Advice: Forgetting How to Write

Sometimes we forget how to write. And I don’t mean that we physically forget how to use a pen or move our fingers across the keyboard. No, this is a different kind of forgetting. This kind of forgetting means that you sit down at your computer and don’t know how to create scenes, or write dialogue, or write something that you find interesting.

Forgetting how to write can happen as a result of several different events. You may have taken a break from writing and can’t seem to get back in your groove. Alternatively, you may be so mired in writing for a job that you can’t seem to find your personal writing groove anymore. Or perhaps you’ve been pushing full steam ahead to finish a writing project and sit down one day to find that you’ve lost your groove in the rush toward a deadline.

No matter which of these were catalysts for your forgetting to write, or if you experienced something completely different, I’m sure you want to know how to remember again. The bad news is that wanting to remember will not help you remember. In fact, becoming frustrated with yourself and just wanting to get back into your normal mode of writing may only make the situation worse.

A couple of months ago, I found an article on Medium entitled “How I forgot to write.” The author, Jory MacKay, experienced a work-related way of forgetting how to write. In his article, MacKay offers some advice for those who have “forgotten” how to write. One of the items he mentions is to “repent your writerly sins.” MacKay says, “the first, and most important step is to admit that you can’t write, or that your writing has lost the substance and meaning behind it. Repeat this like a mantra and remind yourself every time you sit down to write a piece. Even if it’s something soul-suckingly boring (like a press release) find something in it that aligns with your personal values as a writer.”

I like this piece of advice because it involves doing something that might make you uncomfortable: admitting that you have forgotten how to write. Once you acknowledge that, though, you can begin to change your attitude and hopefully improve your writing once more. I like that MacKay suggests finding something of your personal writerly values in whatever you’re writing. Taking the time to do that will make writing more important to you again (rather than something you do on auto-pilot) and will hopefully get you back into your groove.

Happy Writing!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan


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