Agonizing over minutiae

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Time for another free peek into the Copy Chief Insider forums…

BrianMcCarthy-avatar

This time Brian McCarthy unveils a problem many of us copywriters have (but seldom confess to publicly).

I can’t tell you how many times I find myself constantly fiddling over the tiniest details when editing my letter.

The last ad I wrote I kept changing a line from “plays music for 10 straight hours” to “plays music for 10 hours straight” and back again. I eat up so much time doing things like that.

I’m curious how other people experience/deal with this. On one hand I’ve got a voice telling me “yeah, that’s what writers who care about their work do”. And I recite some Mark Twain quote I heard in high school about how real writers spend half the day deciding to put a comma in, and the other half of the day deciding to take it out.

Then after a while another voice chimes in: Dude, it doesn’t f*$(ing matter! This little thing isn’t going to make or break your letter. I could probably get a lot more done if I listened to this voice more, but I usually don’t pay attention to it until I’m right up on a deadline.

I don’t know what I’m looking for here with this post – advice, guidance, validation, to see other people have the same issues – I guess I just wanted to throw this out there and see what pops up for people.

(P.S. I’m not going to admit how long it took me to edit this post).


RobertGibson-avatar

Robert Gibson Replied:

@BrianMcCarthy , everyone shared some great thoughts here.
When you have to pick up the pace, you will.
Keep in mind that right now you’re getting to know yourself as a copywriter.
It’s not just about having confidence. You can be confident and take your time. In fact, my first reaction to your post was “you say that like it’s a bad thing!”

Yes – changing just one word or the order of three words
can absolutely make a difference in your copy.
In my report, I talk about the words, can, may and will.
You can make money with this.
You may make money with this.
You will make money with this.
One word. Pick the wrong one and you risk putting yourself and/or your client in legal danger.
Pick the wrong one again and your prospect isn’t interested either.

The same thing applies to a radio or TV commercial. Or a post card.
The fewer the words, the bigger the fights.

Deadlines will force you to make choices.
And if your copy doesn’t do as well, you’ll feel that fantastic tinge of regret.
Someone sent out 100,000 letters with a section you should have cut out. And now you have to live with it until the next mailing.

The next time you have that piece in front of you, you’ll be chomping at the bit to start slashing all the things you were so precious with before. And when it does better, you get more ruthless about making cuts the next time.

Or a one minute radio spot gets cut to 30 seconds. And your favorite parts have to walk the plank.
Do they end with your clever line? Or the toll free number? You make the sale and say goodbye to the clever line.

Or the compliance department calls you in to tell you to change the wording of something.
The end of the world draws near. No! You plead. Anything but that section!
The first rewrites with their “suggestions” are terrible.
You had it perfect until they “ruined” it.
You now have to find a new way to make the sale. Somehow you figure it out.
And the world’s still standing when you do.

What’s the common thread? Adversity makes you decisive and resourceful.
After enough of those times, you reach a new level. Every word you write is dispensable.
You’re prepared for the delays. You’re ready to hit the wall if it happens. It comes with the territory.
That’s why there’s coffee.

If you’re ever stuck, here’s my favorite cure for preciousness and “writer’s block”:
I open up a Word doc, turn off my monitor and type into the black screen.
Whatever comes to my mind for the piece.
I can’t see what I’m typing so I can’t make mental edits.
I type as fast as I can for 5-10 minutes without stopping.
It all flows out and I usually have some great stuff to work with.
Where did the writer’s block go? It was just here!

Hope that helps,

Robert Gibson

Click here to read more from Robert Gibson.

Brian McCarthy overcame the crazy and is now writing copy full-time for Ramit Sethi


 

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