Keeping your mind and body in top form can be beneficial when you need to give your writing an edge.
Sitting at a red light in traffic is no fun. Everything stops, time goes slower, and you want to claw your face off.
It’s a lot like writer’s block.
Writer’s block is the inability to move forward with your writing. In more direct terms, consider the following thoughts on writer’s block from Toni Morrison, the first African-American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature:
“I disavow that term. There are times when you don’t know what you’re doing or when you don’t have access to the language or the event. So if you’re sensitive, you can’t do it. When I wrote Beloved, I thought about it for three years. I started writing the manuscript after thinking about it, and getting to know the people and getting over the fear of entering that arena, and it took me three more years to write it. But those other three years I was still at work, though I hadn’t put a word down.”
Morrison personally didn’t believe in writer’s block, but acknowledged that something like it does occur. (“There are times when you don’t know what you’re doing or when you don’t have access to the language or the event.”)
So in order to get up and over the phenomenon she described, she needed three things:
- Time (she “thought about it for three years”)
- Planning (even when she was thinking, she was “still at work”)
- Research (she got “to know the people and [got] over the fear of entering that arena”)
But coming up with effective content can be exhausting. After all, even cars sitting in traffic have performance issues every now and then. If you’re in traffic, when the light’s green, you need to go.
In the same way, that means when it’s time to create content, it’s time to create content. This is marketing, not creative writing. You don’t have the luxury of taking years to think.
And given that B2B buyers are more than halfway through reaching a buying decision before making their presence known to sales, every piece of content that’s created is vital.
So if you happen to feel writer’s block, how do you deal with it in a way that’s useful?
Dealing With Writer’s Block
Part of the solution to dealing with writer’s block is recognizing that writing is a physical and mental process. That’s what master copywriter, Joseph Sugarman thinks anyway.
In his legacy work, The AdWeek Copywriting Handbook, Sugarman defines copywriting:
“Copywriting is a mental process; the successful execution of which reflects the sum total of all your experiences, your specific knowledge and your ability to mentally process that information and transfer it onto a sheet of paper for the purpose of selling a product or service.”
Although Sugarman says here in the definition of copywriting that it’s a mental process, he has also said in the same book–a few chapters later–that editing it is like giving birth. Giving birth is by nature a physical process—a particularly painful physical process.
By a similar token, producing content that provides a boost to your engagement metrics and captivates interest on a regular basis is taxing–mentally painful, even. This can lead to fatigue—a physical and mental symptom.
Content creation is, then, a physical and mental process, which means taking care of your body–to supply it with the things it needs to write effectively–is a priority.
For example, take the 2019 South by Southwest gathering–a film, media, and music festival. At that particular assembly, Chillhouse, a self-care brand and resting spot, offered festival goers a respite from what may be a jam-packed itinerary.
What self-care means within the context of content creation here is that it can boost those efforts. Science backs this claim, too–recent research points out a positive link between happiness and productivity.
A Suggestion for Self-Care: Have Some Coffee
It’s not really the coffee you’re after, though–it’s the caffeine. According to The Atlantic, “it [caffeine] turns off the body’s brakes”:
“The basic science of caffeine goes something like this. Cyclic AMP [adenosine monophosphate] gives your body energy. Phosphodiesterase is an enzyme that breaks down cyclic AMP. Caffeine blocks phosphodiesterase. So cyclic AMP stays around longer when you have caffeine in your blood, and you have more energy. It comes from the natural substances that your body produces and always give you energy; they just last longer.”
Caffeine also blocks adenosine receptors in your brain. Stephen Braun, author of Buzz: The Science and Lore of Alcohol and Caffeine, once explained it as an ‘indirect stimulant, as opposed to, say, amphetamine which liberates dopamine, a directly stimulating neurotransmitter. By blocking adenosine receptors, caffeine allows the brain’s own stimulating neurotransmitters (i.e. glutamate and dopamine) to do their thing with greater gusto and less restraint.’
What this basically means is that having a cup of coffee or two can get you good and ready to complete a task–content creation, for instance. It will get you ready to think, as Toni Morrison suggested earlier.
