Writing Is Courageous (But First You Have to Actually Do It)
The act of writing for the public is inherently a confident act. At worst, it could be seen as a narcissistic one. It assumes an audience. It declares a belief in its own worth. By putting a piece of writing into the world, you imply that it—and by extension, your opinion and your voice—deserve to be heard.
This is something most of us understand instinctively, and it’s the reason why the blank screen intimidates us. We might ask, Who am I to have an opinion? Who am I to tell this story? Copywriters, specifically, might ask: How can I, a single person, possibly write a headline, or brand statement, or website that encompasses ALL that this brand stands for?
The answer is simple. Just write. Believe you’re the only person on Earth who can do it. Believe you know the brand best. Believe you are the brand’s hero. Even if you suspect that believing these things, even temporarily, will turn you into a delusional, egomaniacal copy-monster, believe them. (A 1912 Judicious Advertising column said “Real copy ‘artists’ are self-hypnotists.” It’s still true.) Then put your paws on the keyboard, and write.
The writing will probably be bad at first. Let it be. Put down every punny, trite, overly sentimental thought, because each one is a brick in the road you’re building toward clarity.
The mediocre stuff isn’t a waste of your time. It’s necessary and valuable work. Flannery O’Connor said, “I write to discover what I know.” Are you staring at a blinking cursor because you’re terrified to type a single clunky phrase? You’re likely keeping your best thoughts and insights at bay.
Last September, Atomicdust hosted an event called “Things We’ve Learned So Far,” where some of our owners, designers and social media managers gave advice on working in the creative industry. One of my favorite slides, which was intended to be design-centric, said: “Use a cool photo, a legible typeface, and something that messes it all up.” I like to keep that last part in mind as I write: “Something that messes it all up.” Beauty is in the risks and the imperfections. There’s no place for safe copy in good marketing. Safe copy drowns in the clutter. Throw it a life vest. Throw it with everything you’ve got.