by David Tandet
Come over here. Yeah, you. This is our secret.
Want to write copy that sparkles? Have great clients say, “This is what I was looking for?”
Well, it’s like Steve Martin’s old routine about becoming a millionaire. “Okay, first you start with a million dollars . . .”
But seriously, if you’ve been writing for a while, you know there are times when it simply flows. Unfortunately, just as even Rafael Nadal can’t even have it all come together for himself every time he steps onto a tennis court, (though he comes frighteningly close), the words won’t magically appear every time you sit down at the computer.
Still, there are some things you can do to help put your best copywriting on the screen in front of you. And on those days when you feel like an observer, simply there to watch what happens and not answer the phone, that’s when your computer almost jumps space. You sit down, turn on the machine, and let go. You’re in the Zone.
So if you’re hardly working the control panel at those special times, how do you get there? Well, it’s more like getting yourself to a place where you’re in a state of constant readiness. Here are a few guidelines for how to write in the Zone:
1. Establish a routine that relates to your work. John Steinbeck used to sharpen 2 or 3 dozen pencils in the morning before he began writing. Now if you try this specific trick, it’s no guarantee that you’re going to start gushing out the next white paper equivalent of “The Grapes of Wrath” — but your mind and body will start finding the place where they’re on “write ready.” And you might turn out the best report on widgets anyone’s ever come up with.
Even if you don’t produce the best ever this time, you’ll be locking in a work technique that takes you to near-your-best quality more and more. There are a billion possible warm-up routines you might try.
Experiment a little. Simple, structured, and job-related are good guidelines. The pencil ritual might be one of your experiments, by the way. Give it a few weeks. The fact that you’re at the computer and not writing with a pencil in no way negates its value. It relates to writing, and is a methodical lead-in to your work. After all, Steinbeck didn’t use all 3 dozen pencils every day, did he?
2. Take pride in copywriting. Some marketing writers, even if they’re solo operations, have offices outside their homes.
With computerized communications, and clients that can often be thousands of miles away, never meeting you face-to-face, an office that takes you 30 minutes to get to might seem like an inconvenient appendage. But look at it this way: you’re not going to pay money for commercial space, spend time getting to your workspace, and then sit in your office all day and give hard work a merely symbolic tip of the hat, are you?
Still, you don’t have to have an office in a commercial park to gain these benefits. A corner of your kitchen, if you have a computer, printer, and filing systems in their own special workspace that you view as work-sacred is serious stuff. It means, “When I enter this copywriting area, I’m on work-command.” And it can be just as powerful a Zone-friendly environment as an executive office suite. (You’ll also be cutting down on fuel.)
When you set this kind of professional stage for yourself, each write-related thing you do links to every other writing related activity. You prepare your consciousness to spring into that special space where the X-factor takes over, and you’re suddenly writing in the Zone.
3. Keep learning your profession. We copywriters have an advantage here. SO much relates to communication. Whether it’s becoming friends with the essentials of SEO, reading the latest postings in a relevant community such as the Small Business Ideas Forum, or learning how Bob Bly became a copywriter, you’ll be versed in your profession.
In one sense you may never need a lot of what you pick-up. In another, you’ll be using it every nanosecond that you walk the walk of a writing professional.
4. Be cool. No, we’re not talking about wearing the latest running shoes while you’re shopping at the market. Here I mean having confidence in your ability. And if you don’t have that confidence, what are you doing selling your services for big bucks?
But it’s not so strange a balance that the good ones strike between marketing their top-level services and kind of letting the ability speak for itself. “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.”
So write the best copy you can, optimize your website, market your professional services, and be confident that after all that, it’ll happen for you. Your relaxed yet radar-up stance will be a perfect prep for standout writing.
5. Be ultra-cool. Now this is a little tougher to define, but still doable. Someone was asking around the Small Business Ideas Forum for advice about getting a site noticed on Google. One of the top search engine marketing experts around, who charges at least $350.00 an hour for consulting, put up some usable meta tags for free.
Was he short-changing himself? Quite the contrary. He was actually roaming around this ultra-cool territory with that gesture. Because what I just described is only done by a person having fun on the job, be it copywriting, search engine marketing, or gardening. That’s the type of professional that gets to name his or her own price.
Love your work, learn your job . . . you too can be ultra-cool. And more and more, you will end up in the Zone.
6. Do your best. The Zone is yours for the taking. But there’s only one way to benefit from it. That’s by always trying to do your best work. Is that the same as producing your best work every time? Not exactly.
The truth of the matter is that some days your product might be a tiny bit off. Still, if you go forth with an attitude of serving your clients’ needs the best way you know how, you’ll hit your marketing communications target more often than not. And more and more, you’ll be putting out stuff that you know is spot on before you even finish writing it. That’s writing in the Zone.
Are you ready to take that leap of faith inside yourself? It’s an open secret that’s as unknown to outsiders as it gets. Because no matter what you tell me, or even try to trick yourself into believing, only you will really know when you’re being true to yourself by doing your best work.
Can you internalize, and live by, your best working self? Yes, you can. And you can start now.