I’m tired of boring writing.
I have been reading a lot of non-fiction articles lately and the largest, most annoying fly in that ointment is that a lot of it is just boring.
I place the blame on several things.
One, grammar checking programs that “suggest” changes in grammar that are plain wrong. (An Aside: Dear Microsoft: “to who” is incorrect. I have aggressively turned off your grammar checker for years, so I don’t know if you’ve bothered to *fix* this annoyance yet. But please, if you run across this, fix it.)
Two, teachers who, for years, battered into our heads that we should not write above an eighth grade level and even that was pushing it. Anything for public consumption should be readable by your average tween. Unfortunately, I internalized this and my writing now sounds like Hemingway. I hate Hemingway’s writing. I keep trying to expose myself to more unusual styles, like Cat Valente, and China Meiville, and poetry. It doesn’t generally creep into my writing though. I still have hope.
Three, “assistant” programs that make you “write better.” By “better” they mean that you now write like a journalist for Buzzfeed. These assistants will suggest word choice changes, eliminate “redundancies” even if they are placed for emphasis, and in general will dumb down your writing so that it fits into the rules of journalism. This might be helpful if you’re churning out articles for content mills. It is not helpful if you’re trying to write the next lyrically beautiful novel that will bring tears to the eyes of all who read it.
Four, the internet in general. Writing for the internet and trying to make a living at doing that is hard work. There are a vanishingly small number of writers who can make blogging (or its cousin content creation for sites such as Medium or Vocal) a paying job. Out of all of the blogs in the world, how many do you actually read? How many of those can actually pay the rent with the money they generate from the ads on their blogs, tips, and such? Not nearly as many as we’d like to believe. It’s hard work. And for every Boing Boing, there’s something like Willful Wanderer (my theoretical travel blog that’s dying on the vine because I haven’t actually gotten around to making content for it.)
Five, social media. We’ve gotten to a point where everything needs to be expressed in extremely short forms. “tl;dr” which, to its credit, uses a semicolon correctly, is the short form of “too long; didn’t read.” This can be applied to anything: Stories, meditations, social media posts, emails, epic poetry of long-forgotten battles, and political rants. Especially the political rants.
I don’t think I have any advice to change this prevailing inability of authors to really make non-fiction lift off of the page. Except, maybe to stop reading earlier?
If you have a solution, please let me know in the comments below.
(See what I did there? That’s called a “call to action” and is required for all media these days. So, like, comment, and subscribe or the blog police will cut you off from the net for three hours.)