How to reset & refresh your word bank after a break
I’ve preached this plenty of times: If you want to become a better writer, you need to write all the time. Just like an athlete has to train and condition his body, so must a writer hone his skills if he wants to grow.
But let’s be real. Life happens. And while your intentions to write everyday sound great on paper, it’s often easier said than done.
Take it from one who knows.
I recently returned from a mission trip to Malawi, East Africa — my second year traveling there with my best friend and pastor to serve and minister to youth and young adults in one of the continent’s poorest countries. It was a profound, fulfilling experience; you can find some of my social media posts about it on my Instagram and Facebook pages.
Like last year, returning to the U.S. was rough. Jet lag hijacked my sleep cycle. My stomach stayed in knots for days. My back was achey. I ate like a slightly-more-than-destitute college student (seriously, Chick-fil-A and Viva Chicken everyday). And, aside from social media posts about the trip, I didn’t write a single thing. I took a break.
Then, I went back to work, where my job is to write. All the time. That’s why they pay me.
That means long-term writer’s block is never an option, and failing to summon words at the same speed I did when I was a little more lucid is an issue.
Good thing I found a way out. If you’ve been here, you can, too. Here’s what I did to overcome the slog.
Just do it (don’t sue me, Nike)
You won’t hit your stride writing again until you, well, start writing again. So, just get in there and do it.
It may feel awkward, even sloppy at first. But, give it some time and it’ll all come back to you.
It’s like when I recently rode a bike again for the first time in 10 years. It was uncomfortable, wobbly and a bit embarrassing. But I kept on trying and, within seconds — OK, minutes — I was peddling, maintaining balance and turning corners without assistance.
Do something - anything - else
Praise the Lord for “My Hero Academia.” If you’ve never watched this anime, I highly recommend it. I binged it when I came back from Malawi.
Why? Mindless entertainment gave my racing mind a pause.
Instead of dwelling on what wasn’t working, i.e., all my words, I focused on a great story, impressive animation and gratuitous cartoon violence. It helped.
Write something new
Seems odd, doesn’t it? Why would you write something new when you feel like you can hardly write at all?
One of the biggest barriers to progress is familiarity. Writing something new — something different — allows your mind to explore uncharted territory. You’ll stretch your skills and force yourself out of your comfort zone. The pressure (paired with the fear of failure) will enhance your performance as you start wielding your word bank like a samurai wields katanas.
You’ll surprise yourself with how good you really are. I work a job where every writing assignment is different, so there’s no time to get comfortable. It’s a blessing, really (when I’m not hyperventilating). One of my first big projects coming back was writing a 30-plus page ebook on different ways to eliminate debt 🙃.
Remember why this matters
Remind yourself why you’re writing in the first place. For some of you, it may be necessity as you realize — by reading all these super-helpful blogs on Jon Writes — that writing is a key component to telling your brand story, engaging your audience and taking your marketing efforts to the next level. For others, you just like it.
Whatever the reason, keep it in the forefront of your mind as you get back in the saddle and start writing beautiful (but not too lengthy) sentences again.
Don’t judge yourself too harshly
You may be tempted to beat yourself up for allowing your skills to lapse. You may feel like a failure, an amateur, a joke.
The pity party can end now.
Dwelling on a problem never solves it. Show yourself some grace and submit to the process. You’ll get good again. Heck, you’ll get better. Know that it’ll take time to reclaim your groove. Once you do, you’ll come back with fresh ideas, less stress and a newfound appreciation for your skills.
Get more writing tips on the Jon Writes Brand Blog.