from Daily Grammar Lessons Blog
If you read Copyblogger for any length of time, you’ll notice a theme that comes up again and again — the balance of creative “arty stuff” with pragmatic productivity.
Creativity makes our content worth reading. Strategic implementation gets us where we want to go. Each depends on the other.
On Monday, Stefanie Flaxman talked about cultivating a Pomeranian state of mind to expand your creativity. (Read the post to find out why you actually do want to do this.)
And on Tuesday, she outlined a plan to use that Pomeranian creativity to actually make something that other people want to read, watch, or listen to.
Finally, on Wednesday, our editorial team sent me their favorite writing books — a healthy mix of the arty, the crafty, and the strategic.
Over on the Copyblogger FM podcast, I shared two resources that have seriously impressed me — one on the science of learning (this is great if you’re improving your skills, but it will also be incredibly useful for course creators) and one on creative focus (hello shiny).
Want to make great leaps in your writing this summer? Get your Inner Pomeranian going, pick up some of the books on the reading list, sharpen that focus just a bit, and decide on a project to implement with Stefanie’s plan. By September, you’ll be amazed at how far you’ve come.
That’s it for this week — have a great weekend, and we’ll see you Monday.
by Stefanie Flaxman
by Stefanie Flaxman
by Sonia Simone
by Sonia Simone
by Kelton Reid
by Brian Clark
I don’t believe in a “writing gene.”
Writing comes more easily to some folks, for sure. But those aren’t always the people who end up writing really well.
Writing is a skill that requires plenty of practice. But practice is always more effective when you’re working on the right things.
That’s when it’s time to seek out some good advice.
This week, we asked Copyblogger’s editorial team to share some of their favorite writing books. There’s a mix here — some books are about the art of writing, some about craft, and some about strategy.
Any of them will help you put your words together in more powerful ways.
Here are the recommendations, in each writer’s own words:
Fun Fact: I’ve never read a “normal” writing book, only copywriting books. So:
Advertising Secrets of the Written Word, Joe Sugarman
I have a lot of copywriting books and courses, and if I were starting out from square one today, I’d start here. Joe Sugarman is a direct marketing legend, and he does a great job of getting basic copywriting concepts across in an enjoyable way. So if you’re brand new to copywriting, this is where to go.
Editor’s note: This edition of Sugarman’s book is out of print, but was reissued as The Adweek Copywriting Handbook.
Breakthrough Advertising, Eugene Schwartz
For the advanced, here’s the money book, courtesy of the late, great Gene Schwartz. When you’re ready to take it to the next level, this is what just about any highly successful copywriter will tell you is the Holy Grail of deep psychological insights that lead to breakthrough marketing campaigns.
The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: Violate Them at Your Own Risk!, Al Ries and Jack Trout
It’s a quick read, but every time you pick it up as you progress on your marketing journey, something new clicks into place or it sparks new ideas for a project you’re working on.
And I’m going rogue on my second submission …
My suggestion is to treat every book (or article) you read as a lesson. Why do you like the writing? Why do you dislike the writing? If you answer those questions and study the craft of other writers, you can improve your own writing. See if you can adapt the qualities you like to fit your own style — and avoid the qualities you dislike.
The Unpublished David Ogilvy
Though he is most famous/infamous for his industry-shattering Ogilvy on Advertising, Unpublished offers a deeper look into the original Mad Man. His tactics, motives, and strategies are laid bare … not to mention some of the funniest internal memo writing you’ll ever read.
Selected Letters (3 Volumes), Charles Bukowski
Another case (for me) in which the writer’s offhand, non-staged work seems so much more alive than what he is known for. Or, maybe I’m just too old and too dead inside to reach for his poetry and fiction over this fascinating, exploding, and beautifully human correspondence.
On Writing, Stephen King
I love On Writing. It cuts through all the bullshit and gets right to the heart of what it means to write. “Life isn’t a support-system for art. It’s the other way around.”
