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Are you a copywriter suffering from writer’s block? If you are, it’s okay. You’re not alone.
Believe me, I know how tough it is to sit down and create killer copy from scratch, especially if you’re green. There are times in my life when my mind is completely frozen and I can’t write squat.
As you gain more experience, you’ll naturally figure out what works best for you. Most new copywriters suffer from something similar to perfectionism. You want everything you write to be award-winning. To sound great as soon as you type it.
But that’s a sure-fire way to start sinking knee-deep in the muck when you find yourself staring at a blank page for hours.
How do you get yourself out of these situations? Is there a way to avoid getting stuck while writing?
Let’s take a look at what could be some causes of writer’s block and what you can do to crank out copy like a word generating machine.
Is Writer’s Block Real?
Is writer’s block real or an excuse for procrastination or, even worse… an inability to write?
Famous writers and several dictionaries acknowledge that it exists. Wikipedia defines it as “a condition, primarily associated with writing, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work, or experiences a creative slowdown.”
If you’ve experienced writer’s block, famous writers know your pain. Writer’s block can last hours, sometimes days… or even years.
George R. R. Martin’s first book A Game of Thrones was published in 1996 and it took 6 years to write the fifth book in the series, A Dance With Dragons, published in 2011. Click To Tweet It may be some time before I find out if Jon Snow is really dead in the book series.
Well-known novelists like Kafka, Faulkner, Gaiman, Steinbeck, Hemingway, and Morrison understand what it’s like to have creative blocks. They’ve been there, and they’ve got tips on how to regain your momentum.
If established writers agree that writer’s block is just a temporary setback, then there must be a way to push past the wall that’s keeping you stuck.
What Are The Main Causes Of Writer’s Block?
Let’s say your client needs you to write a killer sales letter for their latest marketing campaign. It’s your first big client, so you want to impress, but you’ve been watching the cursor on the screen blink for the past half hour… and your mind is blank.
There are a number of reasons why this could be happening.
This sales letter is supposed to be your big break, the marketing campaign that you’ll put at the top of your list of accomplishments. You want it to be perfect, so your frustration grows when the quality of your writing isn’t top notch.
You write a few words, and then shake your head and hit the backspace key. Those words aren’t going to wow anybody. There must be a better word. You keep editing while writing, like a cook who eats the meal while cooking it.
Your motivation goes down when you see how little you’ve accomplished, and then you freeze.
Maybe your last sales letter was a huge success so you feel the pressure to deliver the same level of results again.
Or maybe you’re stressed out from worries coming from your personal life. Your mother is gravely ill, so you’re constantly checking your phone for news.
Whatever the source for your stress might be, you’re finding it difficult to write more than a couple sentences before your creativity fades.
As a copywriter, one of the most important talents is your ability to understand your audience. You know how to get into your reader’s head, to reach into the most deepest desires, hopes and fears on their mind… but suddenly you’re not so sure what they’re thinking.
Is your big idea really going to get their attention? Are you really speaking to them?
Maybe the marketplace has changed, or your last marketing campaign didn’t connect with your prospective customer.
Your doubts start to slow you down. You start second guessing your own writing, and then the clicking of your keys becomes more indecisive… until the clicking completely stops.
4. Fear, Insecurity, Indecision
Has this happened to you before, when you’re typing away, words are flowing across the page… and then you stop. You’ve suddenly thought of a better way to express your thoughts, so you delete, and start over again.
But you pause, because you realize the new idea isn’t as good as the first. Your should have kept the first idea. Or should you give the second idea another chance? Your indecision grinds your writing to a halt.
Or you might have stopped because of your insecurity. Your teachers always said your writing was full of grammar and spelling errors. How could you be making a living as a copywriter when English wasn’t your best subject?
Maybe becoming a copywriter wasn’t the best idea.
Fear is a crippling enemy. It can shut you into your own self-made prison.
You made that prison because you fear rejection. All that hard work on your sales letter, and your client could drop a bomb when they say, “It sucks. I’m not paying for this.” This scenario plays in your head, and you’re so afraid it could become reality that your writing becomes paralyzed.
5. Loss Of Passion
It happens to everyone. Something that you’ve always loved just loses its shine.
Maybe you just need a break from writing when your passion for it pales.
You could be exhausted after writing ten sales letters in a row to meet deadlines. In the meantime, your dirty dishes are piling up in the sink, sleep has become overrated, and your friends have given up hope that you’ll return their messages.
The sheer weight of your fatigue could throw a wet blanket on what used to be your love for writing, and suddenly you’ve lost your gift with words.
It’s easy to become distracted if you’re waiting for inspiration. If there’s loud construction outside, or your dog keeps barking for your attention, could you ignore them?
