Unexpected Places to Find Copywriting Inspiration

A reliable trick gets me through a mental dry spell

I don’t believe in writer’s block.

If you call yourself a journalist or a copywriter — as I proudly do — you write everyday no matter how sick, tired, hung-over, uninspired, depressed, jet-lagged, anxious or migraine-ridden.

Period. End of sentence.

Writer’s block is an excuse to goof off, be lazy, and procrastinate. Professionals don’t tolerate so-called writer’s block.

If you are well enough to sit up and take nourishment, you can write. If you can’t do this, find an easier craft — such as chess grandmaster, rocket scientist, or neurosurgeon.

But sometimes — perhaps more often than not — you need a little help or inspiration. Such as when the deadline is approaching and you haven’t the foggiest idea what you’re writing about. And you need to beef up the density of keyword phrases in a search-engine-optimized letter or blog post, and you’re stumped for ideas.

That’s when I resort to a few old reliable tricks to get me through a mental dry spell. I fall back on four basic questions: 1. Who would know? 2. Who would care? 3. Who would care enough to write it down? 4. Where?

What does this mean in practical terms?

Supposing I’m writing a rapid conversion landing page and the keyword phrase I need to use frequently, but naturally, is “online stock option trading.” I’m no expert on “online stock option trading” but I need to use the phrase with authority, accuracy and frequency.

I’ve already figured out that I could make the rapid conversion landing page work if I can write a number of sentences or bullets that begin with the words “Experienced online stock option trading investors know that…”  But what do they know?

If I Google “Experienced online stock option trading investors,” the search engine doesn’t return any results.

And what happens if I simply Google “experienced investors know”? The search engine returns more than 750,000 pages — far too many that are not useful or inspiring.

But then I remember that many corporate stockholder reports are written to explain to investors the reasons for a stock’s poor performance. The company’s chief executive officer needs to reassure shareholders that the current poor stock performance is but a blip or aberration. His is a plea for understanding.

These corporate annual reports are usually online somewhere, almost always in .pdf or Adobe Portable Document Format files. So I Google “experienced investors understand” and specify filetype:pdf.

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Jackpot! Google returns a list of all the annual reports in which some corporate PR flack has written the letter to stockholders using “experienced investors understand.” So I copy each of these sentences into an MS Word document.

Now I have a list of sentences or bullet points that enumerate what “experienced investors understand.” Next I simply modify these pithy sentences to add the words “online stock option trading.”

Presto, change-o. Here’s my new list of bullet points, overflowing with our targeted keyword phrase:

  • Experienced online stock option trading investors understand that reward and risk are inextricably intertwined.
  • Experienced online stock option trading investors understand the pitfalls and have the patience and control to wait.
  • Experienced online stock option trading investors understand that the specifics of the plan are less important than the discipline to execute it.
  • Experienced online stock option trading investors understand how to measure and manage risk.
  • Experienced online stock option trading investors understand the power of leverage.
  • Experienced online stock option trading investors understand that a fall in the stock market is a time to buy –- not to sell.
  • Experienced online stock option trading investors understand that there are times for avoiding risk and times when a calculated degree of risk is in order.

I honestly don’t know what some of that rhetoric means. So, in the final analysis, I didn’t really write any of these bullet points. I simply researched, copied, and modified.

But I got a good result — a rapid conversion landing page that will be very attractive to search engines for the phrase “online stock option trading.”

These terse, penetrating bullet points sound wise — as though they were written by an experienced online stock option trading investor.

They were not.

But they weren’t written by a guy with writer’s block, either.

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Peter A. Schaible is Mequoda’s Chief Copywriter. For more of his unique perspective on copywriting, you can subscribe to his complimentary series on Targeting Your Prospective Customer by Type: How to Position Your Brand to Trigger an Emotional Response, available at www.SunDanceNewMedia.com. No obligation. No upsell.

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Comments

    Great piece Peter. Highly engaging and informative — a perfect article.

    Reply
    Peter S.

    Coming from you, Ed, whom I admire so much, that is high praise. Thank you so much for your kind words. I’ll live off your kudos for a week!

    Reply
    Dianne D.

    Searching specifically for PDFs is a great idea. I posted yesterday on my blog about ways to get over writer’s block, but the suggestions were much more general, for example re figuring out whether I actually need more info, or am just looking for an excuse to fidget about the Net doing research when I’m really just postponing the moment when I sit down and write. Love the writing business, mind you; but something about those first few minutes …

    Reply
    Brian

    Thanks for the piece, Peter. One question: what is meant by “corporate PR flack”?

    Reply

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