The War of Art, Stephen Pressfield
It actually shares some over-arching thematic similarities to King’s in how uncompromising they are about the commitment it takes to be a good writer, and how writing isn’t about staring out a window and waiting for the muse … but strapping on your work boots, sitting down, and typing.
Besides the obvious — Cialdini, Ogilvy, Schwartz, Hopkins, Godin, McKee, King, Clark, Simone, and Bruce — I have a few other go-to faves:
Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon
New York Times bestselling author Austin Kleon has been called “one of the most interesting people on the Internet” by The Atlantic magazine. An authority on “creativity in the digital age,” this guide offers the message: “You don’t need to be a genius; you just need to be yourself.”
Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, Mason Currey
How did the greats get it done? If you’re like me and you nerd-out on the processes of annoyingly productive creatives, this is for you. A well-written survey of the daily rituals of 161 novelists, poets, playwrights, painters, philosophers, and more, on how they “… get done the work they love to do, whether by waking early or staying up late.”
Process: The Writing Lives of Great Authors, Sarah Stodola
Accomplished journalist, editor, and creative nonfiction author Sarah Stodola compiled a fascinating collection of the habits and habitats of heralded scribes titled, Process: The Writing Lives of Great Authors. Much word-nerdery here. Enjoy!
Since I put this together, I got the benefit of seeing what everyone else wrote. I share a lot of the favorites above, but here are a few that my colleagues didn’t mention.
Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg
I read this over and over when I was just a wee writer, and it’s always stuck with me. Goldberg talks about writing as a Zen meditative practice, and this is a book that can help you get out of your own way and start to find your writing voice.
The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structures for Writers, Christopher Vogler
These days everyone and their Aunt Frances has written about the “hero’s journey” and how it informs the stories we tell. Vogler was one of the first, and his book (intended for screenwriters) has lots of juicy ideas you can swipe to inform the stories we tell with content today.
Marketing Bullets, Gary Bencivenga
It’s well worth your time to seek out copywriting advice that was written for direct response — particularly what we usually call “junk mail.” These writers had to make every syllable work hard to offset the high costs of a direct mail campaign. Gary Bencivenga was one of the most successful writers ever to work in that format.
His advice “bullets” are old-school (sometimes they might even strike you as cheesy), but they’re still smart and they’re still powerful. Reworking them so they make sense in today’s environment and with your individual voice will make anyone a more effective and persuasive writer.
All Marketers are Liars and Permission Marketing, Seth Godin
Seth fills out the other side of the persuasion equation. You want to express yourself clearly and give people the information they need to make a buying decision — that’s what copywriting techniques are for.
But you also need to speak to the desire for belonging, the yearning for connection and shared values, that marks every human society, past or present. That’s what Seth’s books and blogs are for. I found these two particularly useful, but if you have a different favorite, of course I want to hear about it below.
Do you have any favorite writing books? Are they more “art of writing” or “science of persuasion?”
Let us know in the comments …
The post Your Summer Reading List from the Copyblogger Editorial Team appeared first on Copyblogger.
On June 20, 2009, I was reading Copyblogger and I got a new idea: I should write an ebook.
At that point, my writing and editing business was less than a year old, and I had never written anything that resembled a book.
Could I actually do it?
I knew I wanted to try, so I established a plan on July 1 that would help me write, design, and self-publish an ebook on my website by September 15.
I’m going to share that plan with you today, so you can adapt it to any type of content project you’d like to finish by the fall. You’ll also learn some habits I like to avoid when there is a specific goal I want to accomplish.
Writing an ebook could easily take a year or two … or five.
But launching it as soon as possible was an important step for my business. The ebook would help:
The last bullet point above was especially critical because I didn’t have my own blog yet. I’ll explain that in a bit.
In order to complete the project by the end of the summer, I decided to create a short guide to avoiding common writing mistakes.
If I had chosen a more complex topic, either the quality would have suffered or I wouldn’t have been able to release it on September 15.
Carefully select a project you have the time and resources to finish.
On July 1, I set these deadlines …
As you can see, I had a pretty weak promotion strategy. It made me nervous, but since my goal was to produce an ebook, I didn’t worry about it too much.
