Aerial photo of a switchback highway up a mountain.

By Jacqui Banaszynski

Do anything often enough and long enough and you probably, at times, fall into the occasional rut. I don’t know of any fellow journalist, no matter their age or experience, who hasn’t lamented that their work feels stale.

But the operative word there is “occasional.” And that feeling is, to me, a signal to do three things:

1. Look back at your own work. Take note of past writing you did that stretched you or gave you a sense of accomplishment. Remember what you did to make those pieces work. Pay attention to why those stories mattered to you, and to the progress they reveal. You may feel stalled in the moment, but I bet a review of work over time will prove that you have steadily, if slowly, gained skills and mastery.

2. Reread a small handful of writing by others that you find memorable and that demonstrates the kind of work you aspire to.

3. Take a risk. Find a story that challenges you somehow — maybe a subject you’ve never covered or an approach you’ve never tried. If what you try doesn’t work, you can always default to the conventional. So trust the writing path ahead. Learn from stories you’ve done in the past, those done by others and from those still in front of you. Your progress might feel like it winds and detours and even stalls, over time it leads forward. Think of it as taking switchbacks up a steep hill; it can feel super-slow in the moment, but if you keep walking — and typing — you’ll be climbing.

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