How to Write Assignments that Turn Your Stomach

Whether it’s something political, grotesque or just plain boring, sooner or later we writers are apt to get stuck with a topic that we just can’t stand. Yeah, we know. The best thing is not to take on those assignments in the first place.

But if it’s a longtime client we love, a mondo rate we love even more, or the fact that we said yes before we got all the details, we may find ourselves stuck with a bummer of an assignment.

How we deal with it depends on a smattering of factors.

If we can’t stand the assignment just because it’s boring, we can cope by making it fun. Like throwing a few puns into the morning traffic report. Or writing up the 55 camping tarp product descriptions with a humorous bit of flair.

If we can’t stand the assignment because of the style or tone we have to use, we can turn it into an acting experiment. Break out of your role as a writer who has to create this thing in a stuffy style. Instead, transform yourself into the stuffy, tie-wearing person who would adore this type of writing.

Close your eyes. Imagine yourself behind a giant mahogany desk with your personalized pen set in front of you and a bookcase full of law journals behind you. Then start typing up what you would say if you were in a movie playing this character, complete with the really big words most folks would need a thesaurus to understand.

This acting game works for any persona you need, whether it’s the no-nonsense academic, the chit-chatty neighbor, or the man-bun hipster who is checking out the latest and greatest in the world of CBD.

If you don’t believe in the product, service or with the point of view you’re tasked to support, things can get a bit hairy. Depending on how strongly you feel about a certain topic, you may be able to shut down your emotions, buck up and make it work. Or not.

One long-time client started a gung-ho political site. I was fine writing the copy for the home page, which just outlined what the site was about. But when it got to the persuasive emails that were supposed to attack the opposition and fire people up enough to go marching through the streets with bayonets, I started getting sick to my stomach.

Political vitriol in general makes my head hurt. I don’t read the headlines for a reason. The angry attacks and fear-mongering makes me want to scream. I specifically choose not to invite it into my life.

But there I was trying to create it. Since I had already agreed to the assignment, and it was a longtime client who I respected, I did my best and soldiered on.

The result? He absolutely hated it. Sent me a pretty nasty email, in fact, saying how I entirely missed the mark and our working relationship of eight years was now over. “Don’t feel the need to respond to this email.”

Oh. OK. Ever hear the saying that the universe sometimes does for you what you cannot do for yourself? Guess it kicked in right about there. No more political assignments from this one. No more assignments, period.  

If something truly makes your stomach churn, the wisest move may be to let it go. And not by writing something the client will hate, either. Be honest. Explain you’re uncomfortable with the assignment and it would probably be better handled by someone else.

Get bonus points for recommending someone else you know would do a good job. And double bonus points for not waiting for two minutes before deadline.

Even better than bonus points is the soothing feeling you’ll get from making your serenity a priority – and avoiding assignments that involve anger, anxiety or camping tarps.


Ryn Gargulinski is a writer, artist, Reiki master and creativity consultant who loves spoiling her dogs and making people laugh.

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By WriterAccess

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