The project taught me countless lessons about writing, content creation, and marketing that I could apply in the future.
If you don’t try something new because you don’t feel confident about every aspect of it, you’ll never learn those lessons.
After I marked my calendar with my final deadlines, I outlined weekly goals for how I was going to meet them.
Even though I made daily to-do lists to keep me on track, I preferred to measure my progress at the end of a week. Daily goals are often too strict for my creative process.
Sonia recommends forming a support group with other entrepreneurs to help manage your stress and keep yourself accountable. If you’re more of a lone wolf, adopt a no-excuses attitude.
Don’t treat your deadlines as options. Meet them like your job depends on it.
But also recognize that no project goes perfectly. If you have a week that doesn’t quite go as planned, simply reschedule the tasks you didn’t work on.
It’s possible to have a flexible attitude each week and still finish everything by your final deadlines. Find the space where hard work and fun co-exist.
How embarrassing is this?
Although I don’t regret spending a lot of energy in the summer of 2009 on that ebook, it would have also been wise to set up my own blog.
I had already been guest posting on other websites, but my online home was a basic “brochure” site that described my services.
I missed out on a lot of opportunities to build my audience (and business) but came to my senses about a year later when I was ready to blog regularly.
It could be:
Think about where you could be one year from now if you start today, and let us know in the comments about a new goal you’re ready to focus on this summer.
The post A Simple Plan for Managing and Completing a Content Project appeared first on Copyblogger.
A woman brought her two Pomeranians to a barbecue I recently attended. I had never met her before, but overhearing her give the dogs commands in Norwegian, Italian, and English sparked a conversation between us and another guest.
Hamburger in hand, the other barbecue-goer explained why he’s always had trouble learning a language other than English.
“I want there to be a word-for-word translation and get stuck because it doesn’t work like that,” he said.
I resonated with that experience and thought about where that outlook might pop up in other aspects of life and business:
There’s a reasonable question virtually everyone asks when they want to start a new creative project.
We all know I like questions, but if you dedicate too much time to this one, it can be more harmful than helpful.
And when you’re out of your comfort zone, you often want a guide — a set of steps to follow.
Those steps are necessary at first, but large creative strides happen when you start operating with more fluidity. When you stop looking at your new endeavor like translating one language into another, word for word.
The common belief that could be blocking your creative potential is that you need to learn “the best way” to do something.
The desire to learn “the best way” often leads to asking endless questions rather than trying out the activity for yourself.
It’s understandable. You want to avoid making mistakes. But making (and learning from) your own mistakes will help you more than any question you could ask an expert.
The Pomeranians weren’t bothered by the challenges of learning new languages. And their owner likely had to overcome the belief that it would be difficult to teach her dogs the languages she speaks.
They simply figured out ways to communicate that work for them.
Once you’ve learned the basics, you have to give your project your own color and richness, rather than try to mimic or duplicate someone else’s “best way.”
“The best way” to do something may not work for you at all.
If you keep searching for “the best way,” you’ll never discover your way.
“Messy” is an understatement for my creative process.
It’s full of nonsensical phrases, tangents, mistakes, and experiments.
Certain articles I write begin with clear bullet points. Others begin as vague concepts. There’s no formula (which is convenient, because I don’t like that word anyway.)
Sometimes writing is easy; sometimes writing is hard.
The trick is to not get too attached to either experience. If you’re having a bad writing day, it won’t always be like that. If you’re having a good writing day, it won’t always be like that. You write (and keep writing) either way.
No matter what you’re working on, give yourself the freedom to try different techniques without getting discouraged if one method isn’t right for you. You can cross it off your list and try something else.
Decide what you want to do, and do it your way.
Of course, you need to follow through to make sure you achieve your goals.
Since we like to pair creativity with productivity on Copyblogger, tomorrow’s post will outline a simple plan for managing a content project until it’s done.
See you then.
The post This Common Belief Could Be Blocking Your Creative Potential appeared first on Copyblogger.