It sometimes makes me want to scream and flee in terror. No, not Grindhouse,
the latest zombie flick. No, not Don Imus’ hair.
I’m talking about the blank page. The gleaming whiteness – the emptiness
that must be filled with killer copy in order to raise money and garner
support for our causes.
Of course, there’s no formula for inspired writing. If there was, it
wouldn’t be inspired now, would it?
But here are 7 quick and easy ways I get over the blank page blues.
1. What’s the story, morning glory?
As Andy Goodman points out – individual stories are far more convincing and
memorable than stats, facts, and policy jargon.
Who am I talking about? What’s the point of conflict? How does the story
end? How can my audience change the course of the story with a donation or
with an action?
2. Who’s talking to me? Why should I care?
Is it a Field Director – a hell-raiser with years of organizing experience?
Is it an Executive Director – a no-nonsense expert with clout and
Is it a student activist?
Is it the mother of the student activist?
Point of view and personality gives you a wonderful world of creative
license. Capturing the voice of your storyteller will set your appeal and
action alerts apart from the rest.
3. Use words that create the experience
Before I start writing for a new client, I list key words that best express
the mission and vision of the organization. I’ll also list key words that
express the voices of the varying personalities.
I refer back to them over the course of writing to ensure I’ve captured
their essence in the message.
Here is an example of some keywords for a previous client.
Gritty, witty, tough, strong-minded, no-holds-barred, accomplished…
You get the picture. What are key words for your organization?
4. Get crazy with the lead
The Internet is a fleeting medium – with the delete button just a click
away. Get crazy with your lead to capture attention and reel folks in.
As an exercise, I sometimes write a lead that is out there just for the sake
of being out there. And then, I try my best to craft a bridge that ties the
lead into the core message. For example…
On the surface, my life may seem ordinary –
I drink a cup of coffee every morning.
I live in an apartment in San Francisco.
I have a 9-5 job.
I sometimes go for a run around my neighborhood.
But even as I go about my every day routine – I am also feared
Why? Because I am fighting to stop XXXXX. I’m a member of organization X.
5. Avoid down-to-the-wire writing
My first draft is usually just that, a first draft. Give yourself a night to
sleep on it. Then, revisit what you wrote. I promise – a second, third, even
fourth look with a fresh set of eyes can help you tighten that lead, improve
the bridge, and strengthen your argument.
6. Just write
And after all is said and done, just start typing. Some of my best work has
been pieced together from garbled and disjointed paragraphs and arguments
that I just got down on paper. Take a break, revisit the mess, rework it and
voile, you just might have copy magic.
7. Get outside feedback
Sometimes I just get lost in my own copywriting head and need a reality
I have a core group of colleagues, friends and family that tell it to me
straight. I recommend you find someone outside your organization or
department to look at the copy. They’ll tell you if they don’t get it, if
you’ve stretched too far, if you’ve lost them, if you didn’t have them in
the first place.
This feedback is invaluable and will only help improve your writing skills.