Before I hung out my shingle and started taking my own clients, I spent 9 long months as a “copy grunt.”
Well technically the term is “copy cub.” Or “apprentice,” or “intern.”
Basically I found a seasoned pro copywriter and agreed to do his dirty work. In exchange I got Fiverr wages for cranking out reams of copy under obscenely tight deadlines.
Oh, and he’d also rip my copy into little tiny pieces and make me rewrite it over and over.
The toughest part about this gig wasn’t the deadlines or the critiques, though. My mentor was “white labeling” my copy—his clients didn’t know I existed, so I didn’t have any direct contact with them.
Any question I had turned into a torturous game of telephone—I’d ask him, he’d ask his client (a marketing consultant), who would then ask the actual client.
Effectively, this meant I was on my own when it came to research about the market and product.
And to make matters worse the niches we were working in were mostly small and private. You don’t find a lot of successful dentists hanging out online and sharing their deep dark secrets.
I’d spend hours digging around online to uncover a few scraps of info about the market.
Put this together with the tight deadlines, and it was a perfect recipe for writer’s block.
There were times I’d sit down with my laptop and just stare at the screen in despair. I had NO idea what to say or where to start. All I knew is I had to write 10 emails in the next 8 hours or I was going to miss my deadline.
Fast forward to yesterday. I’m working on a product launch for a longtime buddy of mine, John Sonmez.
Part of this launch is an email course about the 5 mistakes programmers make when they try to learn a new technology.
And I’m having ZERO difficulty knowing what to write. In fact, my brain is exploding with ideas—and my biggest problem is deciding which ones won’t make the cut.
Why is that?
It goes back to something that genius copywriter Eugene Schwartz taught:
“Creativity” is really connectivity.
It’s almost impossible to have good ideas in a vacuum.
And when it comes to writing, research is the oxygen that fuels the combustion of creativity.
As a copy grunt, I was starved for information.
But working with my own clients, I have direct access to all the great stories and background info I could possibly need.
Like the fantastic story John told me about how a simple learning blunder got him fired from his first programming job.
You truly can’t make this stuff up. And trying is what causes writer’s block.
Next time you sit down to write and get that “what am I going to say” feeling, don’t freak out.
It just means you’re not done with your research yet.
Go back and study your product. Review your list of stories and experiences. Dig up those long Reddit threads where your customers spill their guts about their biggest fears and frustrations.
Before long, the ideas will be going snap, crackle, pop.
And all you have to do is type fast enough to keep up.