Obliterating Writer’s Block (for Marketers)

For marketers, writing is everything.

Salesletters, autoresponders, blogs, broadcasts, tweets… as technology grows, so do our opportunities for contact with our market.

And when you communicate valuable things… MORE FREQUENCY = MORE MONEY.

(Seriously… once you’ve got a list that likes you, you’re MUCH MUCH MUCH better off with 50 A- or B+ points of contact than 5 A+ points of contact)

But what if you’ve got nothing to say?  How in the world are you going to communicate, with value, on such a regular basis?  How will you ever maintain that level of “marketing intimacy” in your relationship with your list?

In other words, it’s not just copywriters and authors who suffer from “writer’s block”, we marketers pay the price in spades.

Thankfully, there are some simple principles which overcome writer’s block, virtually every time:

1. WRITE FOR YOUR CHILDREN, NOT YOUR PARENTS OR YOUR TEACHERS:

Most of the time when we feel blocked, we’re experiencing an inner critic which prejudges every word before it even has time to form in our brain.   It’s as if we think our parents or schoolteachers are looking over our shoulders, critiquing everything we do.  Who wouldn’t clam up in such a situation?

But here’s the truth.  The people you want to reach in your market are  EATING your words, NOT CRITIQUING THEM.  (Yes, of course there are always a few bitter, mean people who enjoy pointing out every last mistake, but they’re their own worst punishment)

The people you want to reach want to be FED.  They’re not looking for a demonstration of brilliance which would get past a dissertation committee.

Sometimes at seminars when the topic of writer’s block comes up and marketers tell me they just don’t have anything to say to their market with frequency, I immediately ask how many of them have small children.   Amongst the sea of hands which go up I then ask “How many of you had something to say to them yesterday?”   Everyone nods.

When we think of feeding rather than impressing our markets the issue of judgment mostly melts away.

I used to work with young children as a psychotherapist.   I’ll always remember one particular session with a treasured mentor where I was stressing out about whether I was doing enough to help this particular boy who’s father had deserted him.

My mentor said “Glenn, this boy is soaking up every thing you say, do, and smell like.  Stop worrying, and just go back and be present with him”  (Still gives me chills)

2. LEARN HOW TO VOMIT

No, I’m not suggesting you become bulimic, but rather I’m borrowing a colorful metaphor from the world of improvisation.  When actors accept the role of live improvisation, they don’t have the luxury of “actors block”… there’s an audience, it’s live, and something had better come out of their mouths.

Initially when I tried this I found it very nerve-wracking. But my professor for that course told me “Glenn, just vomit.  We’ll make it pretty once it’s out there”.

With regards to writing this couldn’t be more true.  Vomit your words onto the screen and you’ll have plenty of time to make it pretty before you publish it (don’t you just love MS-WORD?).  But if you insist on ONLY putting pretty things on the screen, you’ll have precious little to polish.

Vomit, then make it pretty.  Words to live by 🙂

3. WRITE THE UGLIEST TRUTH FIRST

Here’s something most people don’t WANT to know…

When you feel like you’ve got “nothing to say”, it’s really because there’s something you don’t want to say.

When I was studying to be a psychotherapist we learned something very interesting… the mind is never blank.  Never.

How do we know?

There are dozens of scientific studies on sleep and dreaming which involved waking people up in the deepest stages of sleep.  I’m not talking about REM (where dreaming occurs), but the parts we never remember, where we’re most soundly asleep and our body is involved in restoring itself. It’s this part of the human experience we most associate with “nothingness” or a blank mind.

Yet when we wake people at these times and ask them what they were thinking or “dreaming” (not technically a dream because it’s not during REM) in a sleep lab, they’ve ALWAYS got something to say.  Always.

In psychotherapy sessions, you gradually come to observe that people are never really thinking about “nothing” (George Castanza aside).    Instead, when you observe a few hundred sessions you understand that people stop talking when their associations lead them to something they don’t WANT to say.

Writers block is NOT an empty mind.  Writers block is the painful and fatiguing experience of preventing yourself from saying what you don’t want to say!

How can you use this to be in more frequent contact with your market, with regular, valuable communication, and make more money?

Simple.

Sit down and ask yourself what the ugliest truth on your mind is today, then vomit it out on the screen (remember you can edit it later).

Like this:

“No matter how much I accomplish as a marketer, how much money I make, how many people have made millions from my work, etc…  I always feel like a ‘fallen priest’ who should still be using his skills and training to help suicidal people instead of building businesses and making money.”

I could turn this into a useful post by citing 3 examples of how marketers’ guilt about making money actually CAUSES more suffering in their prospects.  For example, if I let this feeling get the better of me I wouldn’t keep sharing what I’ve learned, and a strong argument could be made that the people on my list would make less (with all the suffering that would entail)

Also, and this is key… it doesn’t matter what market you’re in, you can always find a way to use the ugly truth to break your writer’s block .

For example, let’s say I was writing to a body language list instead of you all.  I could still use the ugly truth above.  I’d talk about how, to truly exude confidence with body language, you need to examine and dispute your own guilt, or else you’ll only mimic the posture of confidence, portraying an empty shadow of the stature you’re trying to project.

Or if I were writing to my guinea pig list, I’d say “Listen, your piggy doesn’t want you to feel guilty. Guinea Pigs only live 8 years or so if you take care of them.  That’s 1/10th of a human life span, so every minute you separate yourself from joy with your pet feels like TEN minutes to him”

You get the point.

Feeling blocked?

Write for your children, learn how to vomit, and tell the ugly truth.

Now go write something!

Glenn 🙂

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