Confessions of a Copywriter
Writer’s block. Whether it’s a screenplay or an email, we all experience the crippling inability to string words (or thoughts) together just the way we’d like.
“I’m writing a book. I’ve got the page numbers done.” – Stephen Wright
Lots of people will tell you that getting stuck is a good thing. It supposedly implies that you’ve sifted through the low hanging fruit and are moving towards something stronger. Personally, I think that’s just some powdered up, uber-optimistic sound bite we tell ourselves to feel better. But I digress. Either way, you need to find a way out of being stuck – especially if you’re making ads.
At this point in the blog post, you’d typically expect a neatly numbered list of magical remedies that will get you out of this pickle. But I don’t feel qualified to offer such advice. It’s all too easy to give ambiguous tips (“Think of what you’d never write, and try that!”) or ridiculous exercises (“If you were a kuku bird, what would you write?”), so instead I’m going to walk you through my internal process. It’s not glamorous, but perhaps it will provide you some comfort in knowing that we all travel down the same poorly paved road when it comes to creating.
So, you're stuck. What next?
1. Review the assignment. Go over the brief. Read what you have so far. Whatever materials you have, give them a skim and see if any new sparks go off.
2. Immediately think of 3 genius ideas.
3. Realize immediately afterwards that 2 of them are atrocious.
4. Open up a blank Word doc. Man oh man, does that thing ever look scary.
5. Just sit there and type nothing for 5 minutes to 4 days.
6. Write a few words. They are so bad. It literally pains you to see them on the screen. But at least the faucet has been turned on. Who cares if it’s currently spewing sewage?
8. Some concrete thoughts are starting to form. You get on a bit of a roll. Don’t you dare get up and go to the washroom. You don’t actually need to go, do you? Stop it. Sit down. Keep writing.
9. Fine. Go to the washroom. But only so you can refocus.
11. Review your list and kill at least 60% of what you have. Repeat steps 4-7.
12. Google search “automotive clichés”
13. Stop for the day. Return in the morning and squeeze out as much remaining juice as possible.
14. Pick your top five. Show them to someone. Did they like it?
a. YES: Refine and tweak. Good job.
b. NO: Back to step 4.
You keep going until it works. That’s basically how it goes in my world, at least. There aren’t any secret tricks or fix-all remedies; just a whole lot of pushing through and waiting for something to stick.
How do you beat The Block? Have you found a creative structure/process that helps you out, or is it merely a battle of mental attrition?