Maybe you can’t, so you go and shut the windows or take your dog out for a walk. Maybe you can because you have a good set of earplugs.
If you’ve got writer’s block, it takes discipline to push past the obstacles to complete your well crafted piece of writing.
But if you are aware of the main causes of writer’s block, then the next step is to do what it takes to avoid them.
How To Eliminate Writer’s Block
What I’m about to share are some techniques to get you writing that never fails to work. I learned this one from my mentor, Alan Jacques. In my “million dollar year,” I worked for him with little pay and absorbed all the knowledge I could.
Alan once gave me this advice:
If you want to be a good copywriter, here’s what you do. You find an ad or a sales letter that you like, that really moves you, then you hand write it out twice. You hand write the whole letter that you want to master.
You can’t type it, you’ve got to hand write it. And that will engrain the style of writing into your brain.
Just think about your daily routines. How much time do you spend thinking about what you do? Probably not a lot. When you are familiar with what you’re doing, the actions are either automatic or almost effortless.
It’s one way to reduce the chance of writer’s block. Here are more tips on how to avoid writer’s block.
Tip 1: Write Faster
You might be thinking, “Write faster? That doesn’t make any sense.” If you’re stuck and can’t think of what to write, how can you write faster?
Let’s say you have to write a page of copy, or an email… or entire book. The pressure is on, and you’re wondering if you can deliver on time.
You develop writer’s block. And the reason why you have writer’s block is because you’re editing. You’re judging the writing process, and that is slowing you down.
To speed the process back up, write FAST. Write really, really fast.
One of the world’s current greatest science fiction writers of all time, Isaac Asimov (featured in the Guinness Book of World Records for his prolific writing), said “I guess I’m prolific because I have a simple and straightforward style.”He was one of the few who didn’t struggle with writer’s block. In his lifetime, Asimov wrote or edited a total of 500 books. Click To Tweet
The way you can really have a “simple and straightforward style” is to write the way you talk… and if you want to write the way you talk, you better write fast because that’s the trigger to having your readers feel as though you’re talking to them.
You know what they say? The best books in the world always makes it feel as if the reader is right in the middle of all the action.
Tip 2: Set Up Your Writing Space
Is there a space where you can go that puts you in the mood to write? Some writers can work anywhere – at a coffee shop, at the kitchen table, or at their work desk. Others need to be at their special writing space to put them in their right mindset.
For me, I have a desk set up in my home office. The room is filled with wealth triggers that give me inspirational energy and increase my productivity.
Wealth triggers can be a vision board with your goals, an item you bought that you associate with riches, or a photo of something luxurious, such as an exotic vacation spot, an expensive home, or high-priced car.
What would be your wealth triggers, the item that inspire you to start writing abundantly? Make a list and start collecting those items to add to your writing space.
Tip 3: Set Up a Writing Routine
Is there a routine that you like to follow? People like to read about the routines of successful entrepreneurs with the expectation that following a routine will increase their own productivity.
According to researchers at Duke University, up to 40% of our behaviors on any given day are driven by habit.
I like to start off my morning with my Attitude of Gratitude exercise and finish each day with my Wealth and Abundance Affirmation exercise. These exercises aren’t the same as meditation. They open my mind up for wealth and abundance, remove negativity, and increase my motivation for my “why”.
Then I get started on my goals for the day. These goals are set the day before, and I don’t leave the office until I achieve them.
Think about your ideal writing routine and write it down. You can create a schedule, or make a list on a whiteboard. There are many ways to get organized.
Tip 4: Write Something Easy First
You might have heard the saying, “Start small and work your way up.” That saying applies to any type of writing.
For example, what would be easier to write? A short paragraph or a multi paragraph essay? Whether or not you were talented at writing essays at school, the point is, you learned to write the shorter style first.
Similarly, as a copywriter, ask yourself which writing style is more challenging for you to write. Short form or long form copy, for example. Maybe email campaigns are your starting point.
When you work on the small projects first, you put less pressure on yourself, and decrease the chance that you’ll encounter writer’s block.
No mountain climber perfected their climbing skills by climbing Everest first.
Tip 5: Do Your Research
The reason why you’ve hit a brick wall in your creativity can be very simple. You didn’t do your research. If you don’t know much about the Infinity Gauntlet in the Marvel Universe, then it will be difficult to write about this topic.
Let’s say you want to write a sales letter to promote a new gadget… say, a new pill that is the cure for writer’s block.
First, you want to learn about the market you’re writing to. Is there competition for your product? If there is, then what is the competition doing to dominate the market? Then learn as much as you can about your potential customer. What’s important to them? What are their hopes and dreams? What entices them to buy?
