Do you ever think you might be going mad?
Maybe it’s just me.
My fiancée would certainly attest to that. It’s usually a relief for her to leave the house in the morning after suffering a breakfast spent listening to my rambling nonsense.
But I don’t think I’m the only one, right?
We copywriters are all a bit doolally.
Tell me I’m not alone…
Oh, God…please tell me.
In seriousness, it’s a real thing…this sense of madness, or perhaps more accurately described as ‘mental overwhelm’.
It’s something that, as a copywriter, you need to be aware of.
That way, when you feel it creeping up…you can identify it for what it is and take steps to overcome it.
And hey, look…I’m not saying this because I’m particularly worried about you shivering in a corner…I’m far from Mr Nice Guy.
But I think it’s worth writing a little about this today because it’s just not very fun and means you waste a lot of time that could be better-spent writing copy.
And I’m talking about this from experience…
I get it all the time…that creeping feeling that you have too much to do…that you’ve got too many projects on the go at once and just not enough time to get them done.
This week I lost half a day’s work because I didn’t save what I was writing properly.
I initially dealt with it calmly…moved on to something else…and later went for a beer.
But even my Buddhist reaction couldn’t disguise the fact that I was now a half day off schedule and still had a load of copy to write.
It’s a tough game, this copywriting lark…and it’s one that already takes place almost exclusively in your mind.
The last thing you need is your mind screwing around with you.
So, here’s some rambled thoughts, feelings and potential advice (warning, this works for me but not everyone) on how to cope with mental overload, manage your copywriting and save yourself going mad.
Write down a list of what you’d like to get done
I have a little whiteboard in my office.
I don’t actually work in my office too much anymore as I tend to sit at the dining table with the backdoors open and watch my dog, Pablo, dig up the spring onions I’m trying to grow in the back yard.
So, I’m not sure why it’s in my office…
But anyway, I do tend to use it quite often and I would recommend you try something similar.
It’s nothing special…
I just list the jobs I’d like to get done that week in different colours depending on which client or country they’re for.
As I work through the week, I cross these out and feel like I’m making progress. This is helpful mentally, as even when I doubt myself that I’ve done enough for the day, I have a visual reference that I’ve done what I hoped to do. Release the dopamine and all that brain science jazz.
The key here, for me, is putting as much detail of specific jobs down, so you can see clear progress. If you just jot ‘Write Sales Letter for X,’ it could be there for weeks. But if you mark it first as ‘Research ideas for Sales Letter X’…’Draft headlines and leads’…and break it down more like that…you can tick off as you go.
Yes. Yes. Basic stuff. But we’re copywriters, right? And we’re pretty rubbish at this stuff. We’re all about being crazy and cool and full of ideas.
But if you don’t do this boring checklist type stuff…the creeping madness sets in and you feel you haven’t achieved anything and then you can’t focus on the crazy new ideas you want to come up with and you start wearing strange hats and shouting weird things at strangers and that’s when it all goes wrong.
So do it.
It might help.
Break up your time into project-specific chunks
“Oh God…Glenn’s gone all self-help guru!”
I know, I know.
But be honest with me…how often do you flit about from one job to another, jumping back and forth…getting involved in a rogue email thread here…checking the price of Bitcoin there…before suddenly spending thirty minutes reading about how Avengers 4 might actually reverse everything that happened in Infinity War and how Doctor Strange is actually representing Adam Warlock in the movie version…
Sorry, don’t know what came over me.
My point is:
Copywriters, in my experience, have easily distractible minds.
It’s one of our biggest strengths, but also our biggest weakness.
The problem with having an ad hoc approach to all your work is when you inevitably go off course, you lose track of what you were actually meant to be doing. Rather than spending time watching Brass Eye clips, were you meant to be writing the offer for that sales letter you’re finishing off, or was it meant to be spent on that client’s blogpost you’re due to submit this afternoon.
I find it’s much better to loosely allocate chunks of time to specific projects and dedicate your attention during that time.
I do it in one or two hour slots as I find that works best for me and it’s usually after an hour or so that Pablo is on the verge of causing mischief, so I need to check him.
If a particular slot is disrupted by another urgent project coming in, updates on something else that would be best done there and then or life just gets in the way as it tends to do…you have a much better understanding of what you’ve not done and can move that specific project to another time, rather than getting all panicked about time running away from you.
Big jobs, small jobs, no jobs
A final piece of advice from the Glenn Fisher Catalogue Of Tips To Stop Copywriters Going Insane, is to split up your time into different sized projects and mix them up.
Sometimes, I know I’ll do a day writing on a long copy sales letter. But I know an entire day writing can be tough, so I’ll break it up with a small 500 word blog post I might need to write for another project.
Other times I’ll only have small jobs to do…an hour replying to emails…two hours writing lift notes and adverts…an hour researching a particular element of a new idea.
These break themselves up quite well…but it can also be tough to jump from one idea to another, so I’ll also allocate time to ‘no job’.
This is time where I’ll take Pablo for a walk…read a little fiction…or play my bass guitar for a while. These are things that don’t require me to think too hard so I can give my brain a rest before setting off on another task.
If it sounds a little twee…that’s because it is. But I do believe it’s important to rest that mind of yours. It’s responsible for all the copy you produce, so you need to look after it and not run it into the ground.
Mental overwhelm isn’t good for you, for your clients or for your loved ones. So, make sure you keep a check on yourself next time things start piling up.
Indeed, I hope you found these thoughts useful and if you do find yourself feeling overwhelmed with all the different copy ideas swirling around in your head…these simple practices might just help clear some space.
P.S. Before I go, did you see the very kind testimonial I received from Jenny? She writes:
“As a copywriter, I nearly didn’t buy Glenn’s guide thinking I’d learn nothing new. How wrong I was! Write Better Copy is packed full of practical tips you can use straightaway to improve any piece of writing (no fluff or filler here). I’ve already started using Glenn’s techniques and can see the difference. Whether you’re new to copywriting or have been writing for years, I’d recommend getting your hands on Write Better Copy.”
If you haven’t got the guide yet, you can pick up a copy here.
P.P.S. Remember, my fiancée Ruth and I…otherwise known as ‘Gluth’…are running the Great Grimsby 10k this year and raising money for the British Heart Foundation.
For the many readers outside the UK who are wondering what on earth ‘Great Grimsby’ is…it’s where I’m from. Grimsby is a small fishing port on the east coast of England. And it’s, er, great.
Anyhow, we’re over 70% of the way towards our target of £500, which is pretty good and I thank everyone who’s contributed so far.
As a bonus for readers of All Good Copy, I’m going to hold an exclusive live webinar where I’ll open the floor to a live Q&A and reveal some of my top tips.
If you’d like to join us for the webinar…and more importantly sponsor me and Ruth for the run…