In marketing, caffeine does help content creation in the area of self-care. Just check out the below ad for Starbucks:
While not proving that coffee helps in creating actual content, caffeine will help you think of the right value proposition for your product or service (as The Atlantic showed us). In the above example, coffee is billed as a self-care item. This is implied with the text “For the best YOU.”
Not everybody is a coffee drinker. I get that. It’s why I’m going to offer a couple of more suggestions on how you can give your content creation efforts the edge by taking care of your body–physically and mentally.
Other Suggestions to Help Content Creation
A question for you: does a change of place affect your content creation efforts? For instance, is working from home any different than working in the office?
There’s some truth to this that’s based in psychology. According to Psychology Today, just imagining you’re in a different place helps with focus:
“Physiological responses including decreased arousal levels, increased attentional capacity, and even faster emotional processing have been well-documented in these naturally restorative environments. Our physiological, psychological, and emotional states change as our surroundings change. Natural places relax us. We’re able to focus better and we feel more emotionally engaged.”
This bears out some interesting implications in marketing.
Generally speaking, the current public health emergency as of this writing has forced a change in the way companies advertise.
Many companies stress the importance to be together while remaining physically distant. For example, Ikea Spain took the opportunity to welcome people back to their homes and to see them as a place where adventures can be redefined.
But no matter the amount of tricks you try to get to the place where you can create content, there are just those times where no trick seems to work. And yet, there’s a way around that, too. It also involves getting in a different headspace.
User-Generated Content (UGC) is that headspace, and it’s hot right now; “67% of consumers (73% of Gen Z and 70% of Millennials) say it’s important for brands to provide them with a personalized experience,” according to Stackla.
The reason why UGC is such an effective content creation tactic is due, in part, because there are three psychological principles of influence at play here, according to the leading expert on the science of persuasion, Robert B. Cialdini. Among those, they include:
- The Principle of Reciprocity
- The Principle of Consensus
- The Principle of Authority
Principle No. 1 is activated because you’re sharing something valuable. This makes the prospect or customer feel as if they owe you something because of the value you’ve provided them.
The Principle of Reciprocity can be seen in Comcast. I recall a mailing I received from them earlier this year that offered a cable subscription at a discounted price for six months or so before scaling up to a higher rate.
The whole reason why discounts such as those work is because they’re offering you something of value at a lower than normal price. In other words, the offer works because it makes you psychologically feel as if you owe them something, and you pay that debt with giving them your patronage.
If prospects and customers keep coming to you for that point of value activated by Principle No. 1, Principle No. 2 is turned on–The Principle of Consensus.
The Principle of Consensus works when people feel uncertain. Because when they’re not sure how to act, they’ll look at the behaviors of others to model their own actions.
An example of this is with hashtags.
A good example of the use of a hashtag would be the #DoUsAFlavor contest. In 2012, Frito-Lay created the “Do Us A Flavor” campaign–a user-generated contest/game.
The way it worked was, according to the HBS Digital Initiative, “Contestants submit flavor ideas on the Do Us a Flavor website – they choose a catchy title, up to three ingredients, create a quick pitch, and design the bag.”
It’s definitely a good way to get a conversation started about your brand. With enough businesses and customers talking about your brand, you also become an authority on the product or service you’re selling. That’s where Principle No. 3 is activated.
Principle No. 3–the Principle of Authority–put another way, means that people tend to obey authority figures more than not. Apple is a good example of a brand that uses this Principle on a regular basis.
Diehard fans of Apple products are referred to as Apple fanboy/girls. Where did Apple get this authority in their market? Whatever an Apple connoisseur’s motivation is for becoming a disciple of Apple products, they all have one thing in common: they’ve equated Apple products with market dominance. That’s Principle No. 3 to-a-T.
All of these Principles can be employed in your content generation efforts effectively to give your writing an edge if you should ever have that dreaded off-period that is writer’s block.
But writer’s block doesn’t have to be a pain if you recognize that copywriting is a physical and mental process, as well as knowing your body–where and how it works best. It also helps knowing that sometimes, your audience can help you out with creating persuasive content, too.
Worker smarter, not harder. Take care of yourself to create better content.
What other ways do you give your writing an edge? Let us know in the below.