There’s a quote about writing that Martin loves. It’s a descriptively gory quote that sums up just how difficult creative work actually is.
“There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.”
Some people claim that’s a Hemingway quote. It’s not. It’s from the sportswriter Red Smith.
And it tells a story. That writing is a simple sum.
Time + Pain = Words.
It’s easy to see why copywriters like it. It paints us as tragic heroes, suffering for our art. How romantic.
It’s even easy to see why customers like it. It lets you know that you’re dealing with someone so committed to you that they’re willing to shed blood for your best interests. How reassuring.
It’s a shame I think it’s bollocks.
Maybe for poets, writing is about waiting for inspiration to strike and pouring it out onto the page. And inspiration definitely plays a huge part in conceptual copywriting. But for the majority of business writing projects, bloodletting will just leave you dizzy.
Because good business writing relies more on planning, structure and execution than pain, blood and romance.
It starts with the end. The goal. What is the action that you want the reader to take? Do you want them to pick up the phone and place an order? Discuss your talking points (and your brand) with their network? Or change the way they act or think?
Once the destination is clear, the journey needs to take shape. Where are your readers now? How do we lead them to the destination? What steps do they need to take? How do we grab attention, pique interest, generate desire and prompt actions?
The journey informs the structure. The touchpoints on that journey. What does the reader need to see? In what order? How will they move from point to point? Do we need to leave shortcuts for people who’re already interested?
Is this a straight funnel from point A to B to C, or will people enter at point B and then want to skip ahead to point F?
By this point, we’ve not written a single word for a website, an email, or a brochure. Veins are intact. But what we’ve got is a structure that informs everything that comes next.
What comes next is building out from that structure with a message that speaks to those readers and moves them along that customer journey.
So apologies Red.
As far as I’m concerned, there’s no reason to slit your wrists over a keyboard.
I’d put it like this.
“There’s nothing to writing. All you do is clarify your goals, plot a user journey, finalise a structure, hone your message and fill in the blanks.”