A quick and dirty tip to beat writer’s block

Writer’s block is nobody’s friend, but sometimes you just can’t avoid it. The deadline is too tight, or the assignment is out of your wheelhouse, or you’ve just had too much stress and too little sleep.

When that happens, there’s something that virtually always works for me. I hope it works for you, too. It’ll work better if you make sure you’re not hungry first. Stable blood sugar is important!

Here’s what you do.

First, study the background materials you’ve been given. The creative brief, white papers, slide presos, meeting notes, whatever documents your stakeholder gave you. Sometimes the creative brief sucks—it’s full of platitudes and cheerleadery statements that leave you worse off strategically than you were when you started. If that’s the case, give it a once-over then focus on the other stuff.

Then, and this is important, do not try to be clever.

Don’t try to be witty, or funny, or interesting, or special, or impress your old boss, your college professor or your girlfriend.

Just be clear. That’s it.

If you’ve really done your homework, studied up on who your audience is, why they should care, and your product’s “magic bullet” (value prop), this part should be easy. Write as concisely as possible. Make every word matter. Tell a story with a beginning, middle and end. Here’s the problem, here’s why your product solves it, here’s what you get out of it.

Note that if the problem is a familiar one, like hunger or thirst, you can skip to the middle, but never skip to the end. And sometimes starting at the beginning pays off, like it did with Snickers’ “You’re not you when you’re hungry” campaign!

Keep carving away at your copy to make it more concise, more to the point, more of a story–editing out anything that doesn’t truly contribute.

Make it shorter, and more specific, and clearer.

Eventually, you’ll find that this process literally results in wit, and occasionally even humor. It happens almost as a byproduct.

And that’s the magical contradiction.

Start with a quest for wit, and you’ll end up with nothing.

Start with a quest for insight and clarity, and the wit will come.

Don’t believe me. Try it.