odd quirks about yourself, or even the car you drive as a way to reference your beliefs about material metal objects.
Tell us the micro so we understand the macro.
Add energy before your writing session
Your writing reflects the level of energy you were in when you wrote the words. When you’re in a lifeless state your writing feels boring. A simple way to lift the energy of your writing is to change your state.
Do a workout before you write. Drink coffee to wake you up. Have a nap if you feel tired, then write. Watch a video on Youtube that makes you feel alive with energy. I often watch music videos of my favorite singers to energize me before sitting down to write. Why couldn’t you?
Everything in this world is either adding to your energy or taking it away. Add energy to make your writing more interesting.
You are more interesting than you think
I get writers tell me this all the time: “But sir, I’m not interesting enough.” Yes you are. You’re more interesting than you think. The trick is to document the interesting stuff you easily forget. When I drill into writers who give me this excuse they quickly see they are interesting.
Writer Tom Kuegler said readers buy your view of the world. I agree. How you see the world is beautiful. Describe it to us so we can enter your mind and witness another dimension. It’s easy for readers to feel trapped right now with all the crazy stuff going on in the world. Your writing has the ability to set readers free from what holds them back, and teleport into your world for a bit, thus giving them incredible value.
Share your world as an escape for readers.
Boring writing lacks emotion, context, the definition of terms, tiny details and energy. Add each of these components to make your writing interesting. Then, make your life a tiny bit more interesting by conducting mini-experiments. Become an Uber driver for a few hours. Or do what Isaiah did and try your hand at standup comedy.
The answer isn’t to make more money or to improve your writing stats or to dance around complaining about a writing platform. If your writing sucks (and you know it) then intentionally make your life interesting again.
Interesting writing is found at the intersection of YOU, your view of the world, and the experiments you conduct.