When Good Article Writing Goes Bad

On the outside, writer ‘A’ appears to be successful. Their byline appears in multiple publications, they make a decent living as a freelance writer and they can roll out most articles with minimum effort. That’s a good thing right? Maybe not. Writer ‘A’ has got what I call “By Rote Disease.” It’s a common affliction for many freelance writers.

Symptoms include:

  • Writing articles by a formula
  • Nodding off during an assignment
  • Creating work that is competent but typical

“By Rote Disease” is not serious for most writers and can be cured by re-igniting the writing spark  that lives inside of each keyboard tapper. There are many reasons why “By Rote Disease” attacks a writer – often it stems from sheer boredom. When a writer becomes an expert in their niche they are 10 times more likely to become victims. A writer is also more susceptible to contracting this disease when they focus more on making money writing than on writing.

Many writers walk away from their full-time jobs to join the exciting world of freelance writing. They are lured by the promises of relaxing days outside under a tree with words pouring forth onto their laptop like a waterfall. They imagine skipping through the tulips on the way to their mailbox to pick up large checks for work that was more pleasure than pain. They see themselves interviewing the leading experts in a particular niche and becoming “besties” with them. Then reality hits:

  • Lots of work doesn’t necessarily translate to tulip skipping.
  • Thinking about the phone bill can put a damper on creativity.
  • Becoming an expert in a niche can mean being so sick of writing about it you want to scream!

This is when the disease sets in and writers turn off the creativity and turn on the robotic lede-paragraph-quote-paragraph-quote-side bar-paragraph-close formula. The copy? Clean. The sources? Stellar. The passion, interest and spark? Gone.

Light the Spark

The quickest way to get over “By Rote Disease” is to simply get out of your comfort zone – which can be scary for writers. Writers build up a reputation, following and list of contacts that makes the job easier, but can potentially stagnate their growth. Moving out of your comfort zone can be as dramatic as moving onto a completely new niche or as easy as taking on a different perspective.

One of the quickest ways to set the writing spark on fire is to learn more about a subject. The great thing about writing is the world is constantly evolving and there are always new ideas and theories being floated about everything. There is always a conference, a new book, etc. popping up. Instead of waiting for a bandwagon to drive by, create your own by investigating and writing about the new things that are happening in your particular niche.

Another great way to freshen up your work is to hit another genre on the side. It’s not like you’re cheating on your niche, it’s more like an open relationship kind of thing. You hook up with a few other interesting niches or genres and bring what you learn back to your main squeeze.

If all else fails, change your location. Get out of the basement and into creation. Hit the library, the park, a bookstore, your back porch…Anywhere that’s not your office. Utilize a perk of freelancing and be open to creating and being inspired by a new location.

All writers run into a lull every once in a while. Great writers recognize when the copy is getting stale and shake things up. Now, get out there and write something great!


12 responses
  1. Miss City Girl Avatar

    Give up my day job to write? I can only wish…

    1. Terreece Clarke Avatar

      Miss City Girl – You can do it girl. It takes some planning, a deep breath and the ability to shake down those who owe you money… :0)

  2. Kathleen Avatar

    Excellent article.

  3. Heidi LaFleche Avatar

    Thanks for writing this, Terreece. We’ve all been there. Appreciate your ideas for shaking things up and keeping things fresh. Staying in the writing comfort zone is a ticket straight to boredom (and bad copy)! Best wishes, Heidi

  4. Christina Crowe @ Cash Campfire Avatar

    I love this post! I’ve been having a major problem with motivation lately. I often just find myself dreading to get into my computer desk chair and put my fingers onto my keyboard to write.

    I’m going to try to change the scene or subject matter. Hopefully that helps, and thanks for addressing the problem!

    By the way, why the name “By Rote Disease”? Just out of curiosity.

    1. Terreece Clarke Avatar

      Let me know what work and if you come up with something different I’d love to hear about it.

      When someone learn things by rote they learn it through repetition without really giving it much thought. That’s what happens to our writing sometimes, we get so use to the formula of it that we write without putting much thought – or effort – into it.

      When that autopilot takes over your writing you’ve got “By Rote Disease.” I call myself being clever. LOL!

  5. Anita Avatar

    Thanks for this great reminder. I ghost blog for a client in the “green” niche, and while I have learned a great deal about the subject matter, I do find myself getting “bored” with some of the topics. I don’t have a laptop (yet) so my surroundings can’t really be changed. The only other option then, at least for now, is to dig deeper. ;-D

    1. Terreece Clarke Avatar

      Ha! Will you be digging through the compost on your way? I don’t know if you’ve covered this, but I find the whole “Composting Toilet” thing fascinating. I like to thing of myself as a hippie at heart but that’s one thing I couldn’t get with LOL!

  6. Sylvie Branch Avatar
    Sylvie Branch

    “hit another genre on the side. It’s not like you’re cheating on your niche, it’s more like an open relationship kind of thing. You hook up with a few other interesting niches or genres and bring what you learn back to your main squeeze”

    ha! love it…. i’m constantly jumping in and out of genres and keep thinking I need to specialize…thanks for the validation.

    1. Terreece Avatar

      LOL! I’m glad you liked it Sylvie. Picking a niche is something that is advised, it often happens unintentionally, but for the most part, it’s up to you.

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