If you’ve struggled mightily when it’s time to write copy for your web page, or a free call you’re hosting, or an email about something you want to sell, the good news is that there is a wealth of ways you can loosen up, write better, and move ahead more easily.
Somehow we’ve gotten the idea that business writing is a totally different animal than creative writing.
Even clients who come to me as skilled writers in some other venue (poetry, songwriting, play writing, journalism) freeze up when it’s time to write copy about their business.
That’s a shame because ultimately business writing should be creative writing. There should be as much joy, and depth of expression on a web page as there is in a poem.
There are a number of practices that are common in creative writing that actually work beautifully when applied to copy writing.Here are just a few.
• Commit to writing a crappy first draft
When a creative writer gets stuck, she often finds that she can get unstuck quickly by committing to writing crap. Nothing is more stuck-ifying than sitting down in front of your computer, and saying to yourself, “ok, write something really good now.”
Something in us freezes up when we do that. Every sentence becomes painful. You stop and you start because nothing you write lives up to being “really good.” And if the writing is slow and painful, you may feel like you’ll never get to the end. Not alive anyway!
Instead, give yourself permission to write something bad. Set a timer, and commit to writing, without stopping to edit, until your first draft is done.
When you let go of the need to be brilliant, to produce something noteworthy, you often end up writing much better than you expected. And, when you finish the first draft, no matter how poor it is, you have the relief of knowing that you’ve finished at least that first draft.
• You can’t write and edit at the same time
One thing creative writers learn quickly is that you can’t write and edit at the same time. The part of your brain that comes up with words and rhythm isn’t the same part of your brain that judges and evaluates how well you are writing. And if you keep interrupting your flow of words fixing this and fixing that, you may never make it through a first draft.
If you are writing with a judge on your shoulder, you probably won’t write well. This is doubly true for business writing. When writing for business, many business owners tell me that there is a voice in their heads chattering away. And that voice isn’t just saying, “oh, this is bad.’
No, the voice is saying, “This is so bad that people will LAUGH at you. This is so bad that not only will people not buy from you, they will run screaming from you. This piece of writing is so bad that YOUR BUSINESS WILL FAIL.”
Yeesh. If I heard that, I would want to write either!
It’s not easy, but you can learn to let those voices go. You can practice setting aside little chunks of time to write where you let go of that need to judge. And the more you practice, the more you’ll find that your natural voice, your natural powers of expression start to shine through.
• Trust in the power of revision
One thing that may give you more courage to write badly and write without editing is to develop trust that magic happens in the revision process. One thing I tell clients in my communication training, over and over, is that the final draft often bears little resemblance to the final piece.
That horrible, flat, clichéd and confusied draft of your web copy, can become in a surprisingly little amount of time a tight, focused, passionate and powerful piece.
How? Through revision.
Once you’ve cranked out your most horrible offering of a first draft, you can stop and take a breath. Look up, look around. Breathe again.
Then, you can go back and look again, and ask with much less judgment: “What’s alive here? What works? What’s missing? Where could I say more?” (Notice, we don’t ask “What sucks?”)
And when you’re ready, you go back in and flesh it out, change the order, add a detail.
And that’s when the magic happens. That’s when what was fragmented becomes complete. What was vague becomes specific. What was choppy starts to flow.
With a few passes, you may well have something you are proud to share!
The more you practice this more loose and relaxed approach to writing business copy, the more easily you’ll breathe, and the richer your writing will become.
Learn how to bring the passion and art of creative writing to your business copy writing, and much more, in my free 2-part teleclass series, How to Write Compelling Copy Without Tricks or Hype (And Even Enjoy Yourself in the Process), Even If What You Offer is Complex, Unusual, or Intangible.