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6 Foolproof Ways to Unstick Stuck Writing and Thinking


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When it comes to writing copy, have you ever been stymied, stuck or and stumped ?

Here are my best techniques for moving from blank page and empty mind to great copy and effective communication.

Get out a piece of paper or open a blank document and write down these age-old questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? Plug in your answers, relying on what comes to mind first. One-word answers? No problem. That's you editing your thoughts to the succinct and pointed. Writing a tome? Run with it for a bit (see #3) and see where you land.

Why it works: Relying on a proven formula alleviates angst about what to do first.

Read through project materials, briefs, background notes, brochures, web copy and anything else you can get your hands on. Cut and paste (or highlight) the words, phrases and ideas you're drawn to or think may be spot-on. It's okay to use any or all of those as a starting point. Drop that copy into a headline or paragraph, knowing you can tweak it later. (I am in no way suggesting plagiarism . . . just inspiration. )

Why it works: The proactive act of finding hidden gems and putting them down on paper breaks through the condition known as “blank-document-inertia. "

Start writing. Anything. Everything. No thinking about what it says or how it looks or even if it makes sense. Just dump your brain, putting down thoughts, words and phrases as they come to mind.

Why it works: Writing without caution for 10, 20 or 30 minutes is a confidence booster and can result in the creation of a very usable, albeit rough, first draft.

Use an actual writing implement for this one. Draw a picture of your customer, your product, your idea. Jot down words and phrases that make sense. Connect them to one another with lines and circles. Add thought bubbles and quotations or appropriate buzzwords. Go back to the computer and Google keywords that relate to your project, such as “new product introduction ideas" or “marketing plan sample" or “customer letter announce service changes. " Pick and choose words and phrases from the search results and add them to your drawing. When you're done, mine for the nuggets (see #2) and add to your working draft.

Why it works: Releasing creativity through drawing and/or finding inspiration online opens up new possibilities and perspectives.

Take a short field trip. Go to a museum, art gallery, book store, hardware store or coffee shop. Walk the yard, the neighborhood or the dog. Flip through picture books, listen to music, work in the garden or simply people watch. Let your mind wander. Let your soul soak in your surroundings.

Why it works: Shifting gears relaxes the brain and refreshes the soul and inspires fresh, new ideas upon returning to the task at hand.

Spend a few minutes brainstorming with a coworker, talking over your ideas with a colleague or even chatting with a child. Sometimes just hearing yourself explain it to others is enough to help you identify what's working and what's not.

Why it works: Having a communication/copy partner strengthens existing ideas and spurs new ones.

Jan O'Daniel is a veteran communication strategist and copywriter who has crafted messages, created content strategies, and told the stories of some of the world's most well-known brands. In collaboration with creative teams, Jan has won multiple awards including Web Marketing Association IAC awards, the HOW Design award, WebAwards, and Macromedia's Site of the Day. Sign up for free communication and copy tips and resources at


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