The trick is to remember what Hamlet said. My first writing job involved me putting together encyclopaedic entries about antiques. Very few seventeen-year-old boys have a natural interest in antiques. I was not one of them. But after completing only a few of these entries, I realised that antiques weren’t just antiques. The process of intaglio, for example, has much to do with Walter Benjamin’s arguments in The Age of Mechanical Reproduction, while the term “campaign furniture” (the subject of my very first entry) draws for its etymology a long process of utilitarian evolution going right back to Julius Caesar’s ill-fated invasion of the British Isles. I was writing about so many more things than just old jugs, and while younger more nubile ones might have commanded greater attention, it didn’t matter, because antiques weren’t boring. Once you realise everything is tied to everything else, you can write about anything with passion and vigour.
Writing helps you understand. Unlike most journalists or professional writers, I don’t have a particular area of expertise which I’m most comfortable with. If anything, my area of expertise is my writing – and I’ve not particularly exemplary in that regard. But I can only write effectively about something if I understand it – and not just the superficial “A does B and B does C and therefore impending apocalypse” understanding, but the sort which tries to really get what’s going on and what’s at stake and exactly how a bunch of wires can enable some cute-looking cone of expensive hardware to single-handedly (-wiredly?) arrest a 12,000-mile-per-hour descent and plonk itself down in a crater on a red and dusty and entirely alien world.
So I talk to people who do understand. I ask them questions, and read their books, and follow them around, and do my darnedest to gain a smidgen of the understanding which they possess. Terrifying? Yes. Boring? Never. And it also works for academic essays (understanding a concept), job applications (understanding a business), and longform fiction (understanding a life which is not your own). Too often boring is a synonym for incomprehensible. Too rarely is writing a synonym for learning.
I have trouble with repetition, though. Even the most interesting subject in the world gets dull once you’ve written about it more times than there are rings in Olympic iconography (which, if you’re having trouble counting, is still a single-digit figure). I treat these occasions like weightlifting – painful, and potentially sweaty. But just like a body-builder, I know that “doing reps” is a necessary part of my development. Repetition ensures the understanding you’ve gained doesn’t disappear. It renders you more fluent in what you’re writing on, either by dint of familiarity with your subject matter or the ability to present it to different sorts of people. It gives you the chance to improve your writing technique by strengthening old things or trying new ones.
My pectorals are not much bigger than when I was a seventeen-year-old. But that’s not what my daily work-outs seek to do. They help me write about a world where ab can be a preposition, a testing framework for start-ups, or a latitudinal core strength indicator of which I currently possess approximately 1.07. There’s nothing boring about that.