By Adrienne Denaro
It can be challenging for a copywriter to think up new ways to message the same old stuff – especially if you’ve been writing for one brand for awhile. But the same coping strategies your creative colleagues employ (designers, photographers, creative directors) can work for you too. Here’s a handful of surefire ways to cure copywriter’s block:
- SWIPE – No, this isn’t stealing (as long as you aren’t picking up competitor copy directly – that’s plagiarizing). Just like your visually-inclined creative cohorts, digging for inspiration is a good thing. Whether you have a physical swipe folder or you utilize sites like Pinterest, keeping copy samples you find randomly throughout the year is a helpful go-to when you’re feeling idea-drained. Flip through your favorite ads for a quick creative pick-me-up.
- RESEARCH – So you’ve got a brief that lacks luster and you’re absolutely stuck with no guidance or ideas whatsoever. Do your own market research. Google is your best friend and there’s a 99% chance you’re not the first advertiser to attempt this (whatever it is). See what others have done and adapt their efforts to your brand. Who knows? Seeing the wrongs and rights of other advertisers may allow you to improve upon their outreach (and you may find a few bloggers and reporters covering similar projects you can pitch your finished product to for additional exposure).
- REINVENT – Approach your project from a new angle. Try asking yourself “how would Walt Disney write this?” or “what would a NASA scientist say about this product?” or “if Mae West hocked this item, what pervy play-on-words would she use?” Sure, these way-outside-the-box ideas probably won’t work for your brand but they will work to get your creative juices flowing. Plus, once you’ve written it from the point of view of whomever you chose, you can always scale it back, stash it in your swipe folder, or crumble it up into a little paper ball and play trashcan basketball. It’s all good, even when it’s bad.
- WALK AWAY – That infuriating blinking cursor and stark white word doc can play havoc with one’s creative psyche. If you’re experiencing idea-block on a project, walk away and do something else for awhile. Think those agency Ping-Pong tables and XBOX lounges are there so people can slack off? Not so my friend. They actually have purpose. Unfortunately not all of us have these perks at our disposal. If you’re in-house at a corporation that chains you to your desk, try surfing the web, reading a magazine, engaging in a little smart phone social networking, do a crossword puzzle while sitting on the porcelain throne, read a blog like this one (that’s probably why you’re here now – hello!) -anything to get your mind off the task at hand.
- MOVE ON – Another great coping mechanism I use when I have a ton of projects with tight turnaround times is to move on from the one that’s got me frustrated and bang out a few easy jobs instead. The confidence gained by chipping away at half my to-do list brings me back to the Big Bad Brief with renewed energy.
- BRAINSTORM – Grab a few of the most fun, creative, outside-of-the-box thinkers in your company and shoot ideas back and forth. Guess what? They don’t have to be from your department. In fact, that’s preferred. A good idea can come from anywhere and you just need the inspiration to get going. Once you’ve found that “Aha!” moment, the rest will flow easily.
- FREE THINK – Different than the political movement or Free Writing (which is also an oldie-but-goodie writer’s block strategy), Free Thinking closely resembles brainstorming. Select a word related to your project and make a list of any puns, clichés, play on words, book titles, movie titles, rhymes, brands, bands and synonyms you can think of. For instance, freethinking about, oh… let’s say… earrings, my quick list would include: ears, rings, piercing, hearing, Girl with the Pearl Earring, Earring Aide, Lend Me Your Ear, Vincent van Gogh, Do You Ear What I Ear?, Ear Ye Ear Ye, so on and so forth. I keep listing until I run dry or I find my stuff getting beyond weird. You never know which kooky free-thought concept will actually turn into a usable idea. (Hint: the best ideas won’t be anywhere near the top of your list.)
All in all, everyone has methods that work better for them than for others. I have quite a few additional writer’s block coping mechanisms but I’ve pared this list down to strategies I’ve given to junior writers that have paid off. Try them. Test them. Improve upon them. And share your techniques too!
About InSource Content Contributor Adrienne Denaro
An in-house creative copywriter for the majority of her career, Adrienne Denaro has worked for major corporations including HSN, Perry Ellis International, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines/Azamara Club Cruises, Clear Channel Radio, Macy’s, Florida International University and more. She has won multiple industry awards for her work, including campaigns for Jantzen, Axist, Perry Ellis, PGA TOUR Apparel, Savane, and Rafaella, among others.
Throughout her career she has hired, trained and managed Mid-Level and Junior Copywriters and Interns. Her work crosses a multitude of niche demographics and target markets, extending beyond classic creative copywriting and into public relations and social media.
Within her roles, national brands she has written for include: Original Penguin, Laundry by Shelli Segal, C&C California, Nike Swim, Gotcha, Redsand, DreamWorks Animation, Universal Studios Resort, Harley Davidson, Beats by Dr. Dre, HGTV Home, OPI, Coca-Cola, Applebee’s, U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, University of Miami, John Deere, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Defense, and many others. She serves as a consultant for clients including Celebrity Cruises, Daisho Creative, the Setai Hotel, DigiCloud IT Services, and Napoleon Media, to name a few.
For more from where this came from, follow me on Twitter @CopyPolice and join the In-House Copywriters Guild on LinkedIn to network with other corporate copywriters.