Tuesday, September 22, 2009

weekly writing coach: rock the boring tasks

No writer likes to admit this, but sometimes, your writing tasks are mundane. More boring than watching grass grow or paint dry. And that often means mistakes on the horizon--or worse, a motivation drain. Here's a great post by Michele Wittle, "My Worst Writing Mistake: Getting Sick of my Work," a cautionary tale that serves as a strong reminder to avoid this trap and to check your work when you're most bored.

Whenever I have a routine piece of writing or editing to do, I think of Frank Karel, a former journalist and communications vice president for the Rockefeller and Robert Wood Johnson Foundations. He once hired me to compile a report for the Johnson Foundation that was beyond mundane--a roundup of all the foundation's grants for a particular year, destined for its tax filing. And here's how he framed the task: "This is going to feel like you're writing 'Mary Had a Little Lamb' 400,000 times. But it needs to get done and if you do it, I promise we'll give you better things to write." Frank Karel died this past weekend, but I'll never forget the way he helped me rock a boring writing task, with three things: humor, an acknowledgement of the realities of the situation and the promise of better writing to come. Do yourself a favor and try to do the same the next time you're faced with a boring writing task.

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