What Kind of Writer Are You? Part 1: “Pruning & Perspective”

I hear it from clients all the time. “I’m a good writer,” they say. I never deny it.

But then they tell me about their struggle to write website copy. They tell me they want to blog more, but they haven’t posted since April…of 2010. They confess that writing for themselves is a surefire recipe for procrastination, frustration, unhappiness. And my heart goes out to them because I know how that feels.

Here’s what I think. Being a ‘good’ writer is common. Thank goodness. For the most part, people can spell; they grasp grammar and punctuation; they understand (in theory) proper usage of “their,” “there,” and “they’re.”

Most writing gets the point across. It’s what I call basic “workhorse” writing.

What makes copywriting so challenging for workhorse writers (heck, everyone) is a failure of perspective. Most people do not know how to introduce themselves on paper. To perfect strangers. They have detailed demographics and a ready list of bullet points—but they are too close (and too emotionally invested) to intuit what will actually sell.

This failed perspective often results in two things. One: paralysis. Two: the copywriting equivalent of a tsunami. The conviction that you’ve got to mention everything—and dazzle them under the weight of your arguments.

They’re more likely to end up dazed—and squashed.

At a basic level, a copywriter ought to know how to create clean nuggets of information—and not a single word more. It shouldn’t take 600 words to convey 250.

In my next post, I’ll talk about what to look for in an exceptional copywriter.

A champion of high-end content, Jean is a living tribute to copywriting for humans. In 2012, at a TEDx talk, she declared her now widely viewed “War Against Bland.” The visionary founder of MarketSmiths, Jean leads her growing team to captivate, inspire, and motivate readers. She has helped thousands of global clients generate revenue from words (up to 12,000% ROI), and transformed the writing of hundreds of seminar attendees at the SXSW Interactive Festival (2014 and 2015), SXSW V2V (2014), the Small Business Summit (2014, NYC), and other venues.

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