A while back, I sat in a room together with a coworker, listening as our manager laid out the work he wanted from us.
When he was finished, my coworker leaned forward. “When do you want it by?”
“Hmm.” My manager paused for a sip of coffee. “This is a new project. Neither of you have done something like this before. I’d rather not set a timeframe that has you rush and do sloppy work.”
“Alright,” he said, and proceeded to ask one of the cleverest questions I’ve ever heard.
“When would disappoint you to receive it by?”
Few skills are as important to a copywriter.
Sure, you need to master the basics first. Garbage is garbage, no matter how fast it’s produced. You need to learn how to craft copy that seduces, copy that converts, craft that sells.
And then you need to learn how to do it faster.
There’s no time for writer’s block in copywriting. George R. R. Martin might have written one of the most successful series today, but he’d make a terrible copywriter.
Successful copywriters are efficient.
What stops a copywriter from being efficient?
Ask any copywriter—any writer, really—and they’ll tell you the same thing:
“I’m struggling to find the words.”
You’re looking for the best way to convey your message, and you’re gonna sit there, and break your head, until you find them.
Which is unfortunate, because nine times out of ten, it’s not “the right words” that you’re actually looking for.
See, when someone says they’re struggling to find the right words, they’re actually looking for two very different things:
The message they want to convey, and the best way to convey it.
And most times, they jumble them together—which is exactly why they end up stuck. How are you supposed to know the best way to convey a message if you don’t even know what the message is?
Obviously, you can’t. You need to figure out the message first.
And for that, I have a trick.
I call it the ramble. You stop trying to be clever. Stop trying to find profound and attention-grabbing words to seduce your readers with.
You answer just one question:
“What am I trying to say?”
And you ramble.
Write down everything you’re trying to say. No editing; no holding back. Get it all on paper. It’s kinda like the vomit draft, except where the vomit draft is usually just a jump start that gets replaced as much as it gets edited down, here you’re trying to get everything you’re thinking on paper.
And then trim it down. Make it look presentable. Make it sound like something you’d actually say instead of a mad person’s ramblings.
And when you’re done, you’ll suddenly find you’re pretty close to how you wanted it to look in the first place.
There’ll be some trimming to do. Some words to replace. Sometimes you’ll find a better way to express the thought in front of you.
But once you have that thought clearly laid out, you’ll find that everything else suddenly becomes much smoother.
To know how to convey your message, know what your message is first.
Eli Landes is one of those weird writers who just can't get enough. A marketing writer by day and a fiction writer whenever he can squeeze in the time, he spends his spare time working on his novel, writing short fiction, or daydreaming (I mean, researching). His main genre is Jewish fiction, but he's been known to dabble in the weird, the absurd, and the truly dark.