Don’t you love it when your child starts following in your footsteps?
My son, Solomon, is a great dancer, singer, and actor. Now he’s starting to follow my lead as a writer. Not a copywriter (yet), but a songwriter. He spends hours in his room writing songs, and he also studies the craft and tries to learn from good songwriters.
Today I stumbled across his journal where he had taken notes on “10 Rules for Better Songwriting,” from this blog post.
It immediately hit me that all 10 of these points could apply to copywriting, too.
1. Don’t be a perfectionist
There’s no substitute for one simple thing: writing a LOT. It’s the only way to get better. If that means writing a daily blog post, or writing practice copy that’s not even for a client, or hand-writing (copying) great sales letters by hand every day, do it. 3,000 words a day is a little over a million a year. Not a bad goal.
2. Get feedback as often as possible
I harp on this all the time. It’s the best way to improve fast. Peer reviews are okay, but generally people are too nice, or not good at critiquing and offering constructive advice. Seek out someone who’s better than you to give you regular feedback. If you can find a top-level copywriting friend, a coach, or best – a mentor, it’ll pay off big-time.
3. Hot and cold
This was the songwriting tip to combine opposites, for the purpose of contrast. We can do the same in our copy, of course, by using short sentences altered with longer ones. Simple advice worth noting.
4. Learn to unlearn
In other words, don’t be afraid to break the rules now and then. Direct response copywriters especially seem to follow systems and rules. I’m learning from my ad agency friend Katlynn Blakely to break the rules and throw a little more creativity into my copy.
5. The disadvantage of talent
Sometimes really talented people tend to slack off a little, because they can. Average writers with a burning desire to succeed are often more successful in the long run because of their work ethic and determination.
6. See the bigger picture always
I like this one! The name of my company is Big Ideas Publishing, LLC, because I have some big plans for creating a mini-publishing empire, a boutique agency, and many other things. This is way different than the songwriting angle for this point, but I think we need to go beyond being “just” copywriters. Think big!
7. Say it differently
Underneath it all, we’re wordsmiths, right? Certainly we can come up with creative turns of phrase and clever words. The purpose of writing copy is to convert viewers to buyers, right? You won’t do it with tired phrases, clichés, or overused words. Get creative. Every word counts.
8. Keep it simple
As Winston Churchill once said, “Broadly speaking, the short words are the best, and the old words best of all.” Well said.
9. Work with others
Amen! That’s a big reason I started the Copywriter Café two years ago. We need to bounce ideas off each other, get critiqued from others, and brainstorm ideas with others. Yes, we’re Independent Creatives, but we shouldn’t be operating in a vacuum.
10. Take regular breaks
I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to write copy for more than two hours straight without a break, whether writing for myself or clients.
My favorite writing breaks? Confession time: Facebook. Also quick workouts, hanging out in the sauna (my favorite writing break activity, and where I get some of my best ideas), and reading the Wall Street Journal and New York Times at my local coffee shop (also a source of many of my Big Ideas).
I challenged Solomon to take these 10 tips for songwriters to heart, and keep writing, writing, writing. I challenge you to do the same.
What simple tips would you add to the list? For songwriting, copywriting, or both? Let me know here.