George Wicker UK copywriter

The 3 effortless things you can do NOW to improve your writing.

Imagine

Use your imagination. Whether you are a creative writer or a copywriter (or both), using your imagination is the key to grabbing the attention of your reader.

You see, we all like stories. And stories are an extension of our imagination. They help us to see ourselves in new situations, and convince us to do otherwise improbable things, like running a marathon, or leaving a salaried job and going freelance.

Recently I watched a BBC documentary about the migration of one hominid tribe from Africa 70,000 years ago, a tribe that contained the female ancestor of all European, Asian and Australasian peoples living today. Now, do you think those who set off from their homelands then did so on a whim? It must have been a powerful motive that made them take the first steps to a new and perilous beginning. I like to believe they imagined themselves in a better place, with more food, more water and improved living conditions. True, they didn't yet envisage taking over the whole of Europe and Asia, but that's what eventually happened, and their journey was the start.

Someone in that tribe was also thinking outside the box. What if? Shall we? Let's go! And he or she was a powerful persuader. Conditions must have been bad, or the story so strong, that it made moving and keeping moving a better prospect than staying put.

Well, persuasive writing is like that. You have to convince an inherently conservative person or company that your product is Asia, Europe or Australia in a box. Think you can do it? Of course you can. Just imagine...

Read

Read a lot. You may think that reading will take up a lot of your time, time that could be better spent writing. Or networking. Or designing a landing page for your website. You couldn't be more wrong.

But if you worry about time, then give up other things. The TV should be the first to go. It's a passive medium, and it can be entertaining, but it's generally crap. If you're ill, or tired, or lonely, then fine - a couple of hours gawking at MTV or the Discovery Channel won't do any harm. Won't do any good either, but hey, there's room for indulgence in every day. And at least you can study the ads and see how they get their selling messages across. That could help your copywriting too.

The important thing is to get back to reading as soon as you can. And realise you can learn as much from bad writing as from the masters.

How do others do it? That's easy to find out. Particularly for copywriters - all of the people you need to read are online and easily accessible. I would recommend Seth Godin, Chris Brogan and Brian Clark from Copyblogger for starters. As you read more about these people and the stuff they are producing, you'll notice 3 things:

  • They are passionate
  • They work hard
  • They write a lot

In the words of one of America's master story tellers, William Faulkner: "Read, read, read. Read everything - trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it. Then write. If it's good, you'll find out. If it's not, throw it out of the window."

Write

To take Faulkner's analogy of the carpenter further, would you expect to be able to build a cabinet by looking at a pile of planks?

Of course not; first you would train, learn the basics of carpentry, read manuals, create small bits of furniture and practise joints.Then you'd slowly be able to build bigger pieces of furniture, experiment with techniques, eventually to create furniture in your own style.

Well it's the same with writing. You get better at it the more you do it. And it doesn't matter what type of writing you do. Writing Tweets helps you be concise. Blog posts are all about talking to one reader and focusing on single topics. While writing a novel imparts discipline and stretches your imagination to it's limits.

As far as writing goes, it's all good. Period.