There’s nothing more exciting to me than the start of a copywriting project when I open my notebook to a fresh new page filled with nothing but possibility and a ring of tea from when I used it as an emergency coaster.
However, what I find most exciting, others can find the most daunting – so I wanted to run through a few different methods of getting words on the page when you feel a bit like a deer in headlights.
Before I launch in, often writers will say something aloof and oh-so-helpful like ‘you don’t need the perfect conditions to write in, just write’ and let me tell you that very much sounds like nonsense someone came up with to make writing sound like a skill only possessed by a special few to reduce their competition.
While some people can just sit and tap away, I can’t write effectively while wearing socks, and my very best work gets done specifically in my Leuchtturm1917 notebook with a handmade wooden fountain pen that glides across the paper with a satisfying whoosh.
So whether you’re looking to start a blog, kick off a website copywriting project, or pen your own newsletter, get yourself comfy, grab your writing implements of choice and let’s get some words written.
1. Fill the page
This is the route I take. I take the brief – say it’s an About page for a pencil manufacturer – and I write down every word or phrase I can possibly think of that relates to pencils or the company I’m writing for. It might look something like this:
Pencils, lead, HB, soft, hard, sketching, drawing, holding a pencil, rubber on the end, erasing, never runs out, not just a pencil, brand 100 years-old, pencils used by ancestors, pencils used at important moments throughout history, grip, children learning to write, more versatile than pens, impermanent, pencil sharpener, pencil shavings, fine point, used to mark wood before cutting, sell 10,000 pencils a day, all pencils packed for shipping by Dave. Dave worked for over 35 years.
And so on, and so forth. Creating this stream of consciousness limbers up my writing muscles, and usually in amongst all the rubble I’ll pick out a few diamonds, plop them on the next page and start fleshing them out. This is a great way to combat both the fear of the blank page and the thought that everything you write is rubbish. With this exercise everything you write is rubbish, that’s the whole point! You can make a start without putting any pressure on yourself at all.
2. Write what you know
If the thought of doing the above has brought you out into a cold sweat, I’m sorry – this one might be more for you.
Take your brief – I’m going to use the pencil manufacturer About page again – and split it into chunks. Write the facts you know you need to weave in throughout the copy, take each fact in turn and make it interesting. You might even be able to put them together to make a little story.
Let’s take ‘All pencils are packed for shipping by Dave.’ and ‘they sell 10,000 pencils a day’ and ‘Dave been with us over 30 years’
Every single crate of pencils that leaves our factory is loaded on the lorry by the lovely Dave, and they have been for over 35 years. With the factory team sending out over 10,000 pencils a day, that means he has personally sent out over 2.5 million pencils. School children, exam takers, architects, artists, DIY enthusiasts – our Dave has helped them all (and their children!) and they have no idea. Nice one, Dave.
Be careful with this approach though, it’s very easy to end up just listing stuff and that doesn’t make a compelling page. (I’ve also written about what makes a kickass About page on the blog if you’re interested)
3. Make a plan
Some people thrive on a structure, and that’s okay too. On your blank page, write yourself some section headers. Don’t think too much about this, they won’t be your final ones unless you really want them to be. For the pencils again, it might be something like headline, intro, what’s different about our pencils, how we’ve impacted the history of pencil design, and call to action.
Then, underneath each heading, you can bullet point the facts or any bits of information you need to include, and by Jove, you’ve got yourself a plan and made a start!
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