Regardless of what kind of writing you do, says a study from the National Writing Project of Louisiana, three key components seem to have the biggest influence on how creatively productive you’ll be. What are those components?
1. A Consistent Working Environment
Almost all the writers in the study had a designated “place” where they did their best writing. Simply being there gave them focus.
I concur. I can write almost anywhere — but I prefer dark, quiet spaces. I travel a lot, but have a designated spot in each of the five locations I typically find myself in during a given year.
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I also need certain “supplies” to get going. A long yellow legal pad or a tablet of French graph paper. Black Bic pens. My ever-present MacBook Pro.
Environment includes sound, of course. Personally, I work best with dead quiet. Sometimes with music. But anything with lyrics is poison. I know many other writers who agree.
Classical or jazz. Bach’s cello suites or the Goldberg Variations. Chopin etudes. Beethoven’s piano sonatas. “Kind of Blue” or “Some Day My Prince Will Come” by Miles Davis. Old Coltrane (but not the crazier, more recent stuff).
(Caveat: I know at least one brilliant copywriter who keeps the TV droning on in the background! I couldn’t do it. But it works for him.)
2. A Set Time for Working
If you’re a freelance copywriter, working outside of an office environment, this might be a hard truth to face. Yet, almost all the writers in the study said they wrote better if they did so at a certain time, the same time, every single day — especially in the morning.
I know, I know. I sympathize with anyone who says they prefer to work at night. I used to prefer it myself. But having young kids who didn’t understand why Dad wouldn’t come away from the computer changed that. And for the better.
Not only am I much more productive when I get good work done early, I’m happier too. And, yes, all the best copywriters I know also get started early. And not just early, but by working on their biggest projects first. No e-mails. No phone calls. Serious writing first, trivial stuff later.
(Remember when there was no e-mail? Can you imagine wasting two hours a day faxing back and forth with your buddies? Of course you can’t. Well, just because e-mail is more automatic doesn’t mean it’s any better for you.)
And as long as we’re talking about time, the intelligent use of deadlines deserves a mention. Even daily deadlines. It’s the pressure — the end goal — that makes us work more quickly. Consider the famous Eugene Schwarz story. Every day, to get himself started, he’d set his egg timer to 33.33 minutes. Then he’d sit down to write copy for 33.33 minutes, even if it just meant staring at the blank page until beads of blood formed on his forehead.
3. Rituals That Boost Confidence
This last influence on the creative productivity of the participants in the Louisiana study — their behavior rituals — was critical.
Unfortunately, it was also ambiguous.
In fact, some of the rituals the writers had didn’t seem to have anything to do with writing at all.
Sharpening pencils. Wearing a lucky sweater. Using a certain coffee mug. The researchers theorized that the consistency of such rituals bred confidence, and helped melt away potential “writer’s block” anxiety.
That may be true. What seems just as true is that some rituals manage to mildly distract your senses so your subconscious can get to work.
Walking, for example, seems to work for many copywriters. When they’re feeling around for an idea, they fast-track it by filling up their mind with information about what they hope to sell… and then step outside for a stroll.
If not that, they take a drive. Or a shower.
A Bonus Tip
You say you’ve tried all that and it doesn’t seem to help?
Try re-working your diet.
A recent issue of Science reports that a single protein in the brain — SCN — controls your “master clock,” making you feel awake or tired, hot or cold, bleary or focused, etc. And just two days of tinkering with the eating schedules of lab rats threw off the SCN balance in their little brains.
Eating a light, protein-centric breakfast can help you stay focused on anything. Lunch, on the other hand, should be light or even skipped. A lot of people claim they can think better on an empty stomach (yours truly included).
And, Finally, a Bunch of Tips to Jumpstart Your Copywriting Process…
Write out ideas on index cards. Talk ideas into a tape recorder. Sketch out the pages of your promo, even before writing a single word. Copy a strong lead paragraph two or three times. Go to bed early tonight. Study the outline behind your last great promo. Start re-reading your pile of research from top to bottom.
Good luck![Ed. Note: For more tips on jumpstarting your writing process, check out the world’s premier copywriting program from American Writers & Artists Inc. In their Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting, you’ll discover the secrets behind one of the biggest, most lucrative, and least well-known industries in the world. And the lessons you learn can be applied to any type of writing.
And be sure to sign up for John Forde’s weekly Copywriter’s Roundtable. It’s one of the longest running e-letters for marketers and copywriters (online since 2001)… and it’s free. You can sign up here, where you’ll also get a free report: http://copywritersroundtable.com.]