Get your hands on everything that you can about your innovation. You’ll know if you’ve done your research if your fingers are flying across the keyboard. If you’re staring at a blank screen and your fingers are idle as you wait for some divine inspiration, ask yourself one question.
What else do you still need to know?
When you’re doing your research, did you take notes? And do you take a notebook with you, in case you get an idea while you’re out jogging? Another idea is to make a voice memo on your smartphone.
Having a notebook or voice memo feature is also useful if your writer’s block evaporates while you’re away from your computer.
Have A System For Writing
When you’re finished your research, write fast. Don’t work on perfection. Just dump all your ideas onto the page. When you are finished, go back and organize and edit it all later. If it helps, start with your first thought, even if it’s in the middle… or the end.
When you read, you probably use headings and subheadings to help you decide what the main points are. It works the same way when you’re writing. You can start with writing the headlines and add more points under them later.
Or focus on the main emotion that you want your audience to feel when they read your copy and jot down your ideas about how you can create those emotions.
If you feel like you’ve landed in the middle of a maze, that’s okay. Begin where you are and work your way out from there. You can organize and sort the details out later.
Tip 6: Check Out Your Competitor(s)
It was hard enough to invent the wheel, so why would you want to try and reinvent it? The first thing you want to do to write killer copy is visit the website or read the work of your strongest competitor(s).
Some companies spend thousands of dollars in market research to figure out the best way to reach their market. And the good news is — although your can copyright words and graphics, you can’t copyright ideas.
I’m not advocating stealing word-for-word from your competitors. Not only will you face ethical and legal issues, but there’s no guarantee that what worked for them will also work for you.
And this applies whether you’re writing direct response copywriting or a novel.
It’s a lot of risk with no promise of reward. When you check out the competition, find out what they’re doing that you’re not… what they’re offering that you’re not… what they’re saying that you’re not.
When you’re finished “cherry picking” your competition, you’ll have ammunition to get started on your own project.
Tip 7: Specialize
Let’s say you don’t want to be just any copywriter. You want to become a successful high income copywriter, making six figures a year. What copywriting skills would you need to get you to that level?
Specialize in an Industry or Occupation
You can specialize by industry and become an expert in the health, financial, or technology industry. Or by occupation, writing copy for medical professionals, IT experts, or engineering professionals.
The more specialized your skill, the more you can demand a higher salary or payment. You’ll be in higher demand because you’re familiar with what works for a specific market and what a specific market wants. You’ll possess the vocabulary and a familiarity for how they do business.
Specialize in a Medium
Another way is to specialize by medium. You can write nothing but copy for social media campaigns or email campaigns. You can hone your skills at long form direct response copy or copy for landing pages.
Now, you might be thinking, won’t specializing limit the number of writing jobs that you could take on?
One way to think of it is this: would you rather be one doctor among thousands, or one of a handful of neonatologists (a doctor that specializes in newborns)?
Who would be in higher demand? Who could command a higher salary? The specialist.
If you’re looking for a high income, then the more you specialize, the more in demand you’ll be. High income copywriters can earn six figures, but specializing can give you even more advantages:
- Writing for your niche will get easier as you become more familiar with your market. You’ll also be able to keep up with trends and what your competition is up to.
- You will be able to recycle and reuse concepts and parts of your copy. No need to keep inventing all the time. It will be a great time saver and it’ll increase your profits.
- You can position yourself better when you’re in a blue ocean. You’ll be the big fish in a small pond that clients want to go to.
What Keeps You On Top
Some of the top copywriters are clientless and write copy for their own products. Others like Dan Kennedy earn a 7-figure income from freelance copywriting and writing. He’s written video sales letters and direct mail.
In his case, he writes part-time, without advertising his services or giving free consultations or meetings, and he’s been making that 6 to 7 figure income for more than 20 years.
Summary On The Main Causes of Writer’s Block
Is there an antidote to writer’s block? Many people suffer from it and only a lucky few never experience word paralysis. If you have writer’s block, you’re not alone. It happens often enough that writers belief it does exist.
There are many possible causes for an inability to write. You could be working too hard to reach perfectionism. You could also be under stress, fearful of rejection, or distracted by your environment.
It doesn’t matter what the cause could be. But the next time you find yourself staring at a blank screen, you can implement one of many tips to improve your ability to write.
The first tip is to write faster, to stop that urge to judge and edit your writing. Establishing a routine and ideal place to write are equally as important. Do whatever research is needed to get your thoughts flowing.
If you don’t know your topic or audience, you’ll stumble over what you’re trying to say. If fresh ideas are challenging for you, you can check out what strategies the competition is using to write killer copy.
And don’t forget to take it step by step. Begin with the easier writing projects and work your way to more difficult ones.
To become a high income copywriter, hone your skills and specialize in one industry or medium. Be the giant fish dominating a tiny pond.