Freelance life, Maslen on Marketing

How to beat writer’s block

Wouldn’t it be great if you could start writing fluently the moment you opened a new document? Plans, pitches and presentations, ads, emails and web pages: all would flow effortlessly from your keyboard. No false starts, no staring at the blank screen in front of you, no time wasted on copy you just back-space over as soon as you’ve typed it.

Most copywriters I talk to find they’re stuck with some kind of writer’s block at some point. Even if it’s more along the lines of, “I’ve got several ways to start a sales letter and I just can’t figure out which one to use”.

The truth is, we all suffer from it. And the pressure of having to write to deadlines can make it worse. Though for me, knowing I have a client tapping their foot and consulting their watch focuses my mind wonderfully.

There are a few approaches I’ve found that work.

Why start at the beginning?

Openings are hard. So why start there? I like to start with something easy. Something I know how to write. Like the call to action. This isn’t usually the place for any great flights of creative fancy. You’re usually better off writing something like,

So as you can see you have everything to gain and nothing to lose. Place your order today and you’ll receive a free copy of our guide to buying satnav – worth £9.99 – with our compliments.

I might even work backwards up the page, adding in a few testimonials before the call to action, or maybe some kind of money back guarantee.

Using this method means you are writing fluently as soon as you start. By getting your wheels turning, you can get stuck into the harder stuff with more speed.

Start writing then edit afterwards

There’s something about writing copy on a computer that seems to hinder experimentation. Maybe it’s the facts that every single word appears in perfectly rendered type just as it would if it were printed.

You can get paralysed by perfection, unable to let your words breathe on the screen for long enough to weigh them up before saying “naah” and deleting them.

It’s better to just write, as fast as you can, not even looking at the screen, then tidy up your text afterwards. Editing and composing are two completely different processes and by splitting them in this way you can let your mind concentrate on couching your message in fresh language.

Immerse yourself in research

If you’re struggling to find the right words to kick off your letter, email or landing page, maybe you haven’t done enough research.

Do you know everything about your product? Have you considered how it will benefit your reader from every single angle? Have you brushed up on how experienced copywriters start their copy?

Do your research thoroughly and your brain should have enough raw material to let you kick off confidently.

Don’t worry

Got two or three different approaches and don’t know which one is best? Lucky you!

Write them all, one after the other, then continue with your body copy. Get it all done, print it out, leave it overnight, then come back to it in the morning. You’ll see the one most likely to succeed without all that agonising as you write.

And I’m telling you this because?

Writer’s block is a luxury you don’t have time for. In my line of work, maybe yours too, time really is money. An hour spent wondering what to write is an hour’s lost fee income.

So stop struggling and start writing. These ideas should give you a head start, but if you’re really stuck for ideas, pinch somebody else’s.

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