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Expert Writing Advice: The Thoughts of Oscar Wilde & Others
Posted on February 22nd 2014
In about ten plus years of producing copy, I’ve lost count of how many times I have personally stared at a blank word processing document, utterly void of creativity. It doesn’t matter if I’m working on a piece of copy for a client or a work of fiction. When writer’s block visits, it’s never a fun time—especially if a deadline looms on the horizon.
Ernest Hemingway, one of the most famous of American authors and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954, once said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” But what do you do when the blood refuses to come and you’ve nothing to type? In my experience, you turn to “The Greats” for advice and inspiration.
Concocting Creativity and Writing
Sparks of inspiration are everywhere. You simply need to know how to look.
If you’re reading this blog, you’re likely some sort of writer. Most of you are probably copywriters. You don’t need to be paid or professional to be considered a writer; of course, it helps if you plan on making a career of it. To be a writer, you simply need to be an observer of things around you with a knack for using words to record and create mental images.
In the few decades that I’ve been on this planet, I’ve met both famous and fledgling writers. Put us all into a room bustling with activity and you’ll quickly learn one thing: we are all uniquely gifted observers. Give us five minutes and we’ll walk out of the room to tell you names, dates, colors, scents, sounds, conversations we eavesdropped on and little details that will make you think we have superpowers. With all the detail that we process and store in our brains, you’d think we would never run out of creativity! But it inevitably happens to us all.
Ginny Soskey wrote an article for HubSpot.com that opens by saying, “Getting stuck in a writing rut is the worst.” She’s right. It’s worse than the worst. It’s frustrating, infuriating, discouraging, depressing, and downright aggravating all at once. One of the tricks to jumping the rut is learning how to concoct a little creativity.
Creating a Creativity Potion
Ever since I read Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the chat of the three witches has stuck with me. “Double, double, toil and trouble,” is how it began. Whenever my creativity reserves are depleted, and I’m staring at a taunting cursor on my blank computer screen, this line invariably dances through my head. It’s time to concoct a creativity potion to jumpstart writing!
The way to concoct some creativity is to turn to the advice of awesome authors.Oscar Wilde is the writer Ginny Soskey at Hubspot turned to when writing her article. And the advice she shared from Wilde’s words is practically an ingredient list for a few creativity potions! Let’s take a look at some of Wilde’s words:
The Shopping List
Lucky you, you don’t need to step outside of your office to fill this shopping list. All you need is your mind, imagination and a blank page—the Internet helps too, but that’s a given these days, isn’t it?
- Nurture and be true to your own style. According to Oscar Wilde, “They are always asking a writer why he does not write like somebody else…quite oblivious of the fact that if [he] did anything of the kind he would cease to be an artist.”
You can brew the metaphoric creativity potion day in and day out, but it will always evaporate if you haven’t developed your own writing style. We’re copywriters, not copycats. We constantly dabble in truth and fact. Since our copy is often written for marketing purposes, we weave in our client’s marketing needs. Finally, we take into consideration and work under any instructions or requests the client makes of us. Believe it or not, you can manage all of this while still keeping your personal style, IF you know it inside and out. Moral of the story: don’t try to write like someone else because in doing so you can invite writer’s block.
- Rules are meant to be bent. According to Oscar Wilde, “A writer is someone who has taught his mind to misbehave.”
Rule bending is half the fun of writing. When it comes to producing copy, there are some copywriting rules you should never break, but there are even more you can have fun bending. Don’t ever be afraid of bending a rule to accomplish your goal. You’ll find that rule bending helps you establish and nurture your own style.
- Step outside of your comfort zone. According to Oscar Wilde, “An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.”
Stepping outside of your content comfort zone is scary. In fact, the first time I did it – it was downright terrifying. Most of us have an inherent fear of failure, but dare I say it’s worse for us writers? I do. We writers often associate the success or failure of our content with our very identity. We shy away from the new and unfamiliar because somewhere in our chaotic minds we think that failure will chip away at our identity until we’re no longer writers, and that is an utterly petrifying thought. But in order to grow and succeed as writers, stepping outside of our content comfort zone is vital. Lack of growth is what sticks us in that writing rut and ushers writer’s block in.
- Fear is healthy. According to Oscar Wilde, “Experience is merely the name men give to their mistakes.”
The writer you are today is not the writer you will be tomorrow. Fear of failure is healthy. It’s what motivates us to thoroughly research and finely edit our copy. You are going to make mistakes. You’re not perfect. Your copy, it’s not perfect either. Perfection is impossible because your skills, experience, and style will be growing every day. In order to become the better version of yourself, the copywriter of tomorrow, you have to push through today—mistakes and all.
- Write whatever words are in you. According to John Irving, “Half my life is an act of revision.”
Welcome to the wonderful world of writing. When you’re staring down a blinking cursor at high noon, don’t be afraid to draw the words that first come to mind and go with it! This is like the Ginseng of your creativity potion. Sometimes the best way to jump a writing rut is to write. Who cares if it’s incoherent, riddled with errors, and only understandable in your head? Get those words out! There’s plenty of time for revisions later.
Brewing Your Potion
Once you have the ingredients, it’s time to get some creativity brewing. How do we brew? We expose ourselves to inspiration and generate ideas. You can brew in a thousand different ways, but here are some of the most effective:
- Google it. Open up a search engine. Type in a few words. See what happens. Something as simple as the title of a blog or website can trip your imagination, sparking an idea.
- Look for topic ideas. You’d be amazed at how many blogs and articles populate the Internet, specially designed to help you concoct topic ideas. We’ve even published topic idea help!
- Check your memory banks. Sometimes you can spark an idea by thinking about your personal experience. Whether you write often or not, keep a record of the topics you write about. Sometimes you can reference your previous work to spark an introduction, create a point making illustration, or craft a killer conclusion.
- Read, a lot. Creativity can be replenished. One of the best ways to replenish your tank is to read. Read everything! Read something about the topic of your content. Read something related. Peruse your RSS feeds. The spark you’re looking for could be there.
- Observe the world around you. Most writers draw creativity for content from the world around them. When you get stuck and have the time, take a walk. Go somewhere where you can people watch. Copywriting and content marketing go hand in hand, and content marketing is all about connecting with people. Go watch people interact. You’d be amazed at how the smallest detail can turn into an epic aspect of your copy.
- Turn to “The Greats.” Look up quotes from authors who inspire you. They’ve all been in writing ruts, and shared little tricks about how they got out.
Oscar Wilde said, “The only thing to do with good advice is pass it on. It is never any use to oneself.” Truer words have never been spoken! Once you find something that helps you concoct creativity and send writer’s block on its way, share! Other writers—ours included—would love to hear your success stories.
So, how about it? What techniques do you use to banish the block, jump the rut, and grow your identity as a writer?
The post Expert Writing Advice: The Thoughts of Oscar Wilde & Others appeared first on Express Writers.
Photo Credit: Writing Advice/shutterstock