“Quit overthinking it. If you’ve done your research, just sit down and brain dump a sloppy first draft.”
My mentor, John Carlton, would say this to me often when I was stressing over getting into “the writing part” of a copy project.
He was right. It should be easy.
I’d spent days or even weeks (depending on my knowledge of the niche) researching the product, the market, the avatar, the competition.
It was time to write.
But, instead of the “let me at it” energy of a caged tiger that John would experience at this stage, I would get all inside my head and mentally freeze right there on the first page.
What Robert Pressfield labeled “the resistance” in War of Art would clamp down on my brain like an angry octopus feeding on my creative juices.
I’d jumble together a headline (knowing it would change) and tinker with its word placement, font styles, formatting…
Completely pointless, time-wasting shit at this point in the writing.
I was fully aware of the flaw but helpless to stop it.
“Guess I just don’t have it today,” I’d mutter and walk away.
The next day, the same thing.
Like being trapped in a creative purgatory one doorway from hell, I could feel the heat of the project deadline (and the certain demise of my reputation) as I tried to explain to the client why “I’ve got nothing” on the due date.
This never happened, thankfully.
But this senseless cycle of torture was a staple in my routine for years, despite good advice from the best copywriters in the world on how to fix it.
Until I found the one solution that worked for me.
What I know now that I didn’t then is that every writer’s brain has its own unique set of warped thinking.
Rooted in how we process fear, anxiety, and joy…
… the way we analyze, criticize, and fantasize…
… all of this greatly affects how we CREATE.
Ask twenty copywriters to show you their process and you’ll find twenty variations on a similar pattern.
The needs are the same for every piece we write, yet, how we go about getting that first draft down is unique to each of us.
What finally worked for me?
A game-changing combination of two things:
Minimizing and Summarizing.
See, like any experienced copywriter, I KNEW the parts of the copy that needed to be written, but my stubborn brain wanted to write them in order.
I would argue, by the way, that writing in order (starting with the lead) makes for a better final result.
Especially with email, video scripts, and sales letters; any copy designed to take the reader on a journey from beginning to end.
That’s how good conversations work in real life and I believe it translates to the page.
So, the trick I discovered to overcoming brain lock was getting the 10 essential parts of the pitch: OUT OF MY HEAD AND ONTO MY DESK
That was my “first draft” – the sloppy purge of research that some writers spit out stream-of-consciousness style like Jack Kerouac in a benzedrine haze…
My brain needed them summarized and minimized so I knew they were there, but could be free to get into the flow and inject them where they belonged.
For summarizing I would name the 10 parts of the pitch on an index card, and to minimize, allow myself only the front and back of the card, to sum up, the crux of each part.
After that, my brain would easily get into the flow, content to know that nothing would be overlooked, and allowing each part to emerge as it would in a real-life conversation.
I’ve been using this system for years and have taught it to the writers I coach and hire.
The most surprising thing about it is that…
… no matter how the individual writer’s brain processes, they find the 10 card system speeds their process and gets them into flow faster than anything.
With some practice, and writing for a market they’re familiar with, many copywriters can complete a full pitch sales page in less than 60 minutes.
I’ve done it in as little as 20 minutes with my own products.
I don’t even use the cards anymore because the system is ingrained in my brain.
I’ll be teaching this “60-minute sales letter” process in my London workshop on April 10th.
If you’re a copywriter or offer owner who wants to end the torture of deadline dancing at the hands of creative blocks, and you can get to central London on April 10th…
I recommend grabbing one of the few remaining seats in the room at copychief.com/london
It’ll be a complete game-changer.
I’ll even edit your copy with you there to make sure it’s solid, punchy, and converting as it should.
Hope to see you there!
We’re also throwing one helluva cocktail party after the London mastermind event. This one is open to ALL Copy Chief members, regardless of whether or not you’re joining for the full-day mastermind workshop. Get all the details here.