We’ve all been there—staring helplessly at the computer screen, resting your fingers limply on the keyboard and willing words to start magically appearing on the screen. It is writer’s block at its best and it is the evil of all evil for marketers. That’s because our job depends on our ability to put pen to paper, redefine originality and string together a series of nouns, verbs and adjectives in such a way that harmony is struck.
So what do you do when your brain starts to enter the “nothing box?” And, even worse, how do you avoid falling into a writer’s slump without noticing it? Let’s take a look at three tell tale signs that you might be slacking when it comes to your copy creation:
- Your Leads All Start to Sound the Same: When marketers feel unmotivated and burned out, they often resort to their go-to leads—and their beloved isms and idioms. Admit it—you have them (those precious choice phrases and sentences you pull out of your tool box when you’re drawing a blank). To determine whether you are in a rut, pull up your blog, email marketing campaigns or white papers. Do you notice a trend? For instance, are all your email subject lines eerily similar? Does each blog entry begin with “As the saying goes…” and then is followed by some profoundly deep statement? Repetition—and self plagiarism—are surefire signs that you’re slumping.
- You Read Back Your Work and Say, ‘Huh?!’: In the marketing realm, a lack of creativity is not a simple misstep; it can be a real branding disaster. Therefore, if you read back your copy days later and feel it is “ho-hum” at best, it’s time to reawaken the creative juices. Your work should never leave you—and especially your audience—feeling bereft, confused or emotionless. After all, as Gary Vaynerchuck, social media and marketing guru, contends, “If you’re not putting out relevant content in relevant places, you don’t exist.” Take a look at your last few social media campaigns, webinar abstracts and customer brochures. Does a big smile creep across your face? Or are you left asking, “What was I thinking?” Your answer will reveal where you are on the innovation front as of late.
- Your Tone Sounds More Like You Than Your Company: As marketers, we have to strike the fine balance between creating—and maintaining—a corporate voice and tone across all pieces of copy and finding space to appropriately inject creativity and humor. But if your most recent assignments sound a bit more like you on a Saturday night venting to your spouse than your corporate voice (Did you really just use the idiom “You can’t take it with you?”) then you are losing sight of what’s really important. The second you start defaulting to your common expressions and phrases is a sign you are just doing enough to get by—rather than really keeping your end goals in focus.
The truth is writing slumps do not discriminate; they can still happen to the best of the best. Moreover, writer’s block can mask itself in a variety of forms, fooling you into thinking you have beat it. Do any of these sound familiar? You can’t come up with a single idea; you have so many ideas but can’t commit to a single one; you are drawing a blank on that key word you need to drive home your point; or you’re stuck in the middle with no idea as to what comes next.
A pivotal step to combating writer’s freeze is to remove yourself from your normal environment and shed customary habits. To begin, try the following:
- Talk to someone new: Maybe it’s that roommate you had when you studied abroad in Rome two decades ago? Perhaps it’s the product manager who always sits quietly at his cubicle? Engaging in conversations with new people organically exposes you to new phrases, ideologies and sentiments.
- Take a break: There’s a reason your mentors over the years have encouraged you to revisit your work the next day; approaching something with fresh—awake eyes—gives you a different perspective. Sometimes even a 30-minute break can give you the clarity you need.
- Change your approach: Struggling with that blog entry? Unsure of how to conclude your white paper? Then change your approach. Remember that writing takes on many forms—form Q&As to evergreen stories to hard news pieces—and experiment with syntax, diction and cadence until you experience magic.
Ready to head back to that behemoth task? Deep breathes, say it with me…