How to be a more productive copywriter

A blank screen. As a copywriter, it’s something to welcome or dread. When the ideas are flowing, it’s a friend spurring you on. When they’re not … well, that screen is like a heckler calling you a fraud from the sidelines.

How to be a more productive writer.

Inspiration comes and goes. That’s life. And I’m yet to meet a copywriter who doesn’t suffer writer’s block from time to time — if you’re one that doesn’t, I’d like to meet you. I guess the joy of completing a great piece of writing wouldn’t be so intense if we hadn’t experienced struggle. Perhaps struggle makes us better writers? I’m sure it does.

Anyway, wouldn’t it be great if you had an effective way to tackle writer’s block when it comes?

In this post I offer a solution for fighting writer’s block. If you find this useful please share. I’m also interested in your thoughts, so please leave a comment. 

How do you handle writer’s block?

What do you do when writer’s block takes hold? Do you get up and make a cup of tea? Do you switch to another job that doesn’t require your brain?

To state the obvious, nothing gets written if you’re not at your desk. But when it’s 8.30 am and you can’t get it together, the prospect of the long day ahead is daunting. You’re thinking, “I can’t go on like this all day. It’s too painful.” So, it’s easy to fall into the habit of making cups of tea or doing anything else that doesn’t involve writing. I’ve been guilty of this.

More disciplined and determined copywriters than myself take another approach — they doggedly struggle  for hours in the hope that inspiration will eventually strike. Sometimes inspiration does strike, but when it doesn’t, they end up ragged and defeated.

A 30-minute strategy

Recently, I read about a writer who wrote for just three hours a day. Three hours doesn’t seem long, but despite this, he was prolific and successful. What was his secret? Well, he would work in 30-minute units. Every morning he would sit at his desk, set his stopwatch for 30 minutes and write. During this period he wouldn’t leave his desk for any reason — even if he couldn’t string a sentence together he would sit there until 30 minutes was up. When he’d completed his 30 minutes, he would then do something else for 15 minutes.

I was intrigued and gave it a go.  My approach is slightly different, though — I write for more than three hours a day and take just 5 to 10-minutes for a break.

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For me, the results were fantastic.

Why does it work?

There are three main reasons that writing in 30-minute units works for me:

1: Manageable units

I’m sure the main reason for procrastination is fear: fear of a difficult job; fear of writer’s block. However, you can handle anything for 30 minutes. It’s not a long time. If I’m working on a frustrating job, I take heart in the knowledge that my 30 minutes will soon be up. This encourages me to just get on with it, rather than checking my email or making that cup of tea.

2: Time to reflect

Taking a break when your stuck is a good thing. When you take a break after 30 minutes, you have the time to reflect or think of something else. But rather than taking a break whenever you feel like it, this way you’re in control.

3: Effective time management

Before I started working in 30-minute units, I had no idea where my time was spent. I was reactive instead of proactive — when the phone rang I would answer; when a new email arrived I would read it. And, of course, I’d make cups of tea whenever I felt the urge.

Now I use my 5 to 10-minute breaks to check phone and email messages and boil the jug. I don’t think my customers can complain because I don’t leave anything for longer than 30 minutes.

In the past, if I started work at 8.30am and finished at 5pm, I’d think I’d worked a full eight and a half hours. In reality, I was working much less than that. Now, I can look back on how many 30-minute units I’ve completed I know with confidence how productive I’ve really been.

How do you tackle writer’s block? I look forward to your comments. If you found this post useful please share.

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  1. Well I’m not a copywriter so I can’t even imagine having that much pressure on myself to write all day and having people pay me to crank out content.

    I do though work and take several breaks throughout the day mainly because I have a dog and she needs to go out often. I also have my Mom living next door so I have lunch with her everyday and we walk everyday. That really helps make me take breaks.

    Sounds to me like you’ve got a great system going now Andrew.

    ~Adrienne

    1. Hi Adrienne, the system works for me. And the great thing is that I got the idea from reading someone’s blog. It just shows how reading other people’s material can be so beneficial. I wish I could find the blog I read because I would have included a link.

  2. Hi Andrew,

    I always work with a timer, otherwise, I have no ideas what I accomplished. I work in hour increments, unless, I’m working on a product, in that case, I’ll work in 2 hour increments.

    When I hit a stumbling block, I walk away for a few minutes. When I come back, I’m ready to tackle any difficulty.

    I think procrastination is a big deal for just about everyone. I think you are right about the fear.

    Thanks so much for an informative post. 🙂
    Geri Richmond

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