When writing copy, have you ever been stuck for words? You know, had a case of writer’s block? No matter how hard you try, the words just don’t flow….or worse still — you don’t even know how to go about writing the piece you’ve been commissioned for.
I have, and it went a bit like this…
I’d sit, staring at a blank screen. I’d type a few words, and then delete them. I’d stare a bit more, type more words, only to delete those as well. Sometimes, I’d manage to type a whole paragraph, only to realise that what I’d written was absolutely awful. So, I’d delete that too.
It wasn’t unusual for an hour or so to go by, going around in circles, with nothing on the page, except a working title — and even that was uninspiring!
Then I’d panic, because all the while, the clock was ticking away, and the deadline was looming closer. So, I’d continue to sit there, my bum glued to the seat, while I painstakingly extracted the words one-by-one from my conscious brain (which often refused to co-operate), until the piece was written.
By the time I’d finished, hours had gone by, my mind was completely fried, and my hourly rate — well, let’s just say I probably would have earned more packing shelves at a supermarket, than crafting a well-written blog.
Now, when my brain refuses to co-operate, I just walk away.
Tap into your subconscious
What about the deadlines?
I still meet them. Actually, I often meet them earlier, and my work requires fewer revisions. All because I walk away from my desk, when I’m struggling to write.
Not only do I walk away, but I go and do something totally unrelated to writing.
Letting the subconscious take over is actually one of the best strategies I have discovered, when it comes to dealing with writer’s block — both copywriting and creative.Letting the subconscious take over is actually one of the best strategies I have discovered, when it comes to dealing with writer's block. Click To Tweet
I first noticed it happened while working on my novel. When I was away from my desk, characters would ‘play’ in my head. I just wasn’t aware they were doing it. When I’d come back to write, my fingers seemed to have a life of their own, and the writing would appear almost by magic. New characters would spring from my fingertips, and take me on a journey I hadn’t been planning. And I’d often wonder ‘where did that come from?’
Each time I’d come to a sticky part of the plot, trying to work out how a character gets from one scene to another, I’d stop and let it rest. Sure enough, when I came back to the draft, my characters had done all the work for me. A little bit like the Elves who sewed the Shoemaker’s boots while he slept.
Funnily enough, I’m not the only one who notices this. Other aspiring authors I’ve met have experienced similar things, and in fact, some rely on their subconscious brain to get them through.
John Boyne, author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, wrote the first draft of the novel in three days — with no plan. He often finds subconscious thoughts reveal themselves in the plot, and admits that when he begins the writing process, he has no idea where the story is going.
Leading Australian author, Fiona McIntosh had this to say when asked where she gets her best ideas:
When I’m baking. Back of brain takes over and without fail story problems are solved, and sparkly new ideas emerge alongside the cake or pie, tart or muffins.
(Interview with Booktopia, 19 October 2016)
Good enough for an author…good enough for a copywriter?
Many creative writers believe that the actual words come from the subconscious. Your fingers may be consciously tapping on the keyboard, but it’s your subconscious mind that’s doing all the work.
So, I wondered, if the same would work for my copywriting.
When the tricky briefs come through, and I initially have no idea on how to approach them, would walking away from my desk and doing something else, free up my subconscious mind?
I tried it, and it worked. Not only did I know exactly how to approach the article in question, I wrote it quickly and smoothly. It seemed too good to be true and I wondered if it was a fluke, so I did it again the next time an in-depth, complex job came through.
The same thing happened. And it continues to happen time and again.
Our brain is a very complex structure, and while science has discovered a lot about how it works, there’s a lot we don’t know about our brain, and just what it’s capable of.
However, research has confirmed that the subconscious mind is an effective problem-solver, and that letting your subconscious mind do the work, is often the best strategy.
The good news is that we don’t have to understand the science behind how our unconscious minds can do creative work for us. We just have to trust it, and see for ourselves.Research shows the subconscious mind is an effective problem-solver, so letting your subconscious mind do the work, is often the best strategy. Click To Tweet
So, the next time you’ve got a case of writer’s block or you’re not sure how to approach your article, step away from your desk and do something else. Bake, go for a walk, watch a movie, or go out for a coffee — and you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised at how much easier your writing becomes.
PS – If you’d like to follow my journey towards becoming a fully-fledged, published author, follow me on my Facebook page