How to conduct a writing detox

Follow this simple regimen to get rid of the toxins in your copy. It shouldn’t be too painful. 


I’m attempting to do a food detox for a week. That means I’m cutting out dairy, meat, caffeine, sugar, alcohol and gluten from my diet.

I hope I don’t keel over.

At the detox class I attended, the instructor warned us that we might get cranky, develop acne or welts, go through withdrawal and become depressed.

Splendid! Sign me up.

I figured if my whole body is going through detox, maybe my brain could, too.

Here are five detox rules for writing I made up, while drinking my kale-filtered water-cucumber-spinach-banana-blueberry-chia seed smoothie. (It’s an acquired taste.)

Cut the sugary stories

What you take in, you’ll put out. That means it’s time to stop leafing through Weekly World News at the grocery store checkout line or reading 50 Shades of Grey before you go to bed. All those verbal sugars and preservatives aren’t going to make you a better writer.

Your writing needs more nutrients. Don’t forget about Hemingway, On Writing Well, or any great literature or literary figure that inspired you. Not knowing who Taylor Swift is dating might make you antsy, but now is the time to challenge yourself: Take a writing seminar, mentor a young writer at your office, and start writing in your journal.

Add color to your writing

I didn’t realize how much yellow I was eating until I was forced to eat more greens. This made me wonder whether my sentences had enough variety. I asked myself: Why do most of my email exchanges wind up with my saying, “Great, sounds good!”? Am I using passive voice? Why do I ask so many questions? If all your writing “sounds good,” it’s time to make the change. So, make it terrific.

Get rid of ‘freezer writing’

After my detox class, I threw out everything in my freezer: the meatballs, the frozen veggie patties, the pizza. Here’s how cleaning out your freezer applies to your writing: Get rid of all that “evergreen” content that you run on your intranet or internal newsletter. Create something new—or, at the very least, update what you already have to make it fresh.

DIY writing style

Now, I’m boiling my own beans and cutting fresh pineapples. Forget canned foods. Who knows? Maybe someday, I’ll pickle my own gherkins. When you stop eating frozen and canned foods, you’re turning your kitchen into your grandma’s, but you’ll make it more healthful. This applies to writing, too. Instead of taking notes on your smartphone, grab a pen and paper. When you’re typing on a smartphone, you’re only going to type what you’re thinking of. If you’ve got a notepad, you’ve got room to ramble.

Try something new

I’m now addicted to almond butter. Before my detox, I didn’t even know it existed. When you eliminate what you’ve always done (for me, crunchy peanut butter), you open yourself up to new things. When’s the last time you did a Q and A or an investigative piece, or wrote a haiku for your intranet? Try spicing up where you’re writing your stories. Instead of writing from a coffee shop this week, I thought about writing from a neighborhood bar.

Then I remembered: I’m not allowed to drink.

Jessica Levco is co-editor of Ragan’s Health Care Communication News.

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