Having a face-off with a blank page? Got a blog post/EDM/Insta caption to write to promote your biz and... got nothing?
Whether you're a business owner struggling under the weight of just how much freaking copy is involved in the makings of a successful brand (from your website copy to your product labelling to your social media content... eek!) or a copywriter or digital marketer in need of a hit of inspo, read on. Want a professional copywriter's (that's me!) secret formula for saying buh-bye writer's block and writing your way to confetti on the page?
Scroll on (and thank me later)...
Turn off Netflix.
Braindump whatever comes into your head - no editing allowed! Freewrite your first ideas, no matter how lame or full of cliches they are (and they will be!).
The trick here is to write ALL of your first ideas down, especially the lame ones. Coz once they're out of your head, you've freed up some delicious mental and creative space to let the good ones drop in.
Now, marinate in that space. Be open.
Don't be picky with the ideas that float by - pluck them ALL, one by one, before they pass by, and scribble them down.
You never know which idea or phrase will be THE ONE - and often it'll need a tweak or two from its first iteration, a little polishing if you may, until it takes form as the piece of writing you'd been looking for.
So, it may not look like The One stragiht away, but don't dismiss it. (After all, if it's taken the time to pop on into that cute head of yours, it deserves some of your attention in return, right?)
Keep writing even when you think you've got nothing left (until you really do).
Once you’ve gotten all of your ideas down (the good, the bad and the fugly), it’s time to pluck out the gems. First, go through your list of ideas/lines/phrases and pluck out the bits you love. We're not talking the phrases that are ok, we're talking the bits that positively sing.
(Trust us, even if you start this exercise thinking you've got NOTHING, if you free-write for long enough while suspending the judgement, more often than not, a gem or three will work themselves onto your page).
Highlight the good bits (pick a pretty colour; cut and paste them to the top of the page, whatever works for you - just bring these babies to the top of the pile).
Now, it’s time to do the opposite and be harsh. Grab your metaphorical red pen and get slash-happy with anything that doesn't deserve a spot in your word count. Anything that you’ve read before? Any phrase that’s got even a hint of a cliché? Ditch it.
TIP: don't actually delete these, just pop a strikethrough, highlight in red or cut and paste to the bottom of your page. You'll need to keep them handy for...
One of the strongest, most powerful techniques in good writing is turning cliché’d turns of phrase and idioms on their head. This is because, an unexpected break in the pattern makes readers stop and take note.
So, don’t throw your been-there, read-that bits out altogether – often the first cliché that pops into your head around a certain topic turns out to be a potential gem. The One that turns your piece of writing from 'blah' to 'made you look'.
And? All you need to do is a little tweaking, flipping and reshaping.
CLICHE: Email us! Help is just a hop, skip and a jump away.
CliCHE FLIPPED: Email us! Help is just a hop, skip and a click away.
The above edit is powerful because it's different. It's new, fresh and it's not same-same or been-there, read-that.
Your 'flipped' cliche allows you to get the same messaging across without causing the reader to skim because they've read it all before (meaning there's nothing there to grab their little eyeballs and glue them to your page). Seeing that you've made the effort to go over and above the expected lazy phrasing and deliver something unique and fresh in your copy will go a whole long way to their perception of your brand too - right from the first skim.
Which brings us to...
Keep your branding front-and-centre as your goal. When we're writing words for a business, whether it's a florist, kids' fashion label or a skincare brand, the ultimate goal is to craft your brand in a certain way, using words, so that potential customers/clients will identify with you, love the sh*t out of you and hopefully even hand over some dollars in the process.
So, even if you're not working with cliches as such, any way that you can rework a phrase or sentence in a way that's original and eye-catching is key.
Because if you're using words for a brand, what you're ultimately seeking to do is utilise language to show why that brand is excellent-er/one-of-a-kind/better than the 745 other jam brands on the block.
As any marketer will tell you, it's all about your Point Of Difference (so same-same wording is the ultimate no-no).
As well as making sure your copy helps you stand out, make sure it's getting you to stand out in the right way. By this, we mean make sure you're keeping it on-brand at all times. So, if you've identified your coffee scrub's brand personality as cheeky and a little left-of-centre, the language you use around your brand needs to match that. If your swimwear label is soft, feminine and whimsical? Same thing.
Remember your goal when writing for business, as well as getting across the messaging you need to, is to say it in the way that builds your brand personality, and helps your brand shine like the diamond she is.
Edit to perfection.
Hint: you've already been doing this with the steps above, which means you're thisclose to writer's gold.
The reason we LOVE this technique for busting writer's block is that editing something that's already on the page (even if at first it seems kinda shite) is absolutely, 458 times easier than starting from scratch. Right?!
So now, all you have to do is massage and finesse the 'good bits' you've identified above, and slide in any brand new gems you've rescued and reworked from your slush pile.
I personally spend a fair bit of time playing with the structure, copying and pasting the bits that work until I find a flow I love, and weaving in any joining phrases or messaging that need to be included for the piece to feel 'done'.
PSST: before you worry that you don't have enough gems yet, remember that restraint is key. So just having a few killer lines peppered in your page of copy can make the whole thing sing, while still avoiding tongue-twister territory.
Your aim is to make sure your messaging is buoyed by your clever-AF turns of phrase, not buried beneath them.
(Which totally takes some of the pressure off, right?!)
By now, we're betting you've got something on the page.
Likely something pretty damn amazing (even if you don't say so yourself, although, come on, admit it).
The last and final step is to LET IT GO.
This part is so hard because, as with all creative work, there is never a defined end point. It can be easy to feel your old friend perfectionism tugging at your shoulder, whispering, 'But it's not quite perfect yet, is it?'
If this is you, now's time to put your piece of writing out there, whether it's pressing 'post' on the blog post, 'send' on the EDM or 'publish' on your brand spanking new website.
Done is better than perfect. Always.
(Although we're betting if you've followed this technique, the words on your page are pretty, deliciously, damn close.)